In this activity, learners use a hand-made protractor to measure angles they find in playground equipment. Learners will observe that angle measurements do not change with distance, because they are distance invariant, or constant. Note: The "Pocket Protractor" activity should be done ahead as a separate activity (see related resource), but a standard protractor can be used as a substitute.
In this demonstration, amaze learners by performing simple tricks using mirrors. These tricks take advantage of how a mirror can reflect your right side so it appears to be your left side. To make the effect more dramatic, cover the mirror with a cloth, climb onto the table, straddle the mirror, and then drop the cloth as you appear to "take off." This resource contains information about how this trick was applied during the making of the movie "Star Wars."
This trick from Exploratorium physicist Paul Doherty lets you add together the bounces of two balls and send one ball flying. When we tried this trick on the Exploratorium's exhibit floor, we gathered a crowd of visitors who wanted to know what we were doing. We explained that we were engaged in serious scientific experimentation related to energy transfer. Some of them may have believed us. If you'd like to go into the physical calculations of this phenomenam, see the related resource "Bouncing Balls" - it's the same activity but with the math explained.
In this optics activity, learners discover that when they rotate a special black and white pattern called a Benham's Disk, it produces the illusion of colored rings. Learners experiment with the speed of rotation and direction of rotation to observe varying patterns. Use this activity to explain to learners how our eyes detect color and how different color receptors in the eye respond at different rates.
In this activity, learners burn a peanut, which produces a flame that can be used to boil away water and count the calories contained in the peanut. Learners use a formula to calculate the calories in a peanut and then differentiate between food calories and physicist calories as well as calories and joules.
In this fun and interactive online exhibit, the straight lines of a tile wall appear to curve. The learner moves the rows of tiles and changes the color of the grout to achieve the intriguing effect. Although the exhibit requires a computer, the concept can be adapted into a longer, hands-on exploration of optical illusions.
In this demonstration, cook a cake using the heat produced when the cake batter conducts an electric current. Because of safety concerns, this activity should be conducted as a demonstration only and learners should be kept at a safe distance.
Cardboard Automata are a playful way to explore simple machine elements while creating a mechanical sculpture. This activity was inspired by the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, a group of automata builders based in England. Artists like Paul Spooner, Keith Newstead, and Carlos Zapata build beautiful narrative pieces using elegant mechanisms based on cams, gears, springs, and linkages. Working with simple materials, this activity is easy to get started, and may become as complex as your mechanical sculpture ideas.
This is a quick activity that shows how large amounts of rock and sediment are added to the edge of continents during subduction. You may ask, how can such a huge phenomenon be demonstrated quickly and cheaply? The answer is simple: with a cookie!
In this activity, learners conduct an oxidation experiment that turns old pennies bright and shiny. Learners soak 20 dull, dirty pennies in a bowl of salt and vinegar for five minutes. They rinse half the pennies with water, then compare the rinsed pennies to the unrinsed after all pennies sit and dry for about an hour. Learners also observe what happens when they submerge a screw and nail in the liquid compared to a nail only half-way submerged.
In this activity, learners use crayons to draw conclusions about rocks and the rock cycle. Learners form crayons ((which can be "weathered"--heated, compressed and cooled--like rocks) into models of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks.
In this fun gardening activity, learners discover their soil type. There are three basic soil types: sand, silt, and clay. Using only a jar, water and a bit of water softener, learners will sort their soil into its parts. The activity includes a "What's going on" section as well as information about what makes a soil ideal for gardening.
In this electrochemistry activity, learners will explore two examples of electroplating. In Part 1, zinc from a galvanized nail (an iron nail which has been coated with zinc by dipping it in molten zinc) will be plated onto a copper penny. In Part 2, copper from a penny will be plated onto a nickel.
In this activity, learners conduct a simple experiment to see how electrically charged things like plastic attract electrically neutral things like water. The plastic will attract the surface of the water into a visible bump.
In this activity, learners use pattern blocks and mirrors to explore symmetry. Learners work in pairs and build mirror images of each other's designs. In doing so, learners will examine principles of symmetry and reflection.
In this activity, learners design unique tiles and make repeating patterns to create tessellations. This activity combines the creativity of an art project with the challenge of solving a puzzle. This lesson features three investigations, in which learners make tessellations by translating, rotating, and reflecting the patterns.
In this activity, learners repeat patterns in two and three dimensions to create tessellations. This activity combines the creativity of an art project with the challenge of solving a puzzle. This lesson features three investigations that are appropriate for varying grades and levels.
This online exhibit is a visual illusion in which a fuzzy blue dot disappears into a green background. The illusion is created by the tiny jittering movements that your eyes are continually making. Take your investigation further by making your own hands-on fading dot illusion - instructions are at the Exploratorium Snack website (see related link).
In this hands-on botany activity, learners sprout vegetables in film canisters. Learners grow nine seeds each of cabbage, radish, and parsley, experimenting with changing one variable (light, water, or temperature) to explore differences in the germination preferences of the plants. If film canisters aren't available, other small, opaque containers with lids can be substituted.
This hands-on activity shows you how to build basic architectural shapes out of toothpicks and gumdrops. Learners explore how different shapes are more stable than others, and are introduced to ideas about "stretching and squashing"--that is, about tension and compression.
This is an activity about a very important ingredient in most baked goods - gluten! Why is gluten so important? Without it, there would be nothing to hold the gas that makes bread rise. Learners will experiment with different types of flour to get a feel for gluten, and discover why using different flours can lead to such different results in the kitchen.
In this activity, learners use their hands as tools for indirect measurement. Learners explore how to use ratios to calculate the approximate height of something that can't be measured directly by first measuring something that can be directly measured. This activity can also be used to explain how scientists use indirect measurement to determine distances between things in the universe that are too far away, too large or too small to measure directly (i.e. diameter of the moon or number of bacteria in a volume of liquid).
In this classic hands-on activity, learners estimate the length of a molecule by floating a fatty acid (oleic acid) on water. This lab asks learners to record measurements and make calculations related to volume, diameter, area, and height. Learners also convert meters into nanometers. Includes teacher and student worksheets but lacks in depth procedure information. The author suggests educators search the web for more complete lab instructions.
In this activity, learners will explore globes of frozen water to learn how to ask and then answer 'investigable' questions. The activity includes four short online videos: Introduction, Step-by-Step Demonstration, Going Deeper, and What's Going On. Also available are a concept map and a "Going Further" web page that suggests variations and extensions on this activity.
In this activity, learners investigate the speed of chemical reactions with light sticks. Learners discover that reactions can be sped up or slowed down due to temperature changes.
This is an activity that demonstrates how batteries work using simple household materials. Learners use a pickle, aluminum foil and a pencil to create an electrical circuit that powers a buzzer. Most common batteries--such as car batteries and the batteries inside a flashlight--work on the same principle that the pickle battery works on: two metals suspended in an ion-rich liquid or paste separate an electric charge, creating an electrical current around a circuit. In this activity, the pickle provides the ion-rich liquid - pickles contain salt water, which is rich in ions.
In this activity, learners use a laser pointer and two small rotating mirrors to create a variety of fascinating patterns, which can be easily and dramatically projected on a wall or screen. In this version of the activity, learners use binder clips to build the base of the device. Educators can use a pre-assembled device for demonstration purposes or engage learners in the building process.
In this activity on page 1 of the PDF, learners compare the relative sizes of biological objects (like DNA and bacteria) that can't be seen by the naked eye. Learners will be surprised to discover the range of sizes in the microscopic world. This activity can be followed up with a second activity, "What's in a microbe?", located on page 3 in the same resource.
Light painting is a creative activity that involves creating striking images and illusions using a camera, a light source, and a little practice. Light paintings may be literal representations or impressionistic, color-filled images. When the camera shutter is open (and the room is dark) the film or digital sensor acts like a blank canvas onto which learners "paint" with a flashlight.
In this activity, learners explore the "nuts and bolts" of gene chips. Learners construct a simple model of a DNA microarray (also known as gene chips) and learn how microarrays can be used to identify and treat disease--including cancer. This resource includes references and an explanation of microarrays.
The Ancient Egyptians used a naturally-occurring salt from the banks of the Nile River, called natron, to mummify their dead. Natron is made up primarily of sodium carbonate (a very efficient, but relatively expensive, dehydrating material), with about 17% sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). This activity explains how to create your own fish mummy using common baking soda!
In this activity, learners slide shapes to create unusual tiled patterns. Learners transform a rectangle into a more interesting shape and then make a tessellation by repeating that shape over and over again. Learners will also calculate the area of a rectangle. This activity works best as a "centers" activity.
To understand how skaters turn in midair, try this little experiment! Individuals can do this activity alone, but it works better with a partner. Used in conjuncture with the rest of the Exploratorium's Skateboard Science website, this activity and others explore the physics of skateboard tricks.
This is an online exhibit about color perception. Learners set a random background color and then try to mix red, blue, and green light to match. Although this is a perception activity, it also demonstrates the difference between mixing colors of light and mixing pigments. Why when mixing pigments does the color darken? How does this differ from mixing colored light? Find out here!
This hands-on activity demonstrates and explains the reasons for the seasons caused by the tilt of Earth on its axis as it orbits around the sun.
- Physical Science
- Material Type:
- CLEAN: Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network
- Provider Set:
- CLEAN: Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network
- Date Added:
This activity shows you how to make a mold terrarium using a jar and leftover food. Learners explore mold, an "icky but necessary" thing that helps living matter rot, return to the soil, and provide nutrients for other plants. If you use a variety of food scraps, with preservatives and without, you'll see the different kinds of mold and be able to compare the rate of growth on various foods. Note: don't put meat or fish in your mold terrarium--after a few days, these would start to smell very, very bad.
In this two-part activity, learners use everyday materials to visualize one mole of gas or 22.4 liters of gas. The first activity involves sublimating dry ice in large garbage bag. The second activity uses plastic bottles.
In this activity, learners explore the question "What is paper?" Learners discover the processes and materials required to make paper while experimenting with different recycled fibers and tools.
In this online activity, learners experience the thrill of pickle making, and explore how a cucumber becomes a pickle. In this "virtual kitchen," leaners discover that pickling takes practice to determine the best recipe (or conditions) for pickling cucumbers. These conditions include room temperature and amount of salt. Use this activity to help learners explore the science of cooking.
In this activity, learners construct a device out of a piezoelectric igniter, like those used as barbecue lighters. Learners use the device to remotely start current flowing in a simple series circuit containing a small electric fan.