In celebration of National Science and Engineering Week, we've come up with this list of games and activities that combine scientific learning with outdoor play.
1) Homemade Volcanoes When vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are combined the reaction generates carbon dioxide, creating frothing, fizzy, hissing fun. Children never get bored of watching this. Set up little pots of bicarbonate of soda and bottles of vinegar with equipment like medicine syringes, pipettes, or even volcano shaped cones, and allow the children to experiment with what delivers the best reaction.
2) Cola Geyser This works best with mint flavoured mentoes and diet coke. When the carbon dioxide in the soda bubbles come into contact with the gelatin and gum arabic ingredients in the sweet, a reaction generating more gas occurs. Set up experiments with different flavoured sodas, diet and full sugar versions, and sparkling water to see what creates the most gas. You can also add rock salt which will make the explosion more impressive.
3) Pendulum Play IF you have a climbing frame, monkey bars or swing set, use the frame to create a homemade pendulum. You will need to tie a cup to a piece of string, then tie the other end to the top of the frame. There are two ways to play with this. Firstly you can add stack empty boxes, almost like vertical skittles, and swing the pendulum to knock them down. You can experiment by adding weights, or altering the length of the string, and noting the affect this has on the path of the pendulum.
A second way to explore the action of the pendulum is by adding paint to it. Poke a small hole in the bottom of the cup, and fill with paint which has been thickened slightly with flour. Add large sheets of paper, you could use newspaper or unwanted wall paper. Swing the pendulum, and the paint will make a pattern on the paper corresponding with its journey. Again you can experiment with this by adding weight to the cup (squish some playdough onto the outside), or changing the length of the string.
4) Colour Wheel For this experiment you will need full fat milk, some washing up liquid and some food colouring. Pour enough milk onto a plate to cover the bottom of it, then add a drop of each colour, spaced around the plate. Take a small piece of cotton wool and dip it into the washing up liquid, then touch it to the plate of milk and see what happens. As the soap declares all out war on the fats within the milk, the colours will swirl around the plate.
5) Sound Bingo Make up bingo cards of some of the different sounds you might hear outside. For younger children you may need to use photographs, or cartoons instead of written words. Then go for a walk, or find a quiet spot for a picnic and listen out for the sounds on your cards.
These are just a few ideas to get your started, and hopefully they will inspire you to create your own back garden science experiments.
For more outdoor play ideas, check out the Wicken Toys blog.