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Science

7 End-of-Year Science Activities to Celebrate the Start of Summer

9 Min Read
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End of Year Science Projects and Activities

We saved the MESS for Last! There are so many age-appropriate science and engineering projects and activities available for the final weeks of school to inject some fun with your students. Here are seven of our favorites.

Each of the summer-themed activities below can be implemented flexibly, quickly, and with little expense. We include differentiation options to help them fit your class and all students’ abilities. To help plan how best to end your year, we have included science themes and skills for each activity. They are also designed to include easy-to-source materials that are recycled and/or less than $10 and take as little as 30 minutes to complete. The activities can also be explored in greater depth and stretched across multiple days!

Activity 1: Chemical Reaction Rockets (Grades 3–6)

In this activity, students create makeshift rockets using effervescent tablets and storage containers. When students add the tablets to water inside the container, the chemical reaction creates pressure and causes it to launch like a rocket!

Science Themes:

  • Energy
  • Chemical Reactions

Science Skills:

  • Analyze Data
  • Conduct Investigations
  • Identify Cause and Effect

Materials:

  • Effervescent tablets
  • Mini, clear storage containers with snap-on lids OR film canisters
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Water
  • Additional paper or a computer to collect data

Procedure:

  1. Provide each student or group of students with a storage container to decorate as a rocket.
  2. Go outside. Fill the rocket 1/4 full of water and add half an effervescent tablet. Quickly snap on the lid. Step back at least 5 feet quickly!
  3. Have students observe and record how high or far the rocket travelled.
  4. Change one variable, such as the amount of water in the container and repeat the investigation.
  5. Which combination produces the greatest reaction?

Adjust for Grades 1–2: For younger students, a single rocket can be made as a team. Prior to making the class rocket, show students how an effervescent tablet reacts when it gets wet. Can bubbles make a rocket? Alternatively, you can make a class setup that is supersized. Vinegar and baking soda in a 1-liter bottle quickly contained with a cork can make a similar, but bigger, reaction.

Adjust for Grades 7–8: Investigate changing multiple variables with the investigation setup, such as amount of the ingredients, size of the container, or even the advertised strength of the tablet. With each trial have students record time to react and height or distance from the “launch pad” area with strategically placed meter sticks to determine the ideal fuel for a mini rocket launch. Encourage students to make a two-stage rocket with their new knowledge.

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Activity 2: Parachute Challenge (Grades 6–8)

Science Themes:

  • Newton’s Laws of Motion
  • Bernoulli’s Principle

Science Skills:

  • Develop Models
  • Plan and Conduct Investigations
  • Understand Structure and Function

Materials:

  • Various thin, flat materials such as plastic trash bags, plastic grocery bags, butcher paper, newsprint, or scraps of cloth such as cotton or vinyl
  • Hole punch
  • String or twine
  • Tape or glue
  • Small objects to serve as a payload

Procedure:

  1. Provide students with constraints to engineer a parachute that will slow down a payload to prevent it from being damaged. This could include:
    • The maximum size of the parachute is 100 cm × 100 cm.
    • Strings can be no longer than 100 cm each.
    • Include two different materials in addition to the strings.
    • The center needs to have a hole that is a 10 cm diameter circle.
  2. Make a plan and construct the prototype.
  3. Test the parachutes from the same height, such as a second story outdoor stairwell.
  4. Redesign the prototype and retest.
  5. Did the second design test better? What factors make the best parachute to protect a payload?

Adjust for Grades K–2: Limit the materials for students to one, such as a plastic bag cut into a circle or square. Encourage groups of students to focus on the size of the parachute. Is bigger better? Does a small chute travel faster to the ground than large chute with the same payload?

Adjust for Grades 3–5: Limit the engineering challenge to one or two constraints. Have students work in small groups.

Activity 3: Solar Prints (Grades K–2)

Science Themes:

  • Solar Energy
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Electromagnetic Spectrum

Science Skills:

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Energy and Matter
  • Plan and Conduct Investigations

Materials:

  • Blue or black sheets of construction paper OR solar print paper
  • Small objects from the classroom and/or outdoor objects (crayons, leaves, rocks, flowers, dice, paper clips, feathers. etc.)
  • 13” x 9” baking pans (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Give each students a piece of paper in a baking pan (if working in the classroom).
  2. Have each student carefully arrange objects on the paper.
  3. Take the papers in pans outside to a sunny area.
  4. Wait at least 3 hours.
  5. Bring the pans inside and remove the objects.
  6. What happened to the paper not covered by an object?

Adjust for Grades 3–5: Have students investigate printing with objects of varying opacities. What happens to the paper when it has a translucent object on it? A transparent object?

Adjust for Grades 6–8: UV light alters chemically treated paper. Explore other ways of making solar prints, by adding weak acids or bases such as vinegar, coffee, or juice. How do these liquids alter the paper?

Activity 4: Dancing Fountains (Grades 4–6)

A “dancing fountain” is a water fountain where the water comes out of the fountain in fun, unexpected ways. Instead of water simply pouring at a regular pace, it “dances” and creates a show! In this activity, students use balloons and a water hose to create their own dancing fountains.

Science Themes:

  • Laminar Flow
  • Bernoulli’s Principle
  • Turbulence

Science Skills:

  • Develop Models
  • Construct Explanations
  • Stability and Change

Materials:

  • Large balloons (latex preferred, but be considerate of allergies)
  • Vinyl or electrical tape
  • Shallow, plastic container
  • Garden hose with water hookup
  • Sharp tool (SAFETY: Only the teacher uses the sharp tool.)

Procedure:

  1. Show students water flowing from a garden hose. Ask them to observe the water’s motion. How is it different than a dancing water fountain seen at theme parks, botanical gardens, and airports?
  2. Students fill a large balloon with water and place the balloon in the container.
  3. Have students find the mid-point of the balloon. Use four pieces of tape to mark a small square perimeter just below the mid-point of the balloon.
  4. Let the balloon settle for 2–3 minutes.
  5. Poke a hole in the middle of the square with the tool. (You, the teacher, should do this, not the students.)
  6. Students observe the water’s motion.
  7. Repeat the investigation. Make a hole higher or lower on the balloon and observe what happens. Can you make more than one square on a balloon to have two exit points?

Adjust for Grades 2–3: Before doing the procedure, have the class model how water flows in a garden hose versus a dancing fountain using their bodies marching in a line.

Adjust for Grades 7–8: Encourage students to design a laminar flow system that can be attached to a hose. PVC pipes filled with screens and drinking straws are the basis for many homemade fountains. Build a prototype and test it. Improve the prototype by redesigning it and testing it again.

Activity 5: Solid? Liquid? Something Else? (Grades 3–5)

Science Themes:

  • States of Matter
  • Colloids/Non-Newtonian Fluids

Science Skills:

  • Communicate Data
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

Materials:

  • Effervescent tablets
  • Cornstarch
  • Water
  • Containers for mixing
  • Spoons
  • Paper towels
  • Food coloring (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Add 1 part water and 1.5–2 parts cornstarch to a bowl.
  2. Use a spoon or hands to mix.
  3. Add food coloring if desired.
  4. Squeeze the substance in your hand and observe what happens.
  5. Let it drip from your fingers and observe what happens.
  6. If time allows think of what this substance could be used for. Communicate your creative idea as a poster, computer slide show or artwork.

Adjust for Grades K–2: Focus on the properties and ways this new substance can be shaped. “Can it be rolled into a ball?” What happens if you move your fingers in it slowly?” “What happens if you move your fingers in it quickly?”

Adjust for Grades 6–8: Non-Newtonian fluids don’t “flow” or behave in ways that Newtonian fluids do. Explore the viscosity of different fluids or colloids such as molasses, ketchup, or honey compared to the substance made in this investigation. Observe and describe the properties of each. What quantitative data can be observed such as rate of flow?

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Activity 6: Ocean Clean Up Challenge (Grades 6–8)

Science Themes:

  • Pollution

Science Skills:

  • Systems and System Models
  • Define Problems
  • Design Solutions

Materials:

  • Shallow container such as a baking dish
  • Water
  • Sand
  • Molasses or cooking oil
  • Various tools and materials (combs, sponges, straws, sieves, paper towels, etc.)

Procedure:

  1. Setup a model beach and ocean in a container. “Pollute” it with a molasses or oil spill.
  2. Make a plan to clean up the ocean and beach. What three tools will you use?
  3. Test your tools to clean the beach.
  4. Observe and record your progress.
  5. Switch beach/ocean setups with another group. Can you clean up their “clean” beach further?
  6. As a class evaluate the tools each group used. Which worked best? Which did not work? Did the beach sand need to be cleaned in a way different from the water?

Adjust for Grades 3–5: Prior to planning, show the class an oil spill video and ways they are cleaned. Review and approve the cleanup plans prior to students beginning. Have the class agree on what it means to be “clean” prior to starting so each group has the same constraints.

Activity 7: Make a Rainbow (Grades K–2)

Science Themes:

  • Energy
  • Rainbows
  • Waves
  • Refraction

Science Skills:

  • Energy and Matter
  • Patterns
  • Construct Explanations
  • Communicate Explanations

Materials:

  • Cereal bowl or glass
  • Small mirror
  • Water
  • Flashlight

Procedure:

  1. Fill the container two thirds of the way with water.
  2. Place the mirror in the water so it is leaning up against the side of the container and at least halfway submerged in the water.
  3. Shine the flashlight on the submerged mirror. Observe and describe the light.
  4. Adjust the distance and angle of the flashlight until a rainbow can be seen on a wall or object. Observe and describe the rainbow you see.
  5. Shine the flashlight on the part of the mirror that is not submerged. Can you still see the rainbow?

Adjust for Grades 3–5: Make a model of how water in the atmosphere forms a rainbow. Share your model with a class of younger students after they complete the procedure. Take the investigation outside and used the sun’s energy instead of a flashlight. How far away from the mirror do you see the rainbow?

Adjust for Grades 6–8: Begin with the simple procedure and expand student thinking with these ideas: What other objects can act as a prism to form a rainbow? Can a laser pointer be used in place of a flashlight? At what angle must you hold the flashlight and/or place the mirror to form a rainbow?

End of Year Science Experiments

It’s always a good idea to wrap up the year with science experiments that cut across ideas that students have spent the whole year learning about. All of these activities, projects, and experiments include Science & Engineering Practices and Cross Cutting Concepts to help further strengthen the skills you’ve tackled all year developing our “Students as Scientists.”

Summer-themed activities are also a great opportunity to involve families by exploring the daytime and nighttime sky. Here are two free activities you can share to continue the exploration at home!

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