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7 Back-to-School Science Activities for Elementary Students

6 Min Read
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Get your elementary kids excited to learn about science on the first day of school! Participating in back-to-school science activities and experiments is an excellent way for your students to learn how to collaborate with others while building their observational, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. These traits are vital for success in the classroom and beyond.

First-Day-of-School Science Activities

Try these seven first-day-of-school science activities and experiments with your elementary students:

Activity 1: Make Shade on a Sunny Day, Grade K

Ask your students: Where can you find shade on a sunny day? Before students investigate this phenomenon further, explain how trees, buildings, and other structures can protect us from the sun’s heat and light. Then, on a sunny day, have them work together to create a shady spot in the schoolyard or another sunny place.

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Activity 2: Create Pet Inventions, Grades K–2

This science class activity inspires creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. Your students can let their imaginations fly when they create fanciful inventions to make their pets’ lives easier or more fun. Don’t worry—they don’t need to have a family pet to participate. Only imagination!

What You Need

  • Paper (lined and unlined)
  • Markers or crayons

What to Do

  • Give your students an example of a real pet invention such as the “doggie door,“ a small door in the bottom of a larger door that allows a pet to go outside and come back in freely.
  • Brainstorm with them a list of fanciful inventions. Here’s one to get started:
    • There’s no telling how far your pet frog will leap when it bounces off the Froggy Trampoline. And Mom will love that it’s small enough to fit in your closet when your frog is sleeping.
  • Divide your students into groups of three. Ask each group to come up with one invention. One child in the group writes a paragraph describing the invention, another child draws a picture to go with the description, and the third child presents the group’s invention to the rest of the class.

Teaching Option

  • If your students enjoy participating in this science activity, consider taking it a step further by holding an invention convention at your school to allow them to share their ideas beyond the classroom.

Activity 3: Design a Listening Device, Grade 4

Have students think about a computer or another technology they use every day. Ask: What problems does it solve? How has it been improved over time? Tell students the work of an engineer is to develop technical solutions to meet people’s needs.

In this first-day-of-science-class activity, students investigate how engineers design solutions to problems that meet criteria and constraints. Using everyday items like paper cups, string, and tape, they’ll design and test a nonelectric listening device that might enhance a nature walk.

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Download Teacher Guide

Activity 4: Go on a Science Scavenger Hunt, Grades K–5

A scavenger hunt is a great way to get kids familiar with science. For this activity, you can have students make a list of items in and outside of the classroom that relates to science and share what they find with one another. Here are examples of what students can include on their list.

Find Something:

  • That has a pattern in the natural world
  • That’s solid
  • That’s liquid
  • That’s opaque
  • That’s transparent
  • That sinks in water
  • That floats on water
  • That’s recyclable
  • That doesn’t decompose
  • That melts at room temperature

Activity 5: Use Shapebook Pattern Worksheets, Grade K–5

Older students use evidence notebooks in the science classroom; however, it’s never too early to prepare younger students to do the same. Evidence notebooks allow students to record observations and predictions, write new vocabulary, make sketches to express what they see and think, and write questions. Our shapebook pattern worksheets provide students space to write their science observations and questions as they explore the world around them. They could use these worksheets as they take part in one of our science activities or experiments. Download the worksheets now!

Here’s a take-home assignment you could give your students to encourage them to use their worksheets:

What You Need

  • Shapebook pattern worksheets

What to Do

  • Introduce your students to the following sentence starters in class:
    • When I look up, I see…
    • When I look down, I see…
    • When I look left, I see…
    • When I look right, I see…
  • Tell them they should go outside and look in those directions and notice what they can see of the natural world outside of class hours. To complete the sentence starters, they should write what they saw (for example, bird, tree, bug, weeds).
Back to school science activities for elementary students writing notebook in line image

Activity 6: Conduct a Milk Soap Rainbow Experiment, Grades K–5

How does soap change the properties of milk? Your students will find out after conducting this hands-on science experiment. Using milk, food coloring, and dish soap, students experiment with surface tension and chemical change. This lesson is an excellent way to teach states of matter, properties of matter, attractive forces, and surface tension. Also, this experiment is a great way for you to introduce the steps of the scientific method (ask a question, make an observation, form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, explore and analyze the data, and draw a conclusion) and have students apply what they’ve learned.

Activity 7: Do a Water Sketching Activity, Grades K–5

Using dry-erase markers, glass, and water, students experiment with the properties of cohesion and adhesion. This hands-on science experiment is a great way for students to explore the properties of matter. You can also have your students practice the steps of the scientific method while conducting this experiment.

More First-Day-of-School Science Experiments and Activities

Another way you can prepare your students for the rest of the year is by discussing what scientists do, the skills scientists use, and the ways we use science in our daily lives. We hope you enjoy these ideas—whether you do them on the first day of class or any other day. Share back-to-school science experiments and activities with us via email at or reach out on Twitter (@HMHCo) or Facebook.


Looking for hands-on science lessons and activities for Grades K–5? Explore HMH Into Science, a phenomena-based science solution.

This blog, originally published in 2021, has been updated for 2022.

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