We love experimenting and making things explode! We also like quiet time to read…but still about science! So here are a few of our favourite science books for children…
The Element in the Room: Investigating the Atomic Ingredients that Make up your Home. Presented as a case for a detective, this book gets kids thinking about chemistry in a really interesting way.
See Inside Science (Usborne). We love this book! My sons had this from aged 5 and still find things in it that are interesting several years later. The other ‘See Inside’ books are also great. See Inside your Body is full of facts about poo and other gruesome stuff!
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (Rachel Ignotofsky). A beautifully illustrated book about some amazing women, it includes the most famous as well as many you may not have heard of. It is possibly a bit too focussed on American scientists but an interesting read and easy to dip into.
Whizz Pop Bang. While not actually a book, I can’t miss an opportunity to mention this fantastic magazine. My kids still fight over it every month and they love trying out the experiments. It’s a great balance of facts and activities, all presented in a fun and interesting way. It is subscription only at the moment but you don’t have to sign up long term. You even get an email before the magazine arrives giving you a kit list…just add a few bits to your weekly shop and your kitchen will be a science lab on Whizz Pop Bang day!
Get Set Go Science. OK, we might be a biased on this one as they are written by Fab Science founder Emma Ranade! These are activity books specially designed to compliment the Key Stage 1 curriculum. The pages are wipe clean so you can try the activities again and again.
Your brain is amazingly clever and can do all sorts of calculations in milliseconds…however you can confuse it with some very simple things! Try and play an April Fool on your own senses!
Want to see right through your hand? For this experiment you need an old kitchen roll tube, your eyes and hands. Have the tube in your left hand, carefully hold it against your left eye. Now put your right hand in front of your right eye, with your palm towards you and the side of your hand touching the tube. Keep both eyes open. Slowly move your hand away from you, along the side of the tube. You should see a hole in your hand! Your brain is used to ‘stitching together’ the pictures it gets from each of your eyes, this makes it look as if the tube goes through your hand!
Our ears don’t just let us hear sound but we can also tell which direction the sound is coming from. This is because we hear sounds slightly earlier in the ear that is nearest the sound and our brains can measure that distance and do some very clever maths to work out the direction. You can confuse this process with a couple of bits of hose pipe and a some funnels! See our Ear Switcher page for details. You can make funnels by cutting the tops off empty plastic bottles.
Investigate how your senses of smell, taste and sight work together to help you enjoy your food. Get a few different fruits or vegetables such as carrot, apple, potato, turnip, parsnip or pear. Either grate or chop them into small pieces (all about the same size). Now get a volunteer to close their eyes and hold their nose while you feed them a little of each. Can they work out which is which? They probably can’t as you need all of your senses for your brain to identify a food. You could try different foods or different people (are adults or children better at this?). Apparently even strong-tasting foods such as garlic don’t taste any different from a potato if you hold your nose but I’ve never been brave enough to try! You could try chewing a small piece of raw potato while sniffing a piece of apple, does it start to taste of apple?
There are a huge number of websites out there that can provide activities and information for home schooling…it can be a bit overwhelming! We’ve curated a few of our favourites. You might not need this list just yet but bookmark it and pop back whenever you need some fresh ideas.
STEM Learning provide training and resources for teaching science from Early Years to A-Level. They run courses from their centre in York and coordinate Science Learning Partnerships all over the country (I am a course facilitator for our local one). They have stepped up to the challenge of supporting a home schooling nation by making a section on the website for family activities. It’s completely free and organised by age, I particularly like the Starters for STEM activity ideas. They even have subject experts on hand for questions…just hit the ‘Get in Touch’ button at the bottom of the page! Find the resources here.
They do much more than just the Christmas Lectures! Check out their ‘ExpeRimental‘ section for all sorts of activities that really make you think.
We love Steve Spangler! He’s an American science communicator who does all sorts of science shows. He does make suggestions for things to try at home but many involve things that are easy to buy in an American ‘grocery store’ but less available in Tesco (dry ice for example!). His videos are a great watch though, he does lots of the big stuff that gets us all excited about science. Here’s the website or you could just head straight to The Spangler Effect YouTube channel.
If your child has a question and you’d like a clear answer suitable for their age, BBC Bitesize is a good first stop. Although a quick Google search will give you hundreds of websites to answer any given question, the good old Beeb has fact-checked information, written with kids in mind and is even linked to the National Curriculum. They have games and activities to check learning and links to short video clips from the BBC archive. Sections available for every topic from Year 1 to GCSE, a great free resource. Start discovering BBC Bitesize here.
Quick activities to spark curiosity from the Wellcome Trust. Don’t overuse them (leave some for the teachers to use when the kids go back to school!) but they are great way to get children thinking like scientists. You can find the activities here. If you are interested in children’s engagement in science, the Science Capital Project is a very interesting read. It’s all about helping children to realise that science is ‘for them’ and that they can be a scientist. This is something that many schools are trying to embed but what better opportunity to work on this than when we are home schooling? Let’s let them explore their own interests and become young scientists!
This is a huge database of worksheets, lesson plans, displays, colouring sheets, topic work and activities. Usually a paid for resource for teachers but they’ve made free home learning packs and they’ve got a suggested daily timetable if you like a schedule. Find the home learning hub here.
Where many of us are just putting together home school ideas now that we’re all stuck inside, Emma Vanstone at Science Sparks has been doing this for years! She’s written a couple of awesome books on doing science at home (one of which is the genius idea of ‘Snackable Science’). Check out Science Sparks here.
Even though we can’t get outdoors much, the Woodland Trust have written a blog on nature in your garden. They also have a website called Tree Tools for Schools with all sorts of outdoor learning ideas and spotter sheets. There are Wildlife Trusts across the country that have visitor centres and nature reserves. Obviously the centres are closed for now but they have lots of activities to do in your garden such as making a mini pond or a bug hotel. You can find their activities here.
We are adding new ideas daily on our Home Education page and sharing interesting stuff on Facebook. To get more involved and let us know what you have been up to, join the Fab Science Facebook group. You can even ask us questions! Emma (chief Fab Scientist) is actually a science teacher as well as slightly bonkers person who likes exploding stuff. She’s happy to answer any questions, just pop them on the Facebook group or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When teaching in both primary and secondary, I’m always astounded by the number of times children tell me space facts that I didn’t know! It holds amazing fascination and it is such a shame to have to move on to the next topic in the curriculum when I wish I had all the time in the world to run with that excitement and imagination. Here are some activities for your budding space scientist.
You don’t even need a telescope to see stars and planets in the night sky. With just your own eyes you can see things that are thousands of lightyears away. If you want to find out more about what you can see or would like some things to spot you can try these websites:
Jodrell Bank’s website updates every month to give you ideas of things to look for. It’s not the most exciting website ever but worth a look!
The Schools Observatory gives detailed positions of interesting features each day. This is particularly good for planet-spotting!
You may spot the International Space Station on it’s regular trip around the Earth. It looks a bit like a plane flying across the sky but it doesn’t have any flashing lights. It’s also travelling around 30 times faster than an aeroplane. Check out NASA’s Spot the Station website to find out where it is right now.
We absolutely love the idea of rainbows in windows to spread joy and hope during social distancing. We have a giant one in our window (much to the embarrassment of my teenage boys!). I have seen so many children smile as they notice it and that makes a bit of teenage embarrassment worth it!
Please show us your rainbows on the Fab Science Facebook group, we’d love to see them!
Here are some rainbow experiments for you…
This uses simple kitchen ingredients and looks fabulous…you could even display it in your window! You can find all the instructions here.
Grab a bag of Skittles (Smarties work too) and make some beautiful patterns. Instructions for this one are here.
If you cook a red cabbage, keep the cooking water as it is a pH indicator. That means that it changes colour to show us if things are acids or alkalis. Check out how to do this colourful chemistry experiment here.
White light is actually made up of all the different colours of the rainbow, we just have to split the light up to see them! If light travels through different things it bends, this is called refraction. If the angles are just right, we get dispersion…this is the splitting up of the colours. You can try this out by shining a torch through a glass of water onto some white paper. Try moving the torch to different anglers and you might see rainbow colours. Raindrops in the air act in a similar way and you can make a real rainbow in your garden by spraying water on a sunny day.
The Met Office has some interesting stuff about unusual rainbows…have you ever seen a double rainbow? Or a fogbow?
We’re social distancing or isolating, we’re worried about our families and our communities…and now we have to be teachers too! Here are some ramblings, musings and top tips from me. I am a science teacher (primary and secondary), a mum (2 boys: Year 7 and Year 8) and had a rather wonky educational journey myself.
Probably easier to ask what is not education. What activities could you possibly do in your house that don’t involve your child learning something new, practising a skill, discovering, exploring or creating? I can’t think of any! Yes, even the PlayStation. Although I’m refusing to believe my boys claims that Fortnite is so educational that they don’t need to do anything else. Helping with cooking, laundry, gardening are all learning. Are you working from home? Do your kids actually know what your job is? Now’s the time to find out! My kids are going to be practising their classification skills by doing my filing this afternoon 🙂 Yes, children need to learn to read, write and add up. So we can do a bit of that but it doesn’t need to take all day.
In ‘normal’ life, families move house and children change schools all the time. Different schools use different schemes of work, teach the curriculum in a different order, use different resources and even have different exams. Children coming into a new school may re-learn things they’ve already done or miss out things completely. They adapt, it works and they’re OK.
Home education is a valid and increasingly popular choice. I’ve worked with many home ed families over the last couple of years and I’ve learned so much from them! There are as many reasons for choosing home education as there are home educating families. For some, it is a short term plan, for some it grows into much more. I’m sure that there will be many families who will fall in love with the freedom of home education during the school closure and will continue when this is all over. And many children who have chosen home ed, then move into school and they adapt, it works and they’re OK.
Through my teaching career I’ve worked with so many children who have English as an additional language. Some in the very early stages of learning. They spend some time picking up the language while not taking in much of the subjects being taught. They have some catching up to do but they often get the best results in English in the end! They adapt, it works and they’re OK.
My own education was a bit wonky as my parents were slightly nomadic artists (being a scientist is my rebellion!). I didn’t start Reception until mid-May as we were living in a caravan in France. I attended two different primary schools due to a house move. When I say different schools, I mean DIFFERENT schools! The first was a small church school which focussed entirely on the Bible, old-fashioned handwriting and the three Rs. The second was a whole new world…we did creative things, science, DT, projects and learned handwriting that people could actually read. I was so behind on all of these things but way ahead on the ‘boring academic’ stuff. We moved to Spain when I was just starting Year 9 and then had a couple of years off before starting Year 10 a year late. I never did Year 9 at all but I’ve got a degree now so I think it’s fine. I adapted, it worked and I’m OK.
These are all examples of children having to adapt and catch up when they enter a new class. Our children will not be doing that. They will not be the one child trying to play catch up. All of the children who are currently at home and go back to school whenever they reopen will have learned different things. The teachers will adapt, it will work and they’ll be OK.
Many of us are now trying to juggle work, doing shopping for self-isolating relatives and neighbours, doing all the usual household stuff and then having to add teacher, school cook, children’s entertainer, school nurse and teaching assistant into the mix. Possibly for more than one child of different ages. Sounds impossible! But really it’s not. Firstly, don’t panic. That’s very important. You’ve got this. Secondly, you don’t need to be ‘teaching’ from 9-3 every day. Teachers don’t do that. By the time you take out registration, assemblies, break, lunch, tidy up time and the amazing amount of time you have to allow for small people to get coats on, it’s about 3-3.5 hours a day. And it’s not all writing and maths! A chunk of that is PE, art, DT, project work, ICT, science, history and geography. You can still do all of these things but they don’t need to involve sitting at the table and being ‘taught’. Also don’t forget that a normal maths or English lesson usually consists of the teacher doing ‘standing at the front teaching’ for about 5 minutes. The rest of the lesson is devoted to children working independently, practising their skills and being supported and guided by the teacher. In an hour, with a class of 30, a bit of simple maths shows that each child gets an average of 2 minutes direct support from the teacher. Just imagine how much you can get done in a hour of focussed work together.
When have we ever had such an opportunity to learn new things with our children? To allow them the space and time to follow their own interests? This is an uncertain time but also one full of amazing possibilities.