Because planning a program doesn't just take 5 minutes

Fun with Science 2016

This was our fourth year running Fun with Science.  We’ve typically held it on the first Saturday in November (or possibly the first Saturday after the first Friday, when Halloween was Friday.) You can see our 2013 and 2014 programs.  I never wrote up 2015, which was a little bit different since we were under construction and it was off-site.  This was a drop-in program from 10:00-11:30.  We billed it as ages 3-6 with adult, although siblings from toddlers through fourth grade had a great time as well.  (We have also done a similar Fun with Math program if you want to see the math focus.)

The program was arranged around 5 Activity Centers associated with the 5 ECRR2 practices: talk, sing, read, write, and play.  We also worked in a simple definition of the scientific method: ask, predict, try, observe, explain.

The activities were color coded.  We had signs (in the appropriate color) listing the ECRR2 practice hanging on the wall behind each table.  On the table, we had double sided signs with activity instructions.  There was an extra table near the door for handouts.

We had 47 people total attending – kids ranging from toddlers through 4th grade, plus parents and grandparents.  This has become progressively less staff-intensive the more times we do it.  We had 1 adult volunteer and 3 staff members at the event, as well as other staff members who helped plan.  We had lower attendance than in the past, possibly because everyone was still exhausted from a week of Halloween and World Series baseball (go Cubs!).  Most families stayed around 45 minutes.  The lower attendance definitely helped us out, since the wind tubes could really only accommodate 2 families at a time.  Overall, it was a good mix of activities and kids spent a nice long time at each one.

TALK   (Red) 

talk-dropping-colors      talk-dropping-colors4

Activity: Water races

Materials: waxed paper, colored water, droppers, straws

Handout side 1– Extension activities for surface tension:

  • Use a dropper to put one drop of water at a time on top of a penny. How many drops will fit before it spills over?
  • Sprinkle pepper on top of a bowl of water. Touch it with a plain toothpick. Then dip the toothpick in dish soap and try again.  How does the soap affect the surface tension?
  • Put drops of colored water on different surfaces – waxed paper, foil, paper towel, etc. What happens?

Handout side 2 – early lit tips:

  • The process of asking and answering questions gives you and your child the opportunity to talk together. Conversation and interaction with you provide many chances for your child to learn.
  • The next time your child asks a question about how something works, you might say, “I’m not sure—let’s find out together.” In this way, you are helping your child use the scientific method and discover something for him or herself.

Comments: We had one volunteer at the table. The kids were fascinated, and stayed quite a while.  They were more interested in color mixing than in blowing the water around the paper and spent a lot of time dropping different colors on top of each other.


SING   (Orange) 


Activity: Singing Fingers iPad app

Materials: iPads loaded with the Singing Fingers app

Handout side 1– Additional preschool science apps:

  • Bugs and Bubbles: Little Bit Studio, LLC. $2.99. Mini games include counting, sequencing, sorting – and bugs!
  • Thinkrolls: AVOKIDDO – $3.99. Learn about physics and gravity through mazes and puzzles.
  • Toca Nature: Toca Boca – $2.99. Build a natural landscape to attract animals.

Handout side 2 – early lit tips:

  • Singing slows language down and allows children to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words. Understanding that words can be broken into smaller pieces and then put back together helps children sound out words when they are ready to learn to read.
  • Listening to the patterns found in music can also help children identify other types of patterns, which may explain the “Mozart effect” – listening to music improves performance on certain math tasks requiring spatial-temporal reasoning.

Comments: A few kids found this really compelling, but overall it was not a favorite.  Maybe that means it was not the best app choice, but I’ll take it – I looked up at one point and saw every table bustling except this one, which I’ll admit to being secretly happy about.


READ   (Yellow) 

read-book-display       read-reading

Activity: Reading nonfiction and light table pegboards

Materials: book display, floor chairs, light table pegboard with matching cards and design-your-own templates, and dot markers for making your own pegboard patterns

Handout side 1- Tips for reading nonfiction:

  • When your child asks a question that you can’t answer, go together to find a book on the topic.
  • Don’t worry about reading from cover to cover. Use the index or the table of contents to find the parts that interest your child.
  • Explore the pictures, diagrams, and charts as well as the text.
  • Interruptions are good! Ask and answer lots of questions.

Handout side 2 – early lit tips:

  • To become good readers, children need to have general knowledge about many things. Learning about science concepts helps develop this kind of knowledge. This makes it easier for children to understand books and stories when they learn to read.
  • The experience of asking a question and looking for an answer helps children learn new information and vocabulary. It helps them become more independent, and it motivates them to want to learn more.

       read-light-table         read-dot-pens

Comments:  This worked well.  The light table drew kids up onto the stage with the books, and then they stayed a while to read.  They did a nice job copying the pattern cards onto the pegboard, and also making their own cards.  The table materials talked a little bit about stages of reading – reading patterns, symbols, etc. – which I think is nice for the adults to see.

WRITE   (Green) 


Activity: Make a nature journal and record observations of natural materials

Materials: paper, covers, string, stickers, magnifying glasses, colored pencils,  markers, crayons, natural materials (leaves, pinecones, flowers, sticks, etc.)

Handout side 1- Extension activities:

  • Take a nature walk and collect small objects. When you get home, record what you found in your journal: write, draw, try a crayon rubbing, or attach flat objects directly to the pages. You can also use a nature guide to identify the things you found.
  • Take the same walk in different weather. What is the same? What is different?  Record your observations in your journal.
  • For a varied fine motor experience, try different writing materials: crayons, colored pencils, markers, pens, chalk…

Handout side 2 – early lit tips:

  • Children love to observe things up close. Allow plenty of opportunities for your child to record some of their observations through drawings and simple writing.  Describing what they see is a good way to expand vocabulary.
  • Use your children’s natural curiosity to help them learn new words and increase their knowledge about the world around them.

Comments:  We have used this station in the past, and it continues to be popular.  We use two tables for this one because there are always a few kids who want to spend a long time on the journals. There was a nice range of writing activity including leaf rubbings, drawings, drawings with a little bit of writing, and fairly detailed written observations.  One child decided to use the notebook to write up the results of her wind tube experiments.


PLAY   (Blue) 

play-setup     play-setup2

Activity: Wind tubes

Materials: wind tubes, scarves, paper cups, index cards, scissors, paper clips, pipe cleaners

Handout side 1- Extension activities for Wind & Air:

  • Select a variety of objects and drop them from the top of a stairwell or stepladder. How do different objects fall?strawglider
  • Make a simple glider out of heavy paper and a straw. Allow your preschooler to practice flying it. What factors affect the glider’s flight?
  • Tape several strips of paper or ribbon to the edge of a table. Blow on the ends of the strips (with your breath, a paper fan, an electric fan, a hair dryer…) and see what happens. Attach objects of varying weights to the ends of the strips and blow. What happens now?

Handout side 2 – early lit tips:

  • Children are natural scientists. They have a tremendous curiosity about what goes on around them. They love to explore, ask questions, predict, sort, classify, compare, and contrast.
  • Children learn best when they are having fun.  You can find opportunities every day to involve children in science. You do not have to be an expert to do this. Just give your children the chance to ask questions, look for answers, and talk about the experience.

Comments:  We set up one wind tube on etiher side of the table with the other materials.  One fan was set to Medium and one to High, so they could play around with wind speed if they wanted to.  Sadly, wordpress won’t let me upload video, which makes it hard to show how amazingly cool this was.  Here’s a link to a preview video we did on our library’s facebook page.  This wasn’t from the actual event, but the play at the event was similar.  The younger kids mostly tried out scarves, and then laughed (or actually screamed) with joy when the scarves came flying out the top.  The older kids created and tested lots of different items, including paper airplanes, parachutes, UFOs (paper cup with an index card circle around the bottom), and a wide variety of other creations.  Some got caught on the side of the tube and just spun around, others came out straight and spun on the way down, and still others basically just shot right out the top at different speeds.  This was very age flexible and lots of fun.  The one problem with the design was stability.  The tube just sat on top of the wood blocks, so it would fall off if the kids leaned against it.  Also, the fan did not really lock in the horizontal position, so it could tip if the kids put any weight on it.  Still, though, this was definitely our “wow!” activity of the year.

HANDOUTS   (Purple) 

Activity: Decorate handout cards to bring home

Materials: handout cards : assembled booklets with 5 double-sided cards (color-coded to match the tables, of course) with single-sided white front & back covers, plus markers to decorate


Comments:  In the past, we tried to make assembling the cards part of the activity, but it didn’t really work, and people left without them.  This year, we just preassembled the books and allowed the kids to decorate. One kindergartener decorated the front with a picture of water droplets because the water drops was her favorite station!  The links above are editable versions of the cards using PowerPoint slides.  I couldn’t get these to print 4-up the way I wanted to, so I ended up copying and pasting into Publisher.  I’m sure there was a better way to do this, but it worked.  (Here’s a sample pdf for the “Talk” card.)  We had a local copy shop do the double-sided printing on colored cardstock, cut the cards out, and punch the holes.



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