Madison Okumura, public information office intern, Cache County School District
Summer is here! It is an exciting time when students take a break from their hard work in the classroom, but just because the days are longer and nights are warmer doesn’t mean that education has to stop. Encouraging curiosity and learning over the summer break helps prevent the “summer slide” where students lose some of their achievement gains from the previous school year. Relaxing summer days with free time outside can provide many opportunities for children to read, explore, and discover the wonder of the world around them.
Science experiments are a great way to keep children excited about learning. Cache Valley is full of opportunities to experience summer fun while being engaged in the learning process. Here are some simple, hands-on science experiments that you and your child can do from your home or around the Valley:
1. Create a live ecosystem in a jar. Take a mason jar, head up a canyon, and find a stream or dam. Have your child collect rocks of all sizes to layer the bottom of the jar. Fill the jar with mud, live plants, and other natural objects, such as moss or bark. Then, pour water from the dam into the jar and seal it off. Take it home and place it in a sunny spot. As the water settles, you will see different types of organisms living in your ecosystem.
2. Blow up a balloon with a water bottle. Grab an empty plastic water bottle. Add one-fourth of a cup of white vinegar and one-fourth of a cup of water. Using a funnel, fill the balloon a fourth of the way with baking soda. Secure the balloon to the top of the bottle, making sure not to spill any baking soda into the vinegar. Next, flip the balloon over, dumping the baking soda into the water and vinegar mix. As the baking soda mixes with the vinegar and water, it creates carbon dioxide, inflating the balloon.
3. Visit the Stokes Nature Center. Located in Logan Canyon, the Stokes Nature Center offers a variety of activities throughout the summer to educate children and adults about animals, ecosystems, and Logan Canyon itself. Once a month, you can participate in Canyon Adventures, a free activity that teaches about the canyon and nature through hands-on activities. Take a walk on the nature trail and observe the different plants, flowers, bugs, and animals.
4. Demonstrate how mountains form. As our earth moves and continents shift, hills and peaks form. Recreate this phenomenon by layering folded bath towels on top of each other to represent rock layers. Place the layer of towels in between two boxes that will represent continents. As you push the two boxes together, the layers of towels will bend, creating mountains and valleys. After doing this simple experiment, take your child on a drive through the valley and observe the peaks and folds in the mountains.
5. Make ice cream in a bag. Teach your child how rock salt lowers the melting point of ice, allowing liquid cream to freeze, making ice cream. Fill a gallon-sized Ziplock bag with two cups of half and half, one-fourth of a cup of sugar, and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Seal the bag, getting as much air out as possible. Fill another gallon-sized bag with six to eight cups of ice and one-third of a cup of rock salt. Place the bag of ice cream mix into the bag of ice, sealing out as much air as you can. Protect your hands from the cold by wearing gloves or covering the bag with a towel. Shake the mixture for 15 minutes or until the ice cream has solidified, then enjoy your homemade summer treat!
These five learning activities are just a few ideas that anyone can do to keep their children entertained while encouraging them to continue learning. Discover the fun this summer by trying one of these science experiments!