Label: Science Projects

June 11, 2013


We offer a multitude of resources (most of them free) to help stave off summer reading loss. Click here to download the list and to start accessing these great activity ideas for kids! (Note that you must be a member of to access these free educator resources. Membership is also free: simply click "sign up" at the top right on the website).



My digital publishing company, StarWalk Kids Media, is also offering a summer reading special. Schools and libraries that subscribe by June 30th get a fifteen-month subscription for the price of 12, which covers a summer reading program! Here’s the link to sign up for a subscription to this exceptional digital collection, which is affordable and simple to use, works on all devices with Internet connections, can be used by multiple children simultaneously, and has "Teaching Links" that support Common Core activities with every eBook. Don’t delay - you must sign up by June 30th to take advantage of this special offer!

I participated in a terrific Twitter chat last night, lead by Cornelius Minor (@MisterMinor), who is a Staff Developer at Columbia Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. Educators were sharing ideas for encouraging summer reading and learning, and there was a lot of great information exchanged. If you are interested in learning about what people were suggesting, read the Twitter thread #tcrwpcoaching.  

People were asking last night what I do in the summer. It’s a mix of things. I relax during the summer by doing many of the same things that I do all year long - read books, write books, get out and photograph nature. We also fish, walk in the woods, try to learn bird calls, watch bats at night, read poetry. How about you? I’d love to hear about your summer plans, for your students and for yourself.

Whatever your plans, happy summer to all! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Teachers and Librarians, Summer Vacation Science, Science Projects   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 9, 2010

Today we’re adding another entry to our "Summer Vacation Science" series. This one is adapted from an early book of Seymour’s called SCIENCE PROJECTS IN ECOLOGY. It is long out of print, but it is full of exciting opportunities that you can do with your kids during the summer, when you want to keep them engaged in learning and exploration.



A rotting log is far from being dead. Even after a tree dies and falls to the ground, it is host to a large community of living things. What kinds of things you’ll find depends upon what kind of tree it was, how long the log has been rotting, its location, and the time of year.



Materials You Will Need:

-       A pencil and notebook

-       A small shovel or trowel

-       Small plastic bags

-       Several wide-mouthed jars or an aquarium tank

-       Fine screening to cover the jars or tank

-       Vaseline petroleum jelly


What to Do:

Find a rotting log and look it over carefully. If it is hollow, look inside. Poke a stick and see if anything comes out. Small mammals often make homes inside these logs. You may find some larger animals such as mice, chipmunks, a rabbit, or perhaps a snake. Snakes like to hunt for food in logs because of all the living things there. Most snakes are very shy - they’ll hurry away as soon as you see them. But be careful. Even though the vast majority of snakes are not poisonous, many kinds will bite if cornered or handled.

Look on the outside of the log for plants growing there. You’ll often find different kinds of fungi and mosses. You may also find small seedlings of trees and wild flowers growing in decaying spots along the log.

Do you see any insects on the outside of the log? If you strip away a piece of loose bark, you’ll see that most insects live inside. Look for dusky salamanders, small frogs, or toads. You’ll probably see ants, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, land snails, spiders, sow bugs, and beetles of all kinds.

Use your shovel to dig into the rotting wood of the log. You’ll probably find passageways and tunnels of all kinds, some still in use, some left over from previous tenants. Examine the different degrees of rotting. Some parts may crumble away at a touch, while other parts will still be firm. As you dig down, you’ll come to the part of the log that is changing into soil. Here you’ll surely find earthworms, mites and springtails.

Look around you. Do different kinds of trees provide habitats for different creatures? Do logs that receive sunlight seem different from those that do not? Can you tell which ones have been dead for a long time and which ones recently fell? Be sure that you don’t take apart all the logs in one area - remember that these are homes for living things.

Take notes on all that you find and what you observe.

Questions to ask and things to try:

You can observe a rotting log community (and the living things that make their homes in this habitat) in your own home. Break off two or three chunks of the log with your...

read more

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Summer Vacation Science, Science Projects, Environment   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 2, 2010



 This photograph was taken last week at the KidWind Challenge, sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association. Middle and High School students were challenged to design, build and test their wind turbine blades in a professional wind tunnel with live data monitoring software recording their turbine power output.


If you are an educator interested in innovative energy education, check out The KidWind Project for information about tools, training programs and workshops on wind power for students of all ages.

Who knows, one of these young entrepreneurs might lead the next energy revolution!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Teachers and Librarians, Science Projects, Wind Power   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 6, 2010

One of the things we thought was really great at THE TECH in San Jose is their annual competition.

Called "The Tech Challenge," it is an annual team design challenge for grades 5 through 12. Using the scientific process,  entrants design a hands-on project intended to solve a real-world problem.

Here is how they describe this year’s challenge:
You and your team need to design and build a solution that can help rid the Universe of Space Junk one item at a time - and your mission is to get an inoperative satellite to burn up upon re-entry by attaching two Hall Thrusters, Size "D" Batteries will be used to represent the thrusters,  to its thruster docking ports - and it must be done from the deck of your temporary home - The International Space Station.

There are lots more details on the Tech Challenge 2010 Website.

Whether you are entering yourself or simply going to see what kids have come up with, this is bound to be lots of fun. 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Contests, Science Projects, Science Museums   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 26, 2010

My new book, GLOBAL WARMING, is in the stores this week. Whenever I write about a new topic, I like to share project ideas and discussion starters that parents can use at home, or educators can use in the classroom.

Almost all scientists think that Earth’s climate is getting hotter. We call that Global Warming. Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal cause greenhouse gases to escape into the air and that these gases are causing most of the warming. We call that the greenhouse effect. Another cause of global warming is deforestation  (cutting down trees). Trees take in carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases, from the air. The more deforestation, the greater the greenhouse effect, and the more global warming speeds up.

Here’s how you can demonstrate the greenhouse effect with children. Take two quart-sized plastic containers or glass jars. Put two cups of cold water in each jar and add two ice cubes to each container.  Put one of the containers inside a large plastic bag and seal the bag (the plastic bag acts like the atmosphere around Earth). Leave both jars in a sunny spot for one hour. Measure the temperature in each jar.

In sunshine, the air inside a greenhouse becomes warm because the greenhouse glass allows the sun’s light energy to get inside and then change to heat. The heat builds up in the greenhouse, in the same way that heat builds up inside Earth’s atmosphere. You just showed a small greenhouse effect. You can also see the greenhouse effect in an automobile parked in the sun. The sun’s light gets inside the car and the heat is trapped inside, like the plastic bag around the jar.

Most scientists say that the burning of fossil fuels is increasing the greenhouse effect and speeding up global warming. Since these fuels are burned for energy, and everyone uses energy, everyone can help stop global warming simply by using less energy. Think about the things you do each day that use energy. The lights in your house use electricity.  The TV and computer use electricity. The washing machine, dishwasher and dryer all use gas or electricity. Every time you ride in your car, it uses gasoline. We can’t stop doing all those things, but here are some things that we can do.

1. Wait until you have a lot of clothes or a lot of dishes before using the washing machine or dishwasher. Don’t use the washing machine for just a few pieces of clothing or a dishwasher for just a few dishes.

2. Turn off the lights when you leave a room and don’t leave the lights on all night long. Use energy efficient fluorescent bulbs instead of high-energy incandescent light bulbs.

3. Turn off appliances like the TV, computer and video games when you’re not using them.

4. In the summer, close the shades or blinds to prevent the sun from shining in. Dress lightly. Use a fan instead of an air conditioner. If you have to use an air conditioner set it for two or three degrees higher than usual.

5. In the winter, put on an extra sweater and dress warmly. Set the thermostat two or three degrees lower than usual.

6. Plant a tree. A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs. every year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings. If every family in the United States planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion lbs annually. That’s almost 5% of the amount that human activity pumps into the atmosphere each year.

7. Bike or walk short distances instead of going for a ride in a car.

Whenever we talk with children about topics that can be disturbing, it’s important for them to feel that there are things that they can do to make the situation better. In the case of global warming, they really can!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

June 1, 2009

Doing an experiment with a child helps them learn about science. To learn new things, you have to build upon what you already know. In everyday interactions with children, there are many things you can try without lecturing or applying pressures to help them learn science. Of course,  you can’t experiment with a dolphin but here are a few ideas that will help you learn about how dolphins survive in the sea.

1.  How long can you hold your breath? Compare that to how long a dolphin can hold its breath underwater.

2. Do sounds travel underwater? Can you hear sounds when you are swimming? Have you ever played a game where you and a friend make sounds and "talk" underwater,  and try to understand each other?

3. Which freezes more quickly: freshwater or ocean water? Fill two plastic cups halfway, one with freshwater and the other with salty water. Put them in the freezer and check them every ten minutes to see which freezes first. How do the results help to explain why dolphins don’t live in freshwater lakes in places that get very cold in winter?

4. Dolphins dive deep under the water where the water pressure is very great. In the sea,  pressure increases with water depth. Here’s how you can demonstrate that pressure increases with depth. You will need a large, empty tin can, a hammer, a large nail, water, salt, a ruler and a basin or a sink.  Use the hammer and a nail to make three holes, one above the other and each two inches apart in the side of the can. Stand the can on the side of the basin or sink and fill with water. Measure the distance the water spurts out from each of the holes. Try it again with salty water.

a.  Which spurts out further? Why? Remember that the weight of the water is greater over the bottom hole than over the top hole. The heavier the water above, the greater is the water pressure below. At sea level, air pressure is a bit less than 15 pounds per square inch. At 300 feet, the water pressure is about 150 pounds per square inch.

b.  Could humans survive at that pressure without protection? Do research to find out how dolphins survive the pressure of deep waters.

Click on this for Dolphins FAQs 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Dolphins, Summer Vacation Science, Science Projects   •  Permalink (link to this article)