If you’re looking for science activities for the first day of class, we’ve got you covered! These activities will challenge your students to jump right into the science while allowing you to observe how much they know about various topics.
First-Day-of-School Science Activities for Middle School Students
Try these seven back-to-school activities for middle school science with your students to get them collaborating and learning:
Activity 1: Observe the Structure of Matter
Topics Covered: physical science, states of matter
Ice cream melting under the hot sun. Water turning to ice cubes in the freezer. Younger kids might wonder why solids are solids, liquids are liquids—and why states of matter change. However, by the time students reach middle school, they should be able to differentiate between solids, liquids, and gases.
This hands-on activity allows middle school students to explore matter further. In small groups, they’ll observe what happens to the shapes of a solid and liquid in different containers. They’ll also investigate how the volume of a solid, liquid, and gas may change and explain how the properties of each state of matter differ. This activity is simple to set up on the first day of class. You’ll only need marbles, plastic cups, syringes with caps, and water.
Activity 2: Model Fossil Formation
Topics Covered: life science, fossilization process
A hands-on way to get students learning about the fossilization process is to have them create their own fossils. Well, these won’t be actual fossils (remains must be at least 10,000 years old to be considered fossils). Nonetheless, this activity allows students to understand how paleontologists study fossils to learn more about organisms that lived thousands, millions, and billions of years ago.
Have on hand modeling clay, white glue, and small objects like shells, twigs, and coins for your students to form cast fossils in small groups. Student groups will exchange their fossils and try to identify the objects that they’re made of.
Activity 3: Measure and Problem Solve Using Ramps
Topics Covered: engineering, motion
Get students up and moving with this activity. Real-world observations might have students wondering, “Why?” For instance, they might ask: “Why do cars accelerate going downhill?” In this lab, students will investigate how a cart rolls down a ramp. They’ll determine the factors influencing the cart’s speed and distance traveled and solve a design problem using the cart.
Students will need room to set up their balance, books, carts, and ramp. After recording their observations, they’ll be ready to brainstorm and engineer a method for increasing the distance their carts travel.
Activity 4: Experiment with Static Electricity
Topics Covered: electric fields, forces
In 90 seconds, your students can learn about science phenomena! Have your students watch this static-electricity science experiment. Then, working in small groups, students will experiment with static electricity and aluminum-wrapped spheres. This hands-on science activity is an excellent way for students to explore electric fields and forces.
Activity 5: Create Magnetic Slime
Topics Covered: magnetism, electricity, forces
In another 90-second science experiment, students create magnetic slime and use it to discuss the properties of matter and chemical changes in small groups or independently. This science lesson is an excellent way for students to explore magnetism, electricity, and forces.
Activity 6: Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Topics Covered: lab exploration, observational skills
A scavenger hunt is a great way to get kids familiar with science. For this activity, you can have students locate commonly used laboratory equipment in your classroom. Here are some examples of what you could include for your own custom-made game.
Find the lab equipment that:
- Is made of glass, has a flat bottom, and is used to hold, heat, or mix substances
- Helps you view magnified images or objects
- Protects your eyes from splashing chemicals
- Wraps around your body, ties in the back, and protects your clothes from chemicals
- Is used for stirring
Activity 7: Compare Science Topics
Topics Covered: analytical skills, literacy in science
In another blog, we covered how students can use Venn diagrams to organize their thoughts and compare ideas. Venn diagrams can also provide teachers insight into how much students comprehend topics they’ve learned about or will be studying during the year. Have your students choose one of these topics and use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast:
- Bodies of water (for example, lakes versus oceans)
- Two or more climates
- Two or more planets
- Solids, liquids, and gases
- Prokaryotic versus eukaryotic cells
- Animal versus plant cells
- Lunar eclipse versus solar eclipse
- Virus versus bacteria
More First Day of School Science Activities and Experiments
We hope you enjoy these first-day-of-school science activities for middle school students! If you teach elementary science, check out our activities for younger scientists. Do you have topics you love to explore on the first day—or week—in your classroom? Share your favorite first-day-of-science class activity or experiment with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Twitter (@HMHCo) or Facebook.
Learn more about HMH Into Science K–8 and HMH Science Dimensions 9–12, enabling teachers to guide K–12 students in learning through exploration, analysis, application, and explanation.
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Senior Director Community Engagement, HMH; Host of HMH Learning Moments: Teachers in America Podcast