There’s nothing like watching faces light up when a science experiment comes to life. Here are fifteen great experiments to try with students that need just a few readily available items.
One genius idea for a larger group is to use SignUpGenius and ask families to donate needed materials. Kids will be excited to see their donations put into action as you try out these fun and fascinating science experiments.
How To: Fill the bowl near to the top with water and place an orange in the water. Note what happens. Then peel the orange and have students make predictions, will it keep floating? Place the orange in the water again and see if the outcome is the same or different. Spoiler Alert: The orange with the peel on floats because of air pockets in the skin, but removing the skin removes those air pockets, and the orange sinks.
Science Concepts: density, buoyancy, gravity, Archimedes’ Principle
How To: Draw a stick figure person on a plate, making sure all strokes are attached. Then from the edge of the plate or dish, slowly add a small amount of room temperature water from a paper cup, and the dry erase will slowly lift off the plate. You can use your finger to gently move around your stick figure. Try making words on the plate and experiment with other figures.
Science Concepts: buoyancy force, low adhesion markers
How To: This one would be fun to do on the first day of science class. Have your cardboard square in one hand, a glass of water in the other (or fill the glass with water as you start to welcome the students). Continue talking casually and suddenly pretend to trip with glass and cardboard in hand, clasping the cardboard over your glass as you tip it over. Continue to talk casually with your glass still upside down (maybe practice at home a few times!). Spoiler Alert: The surface tension holds the water to the cardboard, a great way to introduce your students to the wonder of science
Science Concepts: surface tension, helping kids love science!
How To: Position your two empty glasses about 2 inches apart. Fill one glass halfway and add a few drops of food coloring. Stir to mix. Tear the paper towel into a 2-inch-wide strip and place one end of the paper towel into the colored water and the other end into the empty glass. Leave the glasses and come back after some time to see what has happened to the colored water (if you leave them overnight, the reaction is even greater). You can even put several glasses in a row, each with its own color, connect with paper towel strips, and make your rainbow! Science Concepts: capillary action, adhesive forces, cohesive forces
How To: Begin by filling a glass or jar a third of the way with cold water and continue with one glass for each of the food colors, stir to combine. Making a rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) will be fun and visual. Place individual leaves of cabbage into the glasses and observe over the next few days, recording any changes. Try this with other plants or forms of lettuce. You can also group the glasses with four different colors, split the stem of a carnation or white rose into four going long-ways with the stem and flower still intact, put each piece of the stem into a separate glass, and see how it colors the carnation. Another variation: do one set of leaves in the cold colored water and another in warm-colored water, does it make a difference?
Science Concepts: capillary action, water transport, vascular plants
How To: Fill one jar with water, one with corn syrup, one with cooking oil, and one with honey. Carefully drop one marble into each jar. Drop one marble at a time and observe what happens to the marble when it enters the liquid. What would happen if you heated the honey? Would the marble drop faster?
Science Concepts: viscosity, gravity, density
You Will Need: A set of three glasses (can also use clear water bottles), small circular magnets, twelve paper clips, ½ cup of each of these: water, cooking oil, and corn syrup. TIP: You can reuse what you used for your marble drop to save on supplies.
How To: Fill each of the three glasses ½ full of the three different liquids. Then put 4 paper clips in each glass. You may need to use a craft stick to push the paper clips to the bottom of the corn syrup. Place the magnets next to each of the glasses and note how quickly the paper clips can get to the magnets through the various liquids.
Science Concepts: viscosity, density, magnets, friction force
How To: Place half a lemon on the plate. Use the craft stick to poke holes around the various sections of the lemon (this will help speed up the reaction time). Place drops of food coloring around the sections; alternating colors will make it especially colorful. Pour Dawn over the top of the lemon. Observe what happens (some bubbling), then add a generous amount of baking soda to the top of the lemon. To keep the eruption going, press some of the baking soda down into the sections, and add more lemon juice to dry sections of baking soda.
How To: Fill the jar ¾ full of water and add liquid food coloring if desired (adding dark colors like blue or green makes the rice really stand out). Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to water and mix completely. Pour in ¼ cup of uncooked instant rice, then add 2 Tbs. of white vinegar or more until the reaction begins. You can also try other types, or rice or pasta and see if it goes for a romp or drops to a stop!
Science Concepts: base/acid reactions, chain reactions, carbon dioxide
How To: This is another experiment where you’ll combine baking soda and vinegar to have some fun. First, you’ll want to stretch out your balloon a bit to loosen it up. Then pour ½ cup of vinegar into your plastic bottle. Next, use the funnel to partially fill your stretched out balloon with baking soda. Twist the balloon end, so no baking soda falls out, and then attach it to the neck of the bottle. Carefully lift the balloon, so the baking soda drops into the bottle. For added amusement, first put faces or phrases on your balloon before you fill it with baking soda, and watch it come to life during the experiment! Can also be done with wide-mouth mason jars and surgical gloves.
Science Concepts: liquids/solids/gas, base and acid reactions.
How To: Pour enough milk into the container or plate to cover the bottom. Pour dish soap into the small cup. Add a few drops of different colors of food coloring to the surface of the milk (spread out or all in one clump). Dip the cotton swab into the dish soap and then into one of the drops of color on the surface of the milk. If your colors were clumped in the middle, putting one soapy cotton swab right in the middle will make the colors shoot outward - very cool!
Science Concepts: reactions between fats/proteins and soap, surface tension
You Will Need: Glass jar with lid (a pint mason jar works well), 1 cup boiling water (I recommend borrowing an electric hot water kettle to boil water in a contained environment), blue food coloring (optional), aerosol hairspray, 3-5 cubes of ice.
How To: Pour 1 cup of hot boiling water (with blue food coloring added) into the glass jar. Spray hairspray into the jar, then quickly put the lid onto the jar. Place 3-5 pieces of ice on top of the lid of the jar. The cloud will begin to form in the top of the jar. After observing the formation of the cloud, remove the lid, and watch the cloud rise out of the jar.
Science Concepts: water vapor, microscopic particles, and the behavior of warm air/cool air.
How To: Glue pop-up top to the center of the CD with hot glue, making sure it’s an airtight seal. Keep the top closed. Blow up the balloon and secure it around the pop-up top, again keeping the top closed. Cut down the side of the toilet paper roll and place it around the base of the balloon, so the balloon is supported. Slowly pull the pop-up top into the "open" position and nudge your hovercraft to see what happens.
Science Concepts: laws of friction, force and motion
How To: Stretch your balloon out and then drop the balloon top down into the bottle and stretch the neck of the balloon over the bottle opening. Try to blow the balloon up while in the bottle and see what happens. Now poke a hole in the side of the bottle with the thumbtack and try to blow up the balloon again. With the balloon inflated, quickly cover the hole with some tape. What happens? Now try this. Take the tape off and let the balloon deflate. Put your mouth over the hole and suck the air out of the bottle. What happens - the balloon inflates even without you touching it!
Science Concepts: variations in air pressure
How To: Bruce Yeany made a great video with several variations (YouTube: “Wandering Static Balls”) of this experiment where you place foam balls in your box or in between your four blocks, place clear plastic over the box, then rub with your arm or fluffy cloth to create the static charge. Use your finger to “control” the balls as they stick to the underside of your plastic sheet. You can also put the balls on top of your plastic and use your hands to control their movement (as seen in Bruce’s video). May the force be with you!
Science Concepts: triboelectric series, negative and positive charges, electron study Science experiments are an amazing way to inspire your students to think critically about the world around them through making predictions, testing out their questions, and reflecting on the process. I hope these experiments will spark a love of science that leads your students to many more wonderful discoveries!
Julie David is a freelance writer, educator, and worship pastor's wife from the Midwest who likes warm hugs.