Why do worms come out when it’s wet? Why are some clouds fluffy? Where do puddles go? Why is the sky blue? Why are the leaves green? Why? Why? Why? What wonderful questions children ask – all in the name of exploration and discovery. This is the very nature of outdoor science. Try the following hands-on science activities outdoors and watch children explore, experiment, and learn.
How Hot Is It?
What You Need: eggs, foil, sunny spot on the sidewalk
What to Do: Have you ever tried to cook an egg on the sidewalk? Try it! Spread a piece of foil on the hottest spot on the sidewalk, crack an egg onto the foil, and see what happens! (Raw eggs are not healthy and can cause serious illness. Only adults should handle raw eggs. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling.)
No Two Alike
What You Need: coffee filters, markers, water, an area where butterflies are prevalent (if real ones aren’t in your area, use books with colorful pictures).
What to Do:
- Encourage the children to look for butterflies. Record how many the class sees in a particular day or week.
- Provide library books to look up the different types of butterflies.
- Write down the colors and patterns seen. Invite the children to draw the different butterflies they see.
- No two butterflies are exactly alike. Therefore, the designs the children make actually reflect what real butterflies encompass. Invite the children to color and draw onto white coffee filters with markers. Help the children fold the filter. Put one edge of the filter into a small container of water and watch the water slowly creep up the filter. The colors will mix into a tie-dye effect that is fun to watch and beautiful to see. Add a pipe cleaner or clothespin in the middle for the body. Ta da! A unique butterfly for each child.
What You Need: paper, pencil, creative materials
What to Do:
- Encourage children to lay down on the ground and talk about the clouds they see. Children should never look directly into the sun, as this can be harmful to their eyes. Ask parents to send their child to school with sunglasses or teach the children to shield their eyes when looking in the sky for clouds.
- Bring along paper and a pencil to write down what the children say and share. More direct observations can be made over several days by noting the different types of colors, what the clouds look like at particular times during the day, and how the clouds look depending upon the weather. Investigate the different types of clouds (cirrus, cumulus, stratus, etc.) and make a cloud chart charting the types of clouds seen.
- Tell a story based on the cloud observations.
- Provide paper and drawing materials for children to create a science journal based on what they saw.
What You Need: paper, pencil, drawing materials
What to Do:
- Encourage the children to call out nature-made items they see outdoors that typically aren’t indoors (sand, ladybug, fly, clouds, grass, flower). Then list items that are made by people (fence, building, tricycle, paper). Ask the children to select one nature made and one manmade item. Draw a picture with the theme of what if…. What if they became a tree? A leaf? A ladybug? What would they look and feel like? What would they see, hear, or feel?
Angie Dorrell, M.A., serves as a NAEYC accreditation validator and former commissioner. She is the proud mother of two young daughters.
References and Recommended Resources
Charner, K. (Ed.) (1998). GIANT encyclopedia of science activities for children 3 to 6.Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House.
Granovetter, R. and James, J. (1990). Sift and shout sand play activities for children ages 1-6.Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House.
Hill, D.M. (1977). Mud, sand and water. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
James, J. and Granovetter, R. (1987). Waterworks. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House.
Murphy, P., Klages, E., and Shore, L. (1996). The science explorer. Owlet.
Palmer, M.O. (1998). Sense-Abilities: Fun ways to explore the senses. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press.
Williams, R.A., Rockwell, R.E., and Sherwood, E.A. (1987). Mudpies to magnets: A preschool science curriculum. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House.