Here are a handful of low maintenance experiments to puzzle your young puzzlers. (Target age range: 5-8 years old.)
#1) Magic Beans
- 1-5 dried pinto beans
- a wet paper towel
- a Ziploc sandwich bag
Place the beans in the sandwich bag with the wet paper towel and seal the bag. The beans will sprout in 3-4 days. The picture shows growth after one week.
Discussion Topic: Plant life cycles
Two sentence explanation: Most plants start as seeds. A bean is a seed and will grow into a plant when you add water.
Follow up questions: Why do plants make seeds? What does a seed need to grow? If you planted a leaf would it grow? Why or why not?
#2) Vegetable Zombies, (the undead)
- a leftover green onion bulb (or celery base)
- a glass dish with a little water in the bottom
Place the onion bulb (or celery base) in the dish with water. Place it in a sunny spot. The onion will show new growth after only one day. The celery will show new growth within 2-3 days. The pictures show one week’s worth of growth.
Discussion Topic: Bulbs
Two sentence explanation: Some plants have bulbs. These plants store the energy needed for life in bulbs and will regrow days, weeks, or sometimes months after being pulled from the ground.
Follow up questions: Can you name other plants with bulbs? What do bulbs look like? What is the difference between a bulb and a seed?
#3) Color Changing Rose
- a white or yellow rose (fresh cut!)
- red food coloring
- water and a vase
Place 5-10 drops of food coloring into a small vase with water. Add the fresh cut rose to the water. The rose will change color within 24 hours. This experiment also works with carnations and daisies. The flowers must be fresh cut or little to no dye will make it to the petals.
Discussion Topic: Plant Circulation
Two sentence explanation: Water enters through the stem of the rose and goes out (evaporates) through the leaves. Anything in the water (like the dye) will be carried into the leaves.
Follow up questions: Would this work with a red rose? Why or why not? What other plants could you dye?
#4) Insect Preservation
- an insect
- a mason jar with lid
- two clear plastic Gerber baby-food lids
- craft glue
Catch your insect of choice in the mason jar. Place this insect in the freezer for a few days. (This method doesn’t produce the most beautiful specimens, but it’s reliable and doesn’t involve noxious chemicals.) Put a dab of craft glue on the baby food lid, and place the insect in the glue (a toothpick can help with this). Place more glue around the outside edge of the lid and place another lid on top to form a closed container. You can glue more than one insect per container. It may take up to a week for the glue to dry clear, but once it does you’ll have an insect you can study closely for months to come.
Discussion Topic: Insect body shapes (anatomy)
Two sentence explanation: Scientists call insects by different names because they have different body shapes, sizes, and colors. But all insects have six legs, a hard shelled body, three major body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), and antennae.
Follow up questions: What is the scientific name of the insect you collected? Can you draw a picture of the insect? If you have more than one insect, how are they the same? How are they different?
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