Easy Classical

Practical Science Suggestions

Practical Science Suggestions
Science can be fun when you get past your fears and just enjoy the wonders of God's creation. Have fun exploring the fun science projects our family has enjoyed over the years.

The Lifecycle of a Monarch Butterfly

Following the different stages a Monarch butterfly goes through is my all-time favorite project!  Especially since I didn't have to touch any creepy, crawly creatures!  We made a donation of $ 3.00 to the Live Monarch Foundation (www.livemonarch.org).  They sent us a packet of 100 milkweed seeds.  We planted some of the seeds in our flower garden, and a week or two later they sprouted.  We watched the milkweed plants grow over the next several weeks and finally flower.  About a week later we noticed a monarch butterfly fluttering around our yard.  We were so excited!  She landed on the milkweed leaves, and we saw her lay eggs on the underside of several leaves!  About a week later, around 20 monarch butterfly caterpillars were voraciously eating the milkweed leaves.  When they got fairly large, my daughters picked them off the leaves and put them into a bug cage (I didn't have to touch a single creepy, crawly creatures).  For a day or so before they were ready to make a chrysalises, my daughters regularly replaced the eaten milkweed leaves with fresh ones almost every hour.  They were eating that fast!  Over the next week or two we watched 40 caterpillars turn into the most beautiful chrysalises I had ever seen! The top ridge of the chrysalis looks as though a thin layer of gold encircled the top cap and toward the bottom we noticed five spots of gold.  Seven days after the caterpillars turned into chrysalises, they finally emerged as new floppy monarch butterflies. We were overwhelmed and amazed at the wonders of God's creation!

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

How to Fit Science in Your Week

Does this sound familiar?  It's 2:30 in the afternoon.  Before you begin to nurse the baby, you ask your older children to check their schedules to see if they have any school work left to complete.  They yell from the other room, "Everything is done, except for the science experiment."  Fear, guilt, and exhaustion take over your body and you reluctantly say, "OK, see what we need, and we will do the experiment when I am done nursing the baby."  After laying the baby down for an afternoon nap, you come out to see what the kids have gathered.  They tell you they found everything but Epsom Salt.  "Where do you keep that?" your 8 year old asks?  You know you don't have any.  Frantically, you look through the experiment to see if Epsom Salt is really necessary. It is, so you sheepishly tell your children that you will run to the store after the baby wakes up.  The baby sleeps most of the afternoon, and you realize, half-relieved, that you don't have time to run to the store. The kids are happily playing now, you reason, so why spoil their fun. You promise yourself that you will do better next week, but this scenario repeats itself over and over again.

If you see yourself in this scenario, you are not alone.  Many of us struggle to get done all the schooling we have planned for the day. As homeschool mothers we have so many demands placed on us, and completing one more experiment often seems insurmountable. Take heart, there are some simple strategies to help make science fun and not seem so overwhelming.
First, remember it is not necessary to complete every science experiment!  The experiments scheduled in our science schedules are there to enhance learning. If your child understood the science concept covered earlier in the week, and you don't have time to get to the experiment, let it go.  If, on the other hand, your child had a difficult time understanding the science concept covered, then it might be best to make the experiment a priority that week because the experiment will help to illustrate in a tangible way, the idea you covered. 
Keep in mind that in the grammar stage, you are building in your children a foundation for future learning.  The science concepts you present today will be familiar to your child when he learns them again in  the logic stage.  The more he learns now, the more prepared he will be to analyze the same information when he hits the logic stage.  So, do as many experiments as you can, but don't get bogged down doing every one of them.  Remember the goal is to enhance learning.
Second, we give you a shopping list in the front of each science schedule to give you a heads up on the materials that you will be using during the year.  On the schedule each week, you will find a post-it note with a list of items that will be needed for the following week's experiments.  If you get into the habit of checking the list and adding them to your weekly shopping list, you will begin each experiment with all the supplies you need.  Several times I remembered, while at the store, that I didn't check the list.  Fortunately my cell phone was charged and I was able to call my kids and have them check the post-it note for me!
Third, if science is a subject you dread, do it first thing in the morning.  I have often found that if I wait until the end of the day when everyone is tired, that I am more tempted to skip science. Start off the morning with the Bible scheduled for the day.  Have your children begin something they can complete by themselves (ie. math facts, handwriting, etc.). While they are working, get the science supplies ready.  When they are finished their work, begin the experiment.  You will find, with fresh, rested minds, the experiment will run more smoothly.
Science can be fun and less intimidating if you realize that you are building a foundation for future learning in science.  Your children do not have to memorize every bone in the body or be able to write a dissertation on the theory of relativity.  They are in the fact gathering stage.  Also, if you put into place a simple plan to accomplish science, you will more likely meet your goals.

Science Fair Project

The possibility of entering a science fair often strikes fear in the hearts of the homeschool mom.  "I hate science," you say, "How could I possibly help my son or daughter put together a project worthy of such an event".  "Who has the time," you reason.  "I am just too busy."  Well if these are your thoughts.  Think again.  The science fair project might not be as hard as you think.  Here are some simple steps you can follow to make your child's science fair project a success.

Choose a Topic: This is called "The Problem".  The best way to choose a problem is to think about the interests of your child.  What piques his curiosity?  What problem is he interested in solving?  Does he wish you would let him drink more soda and eat more candy?  Then let him do a study on the effects of soda on tooth enamel.  His problem might be stated as..."What is the effect of soda in relation to tooth decay?"

Do Some Research: Take some time at the library or on the internet to search for other studies that have been done on your topic.  This will help you to gain a better understanding of the topic that you are pursuing.  You don't have to spend a lot of time on this at the elementary age level, but gaining a better understanding of what you are studying may help you as your form your thesis and develop the procedure for your study. Take time to write down what you learn in a notebook, that you can display at your table.

Write a Hypothesis: This is your child's guess at what the outcome of the study will be.  Your child might write something like: "Teeth soaked in soda for one week will be no different than teeth soaked in water after one week."

Procedure: Determine how you are going to set up your project.  You will have two variables.  The independent variable and the controlled variable.  The independent variable is the variable that you change.  For our study the independent variable is the teeth soaked in soda.  The controlled variable is the variable that you do not change.  For our study the controlled variable is the teeth soaked in water.  Once you get this straight, you can determine how you will set up the experiment.  First you will need to find some teeth.  Check for any baby teeth you might be hiding away in a baby book.  Or you could ask your family dentist for some teeth.  Place these teeth in two separate containers: one with non-diet soda and one with water.  Let the teeth soak for one week, checking for any changes you might note each day.  Record your findings on a chart or in a notebook.

Results: Determine how you want to display your results.  Organize the data in a way that others can understand. You may choose to place your data on a chart.  One row could be labeled "Water".  The other row could be labeled "Soda".  Then you would place your findings on a chart.

Conclusion: After your experiment is over, check the results against your hypothesis.  Was your hypothesis correct?  How did your experiment results support your hypothesis?  Or were they contrary to your hypothesis?  Make statements that tell how your experiment either supported or disproved your thesis.

Report: The report is a written or typed paper that should include the following:

Title Page:
Try to think up a catchy title for your experiment.  This child might choose a title such as:  "Decadent Soda: When it Comes to Teeth...Drink Water".

Table of Contents:
Number your pages and list the headings that are discussed here in order in your table of contents.

Write a short summary of your project.  This should include your project title, a statement of your purpose, a hypothesis, a brief description of the procedure, and the results.

The introduction is a statement of your purpose and the information that you learned through your library and/or internet search.  It should include how you came to decide on your hypothesis.

This section should describe in detail the experiments you have done.  You should list a Purpose (ie. To disprove the old wives tale that drinking too much soda causes tooth decay).  You should list the Materials you used (ie. teeth, soda, water, glass containers).  Then list your Procedure: list in detail every step you took to carry out your experiment.  This should be fairly simple if you took notes in a lab book while doing the experiment.

This section should include any charts or graphs that you compiled during your experiment.  Microsoft Excel spreadsheets can aid you in making pretty impressive charts.  

This is a summary of what you found out during your experiment.  The conclusion should state your hypothesis and whether or not your data supports it.

List any written material or interviews that you used during your research.  Click here to see a sample of the format you can use.

This is a short paragraph thanking mom or others who might have helped you with your study.

Display: This tri-fold display board should represent all you have written in your science fair report, but in a concise, easy to understand, at-a-glance, way.  The picture below will give you an idea of how to display your research.

Science Fair Display

This clip art taken from Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects p. 26. For more information on how to conduct a science fair project and for science fair project ideas, refer to Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects

Egg Incubation

We had so much fun incubating chicken eggs, and it was relatively simple.  The agricultural extension agency in North Carolina provided everything we needed free of charge.  We used an egg incubator with an egg turner inside.  All we had to do was place fertilized eggs in the egg turner, set the temperature to 99.5 F, and wait.  On day 7 we candled the eggs to check for any development.  In all but 4 of the eggs we could see an air sac and a black dot which we assumed was the eye.  In almost all of the eggs that were developing we could see the little black spot moving!  A week later, we candled the eggs and we could see an air sac and about 2/3 of the egg was black.  We were hoping that meant the chick was getting larger!  I found a website that showed a video of a chick about this stage of development where you can actually see the chick moving and at one point in the video see the feet moving! (click on this link and scroll down the page to the link to the video Egg candling video).  During the next week we could hear cheeping coming from the eggs. On day 20 the peeping got louder and we saw the first crack in one of the eggs.  The egg began rocking and soon another crack.  We watched the chick as it made more and more cracks in the egg.  As we watched we noticed that the chick begins with one crack and then works it way around the egg poking and rocking until it makes a line around the center of the egg cracking the egg it in half.   Soon out popped a chick, wet and exhausted.  We placed the chick in a box with paper towels on the bottom (so the chicks new little legs would have something to grasp onto.  If the bottom of the box is too slick a chick can splay it's legs.  We fed the chicks "chick starter" and water from a poultry water feeder.  The kids had a blast watching 9 more chicks hatch!  At about day 2 or 3 after hatching the chicks began to develop their pin feathers, and an uncanny ability to hop out of the box we were keeping them in.  Soon, the smell and the fear of finding a chick walking down our hallway, led us to give the chicks to a friend who lives on a farm.

Chick Incubation Project

Butterfly Metamorphosis

One of our family's favorite activities to do each year is plant parsley in our back yard.  We wait excitedly for black swallowtail butterflies to come and lay their eggs on our plants.  This year, our 7 year old had a blast watching the eggs hatch into minute caterpillars.  I am afraid she enjoyed them so much she must have squished 10-20 while examining them.  We did manage to get 4 live caterpillars into our terrarium.  A day later they shed their last skin and became a chrysalis.  A week later our two youngest watched in awe as black swallowtail butterflies emerged, wiggling from their chrysalis'.  What a neat display of God's handiwork, and what a neat illustration to the kids of God's transforming power in our lives.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly


I have to say, I hate bugs!  But through this year I have gained a new appreciation of these little creatures. This summer we watched a spider build her web in my lantana flowers.  The kids found a grasshopper (poor thing) and threw it in her web.  I could not believe how quickly the spider bit the grasshopper and wrapped it up in his web!  It was a cocoon in a matter of seconds!  This spider is nick named the "writing spider."  Do you think this spider was the inspiration for Charlotte's Web?

Garden Spider



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