BACKYARD PROJECTS

With LOTS of time on their hands, due to the coronavirus closings, your kids need a PROJECT!!

Here are some ideas for science fun that takes more than an hour. 

  1. ECO-PLOT:  Now is the perfect time to observe the changes taking place outdoors from winter to spring!
  2. Mark off a meter square area (or whatever size is convenient for your space) with string and stakes (or sticks). 
  3. Provide your child with whatever observation tools you have on hand
    1. Hand lens or other magnifier
    1. Digging tool (trowel, big spoon, etc.)
    1. Bag for samples collected
    1. Ruler  
    1. Notebook & writing implement
    1. Identification books or the following web sites:
      1. https://www.arborday.org/trees/whattree/ Tree identification
      1. https://www.greenbelly.co/pages/animal-tracks-identification-guide animal tracks
      1. https://www.insectidentification.org/ Insects
      1. https://www.audubon.org/birding/identifying-birds Birds
      1. https://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/herp_id_help.shtml Reptiles and amphibians

Check the conservation departments for your particular state—they have great resources as well.

What do we do with all of this?  Any of the following, or whatever else you think of!

  • What lives on your plot right now?  What evidence do you see? (leaves, animal tracks, droppings, etc.)
  • Describe what your plot looks like now.  Make a sketch of it and all plants and animal evidence that is there.
  • Is there any evidence on man’s influence on your plot? (trash, footprints, disturbed areas, plantings that are not “natural,” etc.)
  • Each time you visit your plot, take a look at it.  What has changed? Is the grass taller? Are there any new plants or animals there? What else has changed? Take a series of digital photos to compare!
  • Is your plot wet or dry?  Does it get a lot of sun or is it in the shade? Is it filled with plants or bare?  Are there lots of rocks or not many?  What else do you observe? Do you hear any birds?  Are there any insects in your soil? 
  • Look at a sample of the soil with your magnifier. What do you see?  Is the soil sandy?  Rocky? Lots of plant matter? Are there any worms?

At the end of a month, what changes have you seen in your plot?  What do your pictures show?

  •  Build a habitat in your yard. 
  • Discuss what animals need to live (food, water, shelter appropriate for the animal)
  • What do you want to attract to your yard? (birds, rabbits, frogs, box turtles, etc.)
  • Research the needs of the animal–what do they eat, where do they sleep, ways to provide water for them, etc.
  • Design a home!  For example, a brush pile for bunnies, a rock pile for reptiles, a small pond for frogs, providing bird seed or a humming bird feeder for birds.
  • Create your habitat!  Below are some websites to help!
  • Observe the habitat daily or weekly for evidence of inhabitants, as with the Eco-plot above.
  •  Grow a plant or plant a garden!

Spring is a great time to plant seeds and grow things! You can start as small as planting a seed in a flower pot or having the kids help with an above ground garden.  If you can, give them their own plot to plant their own seeds!  Even if you can’t get out, supplies can be ordered online, or use your own leftovers from last year! Often your outdoor plants may need to be thinned—give the extras to your kids to plant!

https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/gardening-at-home-with-kids/
Lots of information and ideas

For an imaginative variation—create a fairy garden, or restructure yours from last year.  Dig a bit of a small sedum or ground cover for plants. Collect objects in the yard or around the house to use in the garden.  Look at the sites below for more ideas:

https://www.countryliving.com/gardening/garden-ideas/g3417/fairy-garden-ideas/

https://www.homestratosphere.com/outdoor-fairy-garden-ideas/

https://www.homestratosphere.com/outdoor-fairy-garden-ideas/

https://www.familyhandyman.com/garden/15-breathtaking-diy-fairy-gardens/

Take Your Pick! The Top 50 Miniature Fairy Garden Design Ideas

https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Fairy-Garden-Furniture-from-Twigs

  • Physics Olympics—burn some energy and learn some science!

The following activities have been used in a high school competition called “Physics Olympics.”  However, these are adaptable to many different age and ability levels!  If you have two or more kids, or a kid and an adult you can do this with just a little planning. 

Set up stations in your yard for the following:

  1.  Penny Boats:
    1. Materials:  a dish pan, plastic tub, child’s wading pool or bucket of water, 12” x 12” sheet of aluminum foil for each participant, 100 pennies (or however many you have!), 6” Scotch tape (optional)
    1. Activity:  Participants are given the same amount of time to construct their boats (10 min, or more depending on the child).  Depending on the age of the child, you might first talk about boats or look at pictures of them to acquaint the child with different types.  Challenge the child to build a boat to hold the most pennies.  Count how many pennies the boat holds. Repeat with the next participant.  Be sure to dry the pennies between trials. The boat that holds the most pennies wins.
  2. Paper Tower:
    1. Materials:  1 sheet of printer paper, 10 inches of Scotch tape, scissors, Yard or meter stick to measure height per child or group
    1. Activity:  Give each participant or group of participants the same amount of time (15 min?) to design and construct the tallest tower they can.  They may not tape the tower to a surface.  It must stand on its own for 10 seconds, or it is disqualified. The tallest free-standing tower wins. 
  3. Slow Bicycle Race:
    1. Materials:  Tape measure, or meter stick to measure about 25 feet, child’s bicycle, timing device (watch, timer program on phone, kitchen timer, etc.)
    1. Activity:  Each participant takes a turn to ride the bicycle as slowly as possible from the beginning to the end of the 25 foot course.  The one with the longest time wins.
  4. Bottle Race: 
    1. Materials:  Identical bottles (water bottles, soda bottles, etc.), water source to fill the bottles, tub to empty water into, timing device
    1. Activity:  Each participant fills their bottle with water.  Check to see that they are at the same level.  When timing begins, the participant empties the bottle into the tub as fast as possible.  (the angle of the bottle is key)  The participant is allowed to shake the bottle or not.  The one with the fastest time wins.
  5. Egg Drop:
    1. Materials:  egg, baggie, packaging materials (paper, foam peanuts, bubble wrap, etc.—just provide the same things to both kids or teams), 6 inches of Scotch tape, meter stick, high place from which to drop the packaged eggs (top of a ladder, window of a play  or tree house, etc.)
    1. Activity:  The participants are given the same amount of time from which to construct a package to protect the egg when dropped.  The eggs are then dropped one at a time, then inspected for breakage.  A second round may be done if neither egg cracks.  The last egg to crack wins

Here are some more:

http://roncurtin.com/OlymAct.html