Middle and High School
As the end of the school year approaches, you may be searching for creative ways to engage students and make the most of the final days of learning. One fantastic option is to take learning outside the confines of the classroom and into the great outdoors. Outdoor science activities provide a refreshing change of environment and unique opportunities for hands-on exploration and connection with the natural world. But, even if you can’t take your students outdoors, you can bring nature’s wonders inside the classroom to inspire them.
We’ve gathered a bounty of ideas below for fun and easy end-of-year science activities in or out of the classroom.
Nature Scavenger Hunt:
A nature scavenger hunt is a perfect way to get students actively involved in observing and identifying various elements of the natural environment. This activity promotes teamwork, observation skills, and critical thinking.
Create a list of items or features for students to find, such as different types of leaves, rocks, or insects. Then, divide students into small groups and let them explore the surrounding area to find the items on their list. Encourage them to use their science notebooks to document their findings with drawings, photographs, or notes.
They’ll love taking pictures and describing how they relate to every item on the list. Whether they head indoors or outdoors, this activity is a great way to get students moving and thinking about the biology around them.
Supports concepts about
- Interaction with Organisms and the Environment
- Structure and Function of Life
- Genetic Patterns
- Evolutionary Change
Build a Bird Nest Challenge:
Birds use their beaks and claws to build secure habitats to incubate eggs and raise their young. This activity gives students an appreciation for the skill and work required to make a well-structured bird nest. Students get to use their two hands with handy opposable thumbs that make it easy to grasp and manipulate any shaped object.
Before the activity, research the local bird species. Learn about their nesting habits, preferred materials, and nesting locations. Collect a variety of natural materials that birds commonly use for nest-building. This can include twigs, leaves, grass, moss, feathers, and small branches. Be sure the materials are safe for birds and are collected responsibly without causing harm to the environment.
Set up different stations, each with a selection of materials. Divide the students into smaller groups and assign each group to a station. Make sure to provide enough materials for everyone to participate.
Start the activity by demonstrating different nest-building techniques. Show students how birds typically construct nests, explaining the different layers, shapes, and structures they create. Remind them that they’re creating a safe and secure nest for the eggs and chicks. Then let students build their own nests. Encourage creativity and experimentation while emphasizing the importance of using natural materials and maintaining the structural integrity of the nests.
After the nests are built, students can observe their creations and discuss what they've learned. Encourage them to consider some of the challenges birds could face during nest-building and how their nests provide protection and insulation for eggs and chicks.
As things start to warm up across the nation, engage students in understanding and tracking weather patterns by setting up a weather observation station outdoors. Provide them with instruments such as thermometers, barometers, and rain gauges, and guide them in measuring and recording weather data. Students can analyze the collected data and look for patterns, make predictions, or compare their observations with local weather reports. These activities promote scientific inquiry, data analysis, and critical thinking skills.
Get started with these activities:
- Weather and Climate Lab Activity!
The state of Earth's atmosphere affects us all, which explains why the weather is one of the most popular topics of conversation and scientific study. In this activity, students investigate specific weather phenomena and the climate system in general. They build a model of Earth and its atmosphere and then use it to conduct experiments that show how the global wind system works.
- Why and when do vortices (or vortexes) occur? Making a tornado in a bottle activity demonstrates fluid dynamics, wind force, Doppler radar, weather safety, and the vortices we see in nature. This physics activity will have students making twisters in no time.
Watch the video and download the free activity here.
Simple Science Experiments:
Take advantage of the natural environment to conduct simple science experiments with your students.
Get started with with these activities:
- Exploring Light's Properties Lab Activity.
As the days grow longer, students can study the properties of light on a sunny day. These hands-on activities allow students to apply scientific principles in a fun and engaging way. Using the physical science framework concepts of Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (PS2) and Energy (PS3), students explore the properties of white light, build and investigate primary color wheels, and research the straight-line motion of light.
- Explore the concept of water density by constructing a simple water density bottle. Students observe how water contracts to reach its maximum density and test the effects of temperature and salinity on saltwater density by constructing a simple hydrometer.
Transform your classroom into an indoor nature walk by creating stations that showcase different aspects of the natural world. Set up displays or posters featuring photos and information about various ecosystems, animals, and plants. Include interactive elements like samples of rocks, shells, or feathers that students can touch and examine. Encourage students to move around the room, exploring and discovering information at their own pace. This immersive experience helps students connect with nature even when confined indoors.
- Nature Stencils. Trace, paint, and create beautiful nature prints! Use it to describe food webs, environments, seasons, and more. A great way to engage the creative students in your class!
- Mix things up with a 3-D Rock and Mineral Model. After students identify rocks with the Mineral and Rock Identification Collection, they create a giant Geology display using glue or Velcro to secure specimens to identifier cards pasted on poster board.
- Ward's® Chemistry Elephants Toothpaste Demonstration Using a tube of toothpaste, students can take the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to a new level by adding soap and food coloring. The oxygen and heat are trapped in a rapidly expanding foam column that flows out of the tube. Using a glowing splint to “ignite” the bubbles demonstrates the production of pure oxygen gas. Students learn about catalysts, decomposition reactions, exothermic reactions, gas volume, and the properties of oxygen.
- The Magic of Crystals. Sugar, salt, snowflakes, and gemstones; crystals are all around us. But what are they? And how do they form? Answering these questions for your students will be more fun if they’re watching colorful crystals grow right before their eyes in just minutes. Find out how by watching this video and using the super simple Ward’s Chemistry Silicate Garden Demonstration.
- Ice Cream Making Kit: A Heat Transfer Experiment. As warm weather approaches, our minds turn to the important things in life, like ice cream. In this activity, students can use a simple technique to create edible ice cream and learn about heat transfer, phase change, and insulation along the way. They’ll have all the answers when their friends ask them tough questions like, why does throwing salt on an icy sidewalk melt the ice? Where does the heat come from to melt the ice? Why does it freeze again at night? These questions and many more about freezing and thawing will be a piece of ice cream cake for your students!
Last Dive into Chemistry:
- The pH of swimming pool water can provide an excellent opportunity to teach chemistry concepts to your science students. By diving into swimming pool pH, you can engage students in hands-on learning, connect theoretical knowledge with real-life applications, and make chemistry education a splashing success.
- Get started with Chemistry Colors of a pH Indicator Lab Activity. This lab activity helps students become familiarized with the concepts of molarity, dilutions, indicators, and PH. Start with 1 M solutions and then dilute them from a pH of 0 to 14 to a pH of 7. The colors of the solutions will change accordingly as the acidity is altered.
By merging the beauty of the outdoors with the excitement of scientific exploration, you can ignite students’ curiosity, and foster a love for the natural world, as they head out for their summer break!