The British Science Association has come up with some very engaging science activities for primary and above school children you can do on each day of the week – an experiment a day can keen the boredom away!
1. Are you a Supertaster? (suitable for primary school children and above)
Are you a supertaster? Supertasters experience bitter tastes more strongly than other people! This is because they have a higher number of taste receptors within the fungiform papillae – the big pink bumps on your tongue that contain your taste buds and enable you to taste.
This activity, you will determine whether you are a supertaster, taster or non-taster.
What you need: Bottle of natural blue food dye, cotton buds, disposable ‘mini cups’, A4 card, hole punch, scissors, damp cloth, cup or bag on each table for waste
- Everyone taking part should wash their hands.
- The person who is going to have their fungiform papillae (pink bumps) counted first needs to sit down with their elbows on the table, supporting their chin.
- Place a cotton bud into the blue food dye until it is covered. Ask the person taking part to stick their tongue out. Using the cotton bud, coat the front third of the person’s tongue with the dye.
- Place the cotton bud in a container such as a plastic bag which will then be thrown away.
- The blue dye will stain the tongue but slide off the fungiform papillae. Did you know that each bump contains three to five taste buds?
- Next, ask the person to carefully place a hole-punched card on their tongue over the blue food dye. Looking through strip of paper/card, someone in your group should count how many pink bumps they can see on the tongue inside the hole.
- Count the number of fungiform papillae twice to find an average amount. Record your results on a sheet of paper. When you have finished with the card, throw it away like you did with the cotton bud.
- Look at the chart at the end of this activity and see how your taste buds compare to your families!
2. Make your own bath bomb! (Suitable for secondary school children and above)
In this activity you will investigate how to make your own bath bomb! We can all support the diversity of our planet by using less packaging including single-use materials.
By designing your own bath bomb you could also find a way to cut down on the packaging required and encourage others to make their own bath bombs.
What you need: Dry ingredients: 100 grams baking soda, 50 grams citric acid, 25 grams cornflour, Wet ingredients: 2 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil, 2 tsp water, 1 tsp food colouring (optional), 12-15 drops essential oils of choice (be sure to check for allergies), Kit list: two mixing bowls, whisk, flexible plastic moulds (clean empty yogurt pots, silicone ice cube tray or silicone cupcake cases)
- Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients together in the other bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients a few drops at a time while whisking, until the mixture just sticks together when pressed.
- Press the mixture into the mould and leave to dry for at least 2 hours.
- Make a few bath bombs with variations and record the differences in them, such as: More or less baking soda, More or less citric acid, Different oils (citric or other), Different colours
- Remember to keep some elements the same, to make it a fair test.
- Now it’s time to test your bath bomb! Put the bath bomb in some water and record: How long it takes to disperse? How high the ‘fizz’ is? What happens to the water? Anything else you think might be important in deciding if a bath bomb is effective or not?
- Compare your different bath bombs, deciding which one makes it more effective as a bath bomb.
3. Pollution solution (Suitable for Primary School children and above)
When we look around, we do not usually see the ‘air’ so it is easy to assume that our air is clean. In reality, the air and the pollution in it are made up of mostly invisible gases.
Many pollution particles are so small that we cannot see them. This means that it is hard to know if the air we breathe is clean or polluted. This experiment will help you discover how we can test for air pollution
What you need: Bicarbonate of soda dissolved in water (“pollution”), red grape juice (“reagent”), droppers/spoons, beakers/cups (ideally white or clear), sticky labels, paper pen or pencil for recording ideas
- For parents only to prepare away from the children – Make 2 types of sample in large containers e.g. litre bottles: (A) neutral (just water) and (B) polluted (Add around 1-2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda per 500ml of water). Label the container of plain water (A) ‘Park’ and the water mixed with bicarbonate of soda (B) as ‘Busy road’.
- Give the children the two containers of water labelled ‘Busy road’ and ‘Park’.
- Make a hypothesis together about whether a busy road or a park would be likely to be more polluted.
- Use a teaspoon or pipette to add ten drops of the ‘reagent’ to each container.
Watch for a reaction to see if the reagent changes colour when it is added to the sample.
- Which container has the ‘pollution’ and which one does not? Is the more polluted container the busy road or the park? Why do you think this? Was your hypothesis correct?
- What do you think are the biggest causes of pollution in the UK? Can you think of any solutions to air pollution? Try designing a vehicle that creates no pollution.
4. Nature walk diary (Primary)
In this activity, you will have the opportunity to explore, observe and document the natural world using all your senses, and then use your findings to write poems. We must all follow the government’s guidelines on social distancing, so perhaps this activity could be your one form of exercise outside a day?
You will go for a walk in a park, wood or open field and document your observations, by noting the sights, smells and sounds you encounter on your journey.
What you need: paper, clipboard, pens, a bag for leaves, camera (optional)
- Plan your walk somewhere where it won’t be too busy considering the Government’s rules around social distancing. You could use a map of a local park or forest to plot your route. What do you expect to see while you are there?
- Tip: take a camera to photograph species. Then you can identify the plants and animals when you get back home
- Go on your walk. Record what you see, smell and hear. Collect a variety of leaves from the ground (but don’t pick any off trees or plants).
- Listen closely to the sounds you can hear. What birds or insects can you detect? Can you hear the wind moving through the trees? What does the ground sound like as you walk over it?
- Once you’re back at home or at school, use the words you have written down to write your own poem. Use nouns and descriptive words and try to think about similes to describe your observations.
5. Ditch the dirt (Secondary)
Over 1/3 of the world’s population do not have access to clean water. In countries such as Kenya and Sudan, children have to journey many miles a day to collect water that isn’t very clean. If they are lucky they will have a way of filtering it. Your task is to design a filter!
What you need: 2 litre plastic bottle, variety of plastic containers to store your water, dirty water (a mix of mud, stones, twigs, leaves etc.) Materials to make layers e.g. stones, course sand, fine sand, gravel, cotton wool, measuring jug, paper towels, cloth, e.g. j-cloth Elastic band
- Make a container for your water filter. You can make a simple one by cutting through a 2 litre water bottle approximately one third up from the bottom, then inverting the top into the bottom.
- Alternatively, you can design your own using the other plastic containers
- Look at the materials available to you and discuss/research what type of contaminants they would be able to remove. Contaminants can be divided into biological e.g. bacteria and viruses, chemical, e.g. cleaning liquids and physical e.g. dirt or broken glass.
- Start to build your filter by experimenting with different materials and combining layers of material in different ways. Consider: The order of the layers and the depth of the layers. Changing these variables could alter how clean the water is and the rate of filtration, both are important.
- Pour 250ml of dirty water into the top of your filter and see how much (hopefully cleaner!) water you can collect in 5 minutes. Your aim is to collect at least 100ml.
- Stand 100ml samples of both the original dirty water and your cleaner water next to each other on a sheet of white paper to compare. You can even have a competition to see whose water filter has worked best! Consider why this may be.