Inside: These back-to-school science activities will captivate your kids’s minds and promote exploration, critical thinking, and a love for learning.
Are you ready to kickstart the new school year with excitement and engagement?
Here are some of our favorite science activities, perfect for igniting a passion for learning and setting the stage for a fantastic year ahead.
Incorporating elements of experiential learning, the science activities on this list offer opportunities for your kids to practice their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, engage their creativity, and roll up their sleeves to get into some tangible science!
Back-to-School Science Activities
Apples, Apples Everywhere!
‘Tis the season, both of delicious fresh apples, if you’re lucky to live in an appropriate climate, and teachers, whom apples symbolize. The experiments are all the better if they can start with a walk around an apple orchard or nearby tree.
This activity starts with a question: How many pennies will it take to pull an apple up an inclined plane? Have your kids guess! It’s always fascinating to see how well our instincts line up with reality, and it’s usually surprising!
Next question: How did Egyptians get giant blocks to the tops of pyramids?
Amazing how quickly a delightful fresh-cut apple can become a brown, unappetizing mess… why is that? This experiment teaches kids about oxidation, which may be discussed at many different levels, and challenges them to slow it down.
Food preservation is both essential for human survival and a great introduction to chemistry.
These challenges are particularly good after a day of gathering bucketloads of apples. Focused on engineering, these challenges prompt kids to construct containers, bridges, and towers out of simple materials to hold the apples’ considerable weight. It’s not easy!
Connection: Have you ever seen the swimming pool on top of a skyscraper in Singapore? Take a look!
The Genius of Dr. Seuss
Let Dr. Seuss’s inventive illustrations and charming style draw kids in, then surprise them with the gift of hands-on science!
In Dr. Seuss’s books, characters can pull off all sorts of whimsical, ridiculous, impossible balancing feats! This experiment may seem like that, but it’s actually possible. That’s right, science makes the impossible possible and makes kids feel superhuman!
This activity is designed to encourage free play and creative problem-solving, with the playful goal of balancing a cat on a ball. Rather than requiring specific supplies, this activity stimulates creativity by challenging kids to figure out what they need, using whatever supplies, toys, and household objects are around.
This quirky challenge adapts a classic logic puzzle to give it an apple theme and a tactile element via LEGOs. It’s actually a good lesson: It’s often more effective to figure things out by doing them with objects or experiments rather than just thinking about them. Kids, in particular, seem to know it’s always better to think with your hands!
After reading Dr. Seuss’s Butter Battle book, we obviously needed to have some butter. Making your own butter out of organic whipping cream is surprisingly easy and incredibly satisfying for kids since it involves a very physical process. Their efforts will pay off! And they’ll learn about mixtures, molecules, and states of matter besides.
This is a beginner’s cairn. We replace apples with stones, though we do decorate them, and challenge kids to stack up ten – no small feat! The art of balancing requires tuning into your senses and practicing very delicate work. It’s excellent for focus and also teaches us that ‘failures’ (when everything falls down) can be fun, too!
Out of Paper!
Fall means the smell of leaves, of hot cider, of pumpkins, and also, it seems to me, of fresh paper – notecards, notebooks, just books… Ah… Now that we find ourselves surrounded once again by this ubiquitous material let’s put it to some unconventional use!
How much space is in this space? Well, an index card is an index card, right? 3 by 5 inches. But what if we transformed it with some scissors? Kids may not figure out the magical sequence, but you should still definitely give them a good try. Again, clever science and engineering transform our world and make the impossible possible.
Paper seems such a delicate material, but when manipulated into a structure, in this case via origami, it can be powerful. With this simple paper fan, we’ll bring a fresh wind inside, and beware any objects that can be blown around! As the play gets going, ask kids to think about which objects get blown about most and why.
A Mobius Strip is both incredibly mind-bending and incredibly fast to make. Try to wrap your minds around this! And when your head starts to hurt, make something beautiful and practice balance with a Mobius mobile!
A pinwheel is basically a simple windmill, a very accessible version of an enormously useful idea. With this activity, kids will think about how we capture the free forces of our planet with clever machines, as well as creating something mesmerizing. And if you turn them into garden ornaments, you can just look out the window to see if the wind is blowing!
Spitballs are gross, but shooting something out of a straw is actually a pretty good idea. We’re playing engineer by building mini paper rockets with straws (and your diaphragm) as the launcher. To take it further, kids can experiment with designs and challenge themselves to land the rocket on different places on a map. Try landing on Montana! Wait, we’ll have to figure out where Montana is too…
Pencils & Rubber Bands
If your house or classroom is filled with these materials, then you’re already surrounded by science experiments!
This quirky experiment begins with the joys of stabbing and jabbing sharpened pencils through a plastic bag filled with water. Then comes the mystery: Will the bag leak? You’ll have to chat a bit about atoms, molecules, and polymers to explain the answer.
You may balk at the idea of putting a catapult into a child’s hands, but catapults are engineering marvels, capturing incredible force for their size to propel objects far away. We’ll just make sure those propelled objects are soft. This homemade toy can entertain kids for hours…