With the cold snaps, sniffling noses, and trend toward scarves, winter is finally upon us! While the chilly weather may leave educators and parents wanting to stay inside with something warm to drink and a comfortable pair of pajamas, young children want nothing more than to explore! Curiosity is natural in children and science investigation is their natural method of discovery. Winter provides a variety of science lessons you can teach children inside without worrying about the colds that may accompany prolonged amounts of time in the cold weather. Here are indoor science investigations you can engage your students in to celebrate the start of winter:
Activity: What Form Am I?
Objective: How can we tell potential energy from kinetic energy?
Being stuck inside can leave children with stores of endless energy, that’s why it offers the perfect opportunity to teach children about different types of energy while expelling some of their own!
- Thin plank blocks (Kaplan blocks)
- Small books, one for each child
- Ask the children to stand with you and shimmy and shake. Tell them that when you say, “Freeze!” they are to stop moving. When you say, “Wiggle!” they can move again. Play this game a few times.
- Ask the children that they notice about their bodies when they freeze. What are they doing? What does it feel like when we freeze? How does it feel when we move?
- Give the children small books, and show them how to balance the books on their heads. Can they do it? Do the books fall? Can they walk around the room—or even just take a couple of steps—with the books on their heads? Why is that so difficult? When they are moving, is the book moving, too? What makes the books go from resting on their heads to falling onto the floor?
- Put the books aside, and transition into another activity. Gather the children into small groups, and give them dominoes or plank blocks. They will make a domino line to play with the idea of potential and kinetic energy. Show them how to stand the dominoes or planks on end and create a chain. When they are ready, let them tip the first domino, transferring energy from their hands into the domino, which should start a chain reaction. Let them explore making the dominoes topple over in a line.
- While playing with the dominoes, introduce the terms potential energy and kinetic energy.
Find even more science explorations like the one above in the book Science—Not Just for Scientists!
Activity: Drifting Snow
Encourage children to observe how the amount of snow on the ground varies over time, and to recognize how cold and warm spells, wind, and additional storms affect the amount of snow on the ground throughout winter.
- Long stick
- Permanent marker
What to Do:
- When the weather forecast begins to predict the first snowfall of the year, talk with the children about snow, and how they think snow will affect the area.
- Talk about meteorologists’ predictions. Guide the children toward the idea of putting sticks outside in places where they will not be disturbed.
- After the snow (assuming school does not close) bring the children outside and help them find a few locations where they can measure the snowfall.
- Give the children sticks to put in the snow to measure how much snow falls. Give the children markers to draw lines on the sticks indicating the depths of the snow they measure, and then help them write the day’s date on the sticks.
- After a few days, bring the children outside to measure and mark on their sticks the snow’s new depth. After each snowstorm or change in temperature, bring the children outside to measure the snow’s new depth, and help them mark and date it on their sticks.
- After the winter ends and the snow all melts, invite the children to look at all the sticks together and compare them. Have a classroom discussion on how snow forms and why it melts.