Now that summer has arrived, we parents have a gloriously long stretch of time to share new ideas and spark creative thinking through projects that inspire curiosity about our natural world. I've written about how parents are the ideal science educators, so I wanted to share some ideas about how to get started.
Over on the Curiosity Machine website, we've assembled a set of science projects inspired by the fieldwork of scientists and engineers. The projects have an introductory video where kids can learn about real-world problems scientists solve. Then kids get to participate in engineering design challenges and receive constructive feedback from scientists and engineers about how to improve. We want to reinforce that creation is a process. By building projects, children learn about the world around them, they learn to be curious for knowledge, to be brave to try new things and to be persistent to achieve.
Here's a selection of 10 of the best projects to try this summer. Enjoy!
Week 1. Physics of Flight - Building a Gliding Bird
Learn what makes an object glide - whether it's a bird flying through air or a turtle whizzing through the water. Build a glider from paper and observe which designs fly the farthest.
Week 2. Boat Stability - Making Unstable Boats Stable
Learn about buoyancy and stability and design a boat that can hold five pennies without toppling over.
Week 3. Physics of Boat - Wind Powered Speed Boats
Learn about the interactions between high-speed boats and huge waves from naval architect Carolyn Judge. Design a balloon-powered speedboat to move as far as possible through the water.
Week 4. Camouflage in Cephalopods - Build an Octopus Chromatophore
Learn how the octopus camouflages itself to stay safe in nature. Make an expandable pigment sac inspired by the octopus' chromatophores that can stretch into as big a shape as possible.
Week 5. Power Amplification - Build a Mighty Machine
Biologist Sheila Patek teaches us about her study of the fast movements in animals. Design an object that can jump vertically, horizontally or sideways, or flips over on the opposite side.
Week 6. Spider Locomotion - Engineer a Giant Spider
Ever wonder how a spider can walk upside-down and dangle from a tiny Web? Engineer a giant spider with a big body and 8 legs. The legs need to have 7 joints and they need to be able to raise the body off the ground.
Week 7. Newton Laws of Motion - Make a Rotating Straw Sprinkler
How does a sprinkler spin to water the lawn? Design a sprinkler that spins and distributes water.
Week 8. 3D Motion - Making a Flat Ball
To understand physics, we need to simplify, so scientists often use applied mathematics to recreate complex situations and study them. Create a ball that is as round as possible using only flat shapes cut out of paper and taped together.
Week 9. Electricity - Make Your Own Hydroelectric Waterwheel
Our mission today is to build a hydroelectric waterwheel that can create it's own source of energy. By designing an efficient turbine design we can test the amount of power it generates through the amount of weight it is able to lift.
Week 10. Buoyancy - Build a Submarine
Learn about the similarities between jellyfish and submarines from naval engineer John Dabiri. Build and navigate a submarine across a water tank.