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June 15, 2020

Backyard Science Fun and Education!

Taking a breath of fresh air always allows us to reset our minds and relax. Looking to spend more time outside the house but don’t want to go too far out? Check out your own backyard – you don’t have to stray far away, and the slight change in environment will definitely spark the curiosity of your young ones! Even better, spice up things around the house with some backyard science experiments that provide educational experiences! Here are some that you can try out: 

1. Homemade Fossils

Some children have probably once imagined themselves as an archaeologist or adventurer who gets to scavenge the land for exciting spoils! If your child is interesting looking for interesting things, why not give this activity a shot!  Fossils are the remains of animals or plants that roamed the earth millions of years ago. Scientists who study fossils are known as Paleontologists, and through such study, they are able to find out more about the animals and plants that used to live on earth. You can teach your child about fossils and about those who search for them – explain to them what fossils are and who looks for them! All you will need are: 

  • Wet/used coffee grounds (1 Cup)
  • Cold coffee (1/2 Cup)
  • Flour (1 Cup)
  • Parchment Paper
  • A Mixing Bowl 

Start by mixing the coffee grounds, flour, cold coffee and salt in a bowl. If the mixture is too sticky, add a little more flour. Next, divide the dough into different pieces and place it on the parchment paper. Then, get your child to press the different items into the dough to “fossilize” the item. Lift it out after the impression is made. Allow the fossils to dry overnight! 

2. Sundial Making

Sundials were once used to help tell the time, long before a clock or watch was invented. Making use of a stick, called a gnomen, on top of a flat plate, a shadow would be cast by the gnomen onto the flat plate as the sun moved across the sky. This ‘movement’ of the sun is actually caused by the earth’s rotation about its axis. Various hour lines were drawn on the plate that helped to determine the time of the day as the shadows cast changed positions on the plate. To make your very own sundial, you will need:

  • A paper plate (12 inches work best)
  • A piece of cardboard (must be larger than the paper plate)
  • Scissors
  • A pencil or straight stick (for the gnomen)
  • A Marker
  • Blue Tack
  • Small Stones/Tape (to secure the sundial)

To start, make a small hole in the center of the circle to fit the pencil/stick that you will use as the gnomen. Mount the gnomen using some blue tack to the center of the cardboard pieces, and push the paper plate through the other end until the paper plate comes on top of the cardboard. Ensure that the gnomen is upright, and that the blue tack is flattened as much as possible. Bring the sundial outdoors during a sunny day, and place it on the ground. Secure it with stones or tape to ensure it will not be moved. Note that it is important the sundial stays in the same place. On the dot at every hour, make a marking of that hour on the cardboard where the shadow cast meets the edge of the paper plate. Repeat this until there are no longer any shadows cast on the sundial!

Note that for this experiment, it may be best to start early in the morning so that you are able to mark all the hours onto the sundial when a shadow is cast upon it. Have fun, and encourage your child to use the sundial to tell the time the next day!

3. Potato People

Want to spice up your backyard with some new friends and teach your child the science behind germination? Try growing some potato people! All you will need are:

  • Potatoes
  • Coloured Stock Paper
  • Toothpicks
  • Water
  • A Glass (or as many as the number of potatoes you will use)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Before getting the potatoes to sprout, prepare some “clothes” for our “friends” by making them out of the coloured stock paper. You could make shoes, gloves, hands, and various clothing items that you and your child prefer! Next, glue on the little clothing items onto the toothpicks, and insert them into the potato. Do so in a manner that allows each toothpick to sit on the rim of the glass so that the potato can be propped on top of the glass. Next, fill the glass with water, until the bottom of the potato is in contact with the water. Ensure that our potato friends get ample sunlight, and wait patiently for them to sprout!

 

We hope you and your child enjoy these educational activities! Should you and your child be interested in science and scientific endeavors, check our our YMCA Learning Centre STEM programme! This programme aims to spark an interest in students in learning how the world around us works, through experiential learning. Do contact us to find out more! 

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