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Three Holiday Science Activities

With all the end-of-year busyness and cheer, don’t forget to make room for some science fun that will keep your kiddo learning over winter break!
 

Learning Benefits

 

Over the holiday break, keep your kiddos from experiencing brain drain. These festive holiday projects are so much fun, they won’t even know they are learning.

Project 1: Winter Stargazing

A clear winter evening is a great time to spy a multitude of stars scattered across the night sky. All you need to do is bundle up your family; grab some cocoa, a flashlight, and a blanket and head outdoors. Then get cozy and look up. Kids will enjoy trying to spot constellations. These groups of stars seem to form a pattern in the sky. To know what to look for, create a constellation viewer before you embark on your backyard adventure.

What You’ll Need:

·      Printout of constellation patterns

·      Scissors

·      Pencil

·      Ruler

·      Glue

·      Black construction paper

·      Thumbtack

·      Cardboard paper towel tube

·      Rubber band

What to Do:

1. Print out the constellation patterns found at: www.mos.org/sites/dev-elvis.mos.org/files/docs/education/mos_starlab-k-2_constellation-scopes.pdf.

2. Cut out each constellation. Glue each to the center of a 2.4-inch- (6-centimeter-) wide circle you have cut out of black construction paper.

3. Fit one construction paper circle over one end of the paper towel tube. Fold the circle’s edges over the tube, and wrap a rubber band around to secure.

4. Use a thumbtack to carefully poke holes through the stars on the constellation pattern.

5. Have family members hold the covered end of your viewer up to a light and look through the other end.

6. Ask each stargazer to describe what he or she sees. What do the group of stars look like to them? Share the name of the constellation you are viewing and what it means. Talk about why it may have been given that name based on its shape.

What Happened:

When each family member looked through the viewer, he or she saw pinpoints of light shining through the other end. These “stars” are arranged in the same pattern as constellations that can be seen in the sky. People have been identifying these groups of stars since ancient times. They named the constellations after the objects, the creatures, or the people they looked like. For example, the Big Dipper looks like a giant scoop, Leo looks like a lion, and Orion looks like a hunter with a bow and arrow.

When you finish examining constellations through your viewer, you’re ready to take this project outside. Plan to go stargazing on a cloudless, moonless night. See if you can spot any of the constellations you learned about. Have fun finding and naming your own patterns in the stars.

Project 2: Snowstorm in a Jar

Depending on where you live, winter can bring lots of ice and snow. It’s the perfect weather for ice skating, sledding, and building snowmen. But if you don’t live in a place that gets chilly enough for flakes to form, don’t worry. This cool activity will show your family how to make your own snowstorm—no freezing temperatures required! It’s also a great activity for those wanting to keep warm indoors instead of shoveling snow off the sidewalk. Brrr!

What You’ll Need:

·      Measuring cup

·      Water

·      Medium-size glass jar

·      Measuring spoons

·      Kid-safe white tempera or finger paint

·      Spoon

·      Baby oil

·      White, clear, or silver glitter

·      Fizzy antacid tablet (such as Alka-Seltzer)

What to Do:

1. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the jar.

2. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of paint.

3. Gently pour 1 cup of baby oil into the jar. (You want a clear layer of oil to form on top of the white water. It helps to slightly tip the jar while pouring in the oil so you don’t disturb the layer of water below.)

4. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of glitter on top of the oil.

5. Drop in the antacid tablet. Here comes the snowstorm! The liquid starts to bubble, sending what looks like shimmering snow flurries swirling around the jar.

What Happened:

Snow forms when water droplets in clouds freeze and fall to the ground as snowflakes. Of course, that’s not how your homemade blizzard was created. Here’s a breakdown of how your snowstorm-in-a-jar occurred.

1. Layered Up: The water and oil you poured into the jar formed two separate layers. That happened because water and oil are immiscible. That’s a fancy science word used to describe liquids that don’t mix. Another reason the layers formed has to do with density (the amount of material in the space an object takes up). Oil has a lower density than water. That means oil is lighter than water, so it floats on top.

2. Fizzy Tizzy: When you dropped in the antacid tablet, it sunk to the water layer at the bottom of the jar. The water began to dissolve the tablet. As the tablet broke down and mixed into the liquid, it released a gas called carbon dioxide. The gas bubbled upward, carrying drops of white-colored water—your snow—with it.

3. Whirling Glitter: Once the bubbles reached the layer of oil, they popped. Since water is heavier than oil, any water droplets carried up sank back down again. They took some of the glitter on top of the oil with them. The bubbling action mixed up the snow-white water and glitter so it looked like a swirling snowstorm. As long as the bubbles kept going, so did the storm.

 

Project 3: Sparkling Holiday Tree

It’s likely you’ll spot holiday decorations just about everywhere this time of year. That includes everything from candy canes and tinsel to wreaths and stockings. Some of the prettiest sights you’ll see are fir trees decked out with twinkling lights, garlands, and ornaments. Get your family into the holiday spirit by growing your own sparkling holiday tree.

 

What You’ll Need:

·      Measuring cup

·      Salt

·      Water

·      Tall drinking glass

·      Spoon

·      Green food coloring

·      White pipe cleaner

·      String

·      Pencil

 

What to Do:

1. Pour 1/4 cup of salt into 1/2 cup of very warm tap water into the glass and stir. Keep stirring until most of the salt disappears. Then add a few drops of green food coloring.

2. Bend a white pipe cleaner into the shape of a holiday tree.

3. Tie one end of your string to the top of your tree. Tie the other end to the middle of the pencil.

4. Lay the pencil across the mouth of the glass so that the tree dangles into the saltwater. (The tree should be completely under the water.)

5. Leave your glass in a warm, dry place where it won’t be disturbed. Check the glass each day, and watch as your tree grows.

6. When all the water is gone, your tree is ready. Use the string to hang it up as a holiday decoration.

 

What Happened:

When you stirred the salt into the water, it dissolved to form a saltwater mixture. Your pipe cleaner tree soaked up the saltwater. Over time, the liquid in the mixture began to evaporate. It turned from a liquid into a gas. As the water disappeared, colorful salt crystals were left behind on the pipe cleaner. (Crystals are natural, solid substances that have a geometric shape. Salt crystals, for example, look like tiny cubes.) Crystals kept forming on the pipe cleaner until the water was completely gone. Tada! You were left with a crystal-studded holiday tree!

You can make other shapes out of pipe cleaners. Try a heart or a snowflake. Then follow the same process you used to grow your holiday tree to make your designs sparkle.

 

 

 

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