As testing season and the end of the year approach, I get butterflies in my stomach. Not because I am nervous about the assessments or student behavior, but because I know spring is coming. It can be one of the toughest times of the year for student engagement, but with the right attitude, it can easily turn into the most fun AND educational.
Spring science activities are exciting for teachers and students alike. We are usually in the midst of life science, so I have the perfect excuse to get my students outside to enjoy the nice weather. It is also a great time of year to try out some new ideas and projects. Here are a few of my favorite spring science activities to enjoy with your students and keep them on track at the end of the year when summer brain sets in.
Nature walks are SO simple and versatile. I like to give my students a few variations of this. The first one is a scavenger hunt of living and non-living things. I make it into a challenge, and the team with the biggest list wins! You can also get more specific with this and have students create an illustrated catalogue of the different plants and animals they find as a follow up, individually or as a class collaboration.
My favorite, however, is a simple journal observation. No worksheets necessary. When we go outside, I have students choose one object that interests them, but I don’t tell them why. Once everyone confirms they have chosen something, I give them the task of examining it and writing down everything they can observe about the object with their senses. (And yes, even older kids always ends up trying to eat something they probably shouldn’t.)
The great thing about this is that you can repeat it on different parts of the campus, or even try it indoors. After the first time this activity is completed, I like to up the stakes and put a time limit on how long they can study the object in subsequent versions.
I believe students of all ages need activities like this to ground them in this fast paced digital world. They are often surprised with how many things they can observe about something as simple as a fallen leaf. And honestly, so am I! If time permits, I have students try a “scientific illustration” of their object.
Campus Clean Up
You don’t have to wait for Earth Day to model good habits with your students. Any day is a great day to go outside and clean up your campus! The kids will love getting out of the classroom (and the administration will love the free labor).
Sometimes we become blind to the little candy wrappers or pencil erasers hanging around. Point out the nitty gritty details and be shocked by the pollution your students will find!
Make this even more fun as a challenge, because, let’s face it. Kids love competition. Have students craft their own trash container from recycled materials (those old worksheets cluttering up their folder, for example). The student who collects the most waste wins!
I love growing things. Students love trying to grow things. Every year during my STAAR Bootcamp, I run a side project for the students to give them a brain break and it is my favorite spring science activity. Each student gets to choose a seed, plant it and take care of it the four weeks before testing. The whole project probably costs me $10 for planter cups and 20 packs of seeds. Shout out, Dollar Tree! The student engagement? Priceless.
Every single day, each student goes outside and records their observations and measurements. They also decide if their plant needs water based on soil conditions. I am lucky to have a patio in my line of sight attached to the back of my classroom so students can be sent out in groups of 2-3. However, I also had no problem sending kids out one at a time in previous years before the deck was built. They knew if they stepped out of line, they would lose the privilege and these kids LOVED taking care of their plants. It is a HUGE behavior motivator that can be a lifeline to sanity in those last weeks of school.
This is another one of my projects that has evolved over the years into something bigger and cross curricular. My fifth (and sixth!) graders struggle with graphing data, so for their final project grade they complete a set of graphs to represent the data they have collected during the month. The Grow and Graph project is a perfect end of the year science activity to feel like you are getting student output without pulling out your hair.
You can find the full project here!
Although this is probably the least educationally rich activity we have done this spring, the joy it brought my students was worth the trade off. Children (even the older, stinky ones) enjoy simple things. This activity was new to my rotation, but I can’t wait to do it again next year!
I used this STEM challenge on the last day before the long Easter weekend. The objective was simple. Build a nest for “Peeps Eggs” using only toothpicks and jelly beans. The only requirements were that the eggs not touch the table or be able to roll out of the nest.
I gave the students the choice of working individually, in pairs or groups…the only catch being the nest must balance one egg per team member…so if a group of five students wanted to work together, that was fine! But the nest they built had to balance all five eggs.
The challenge works without the Easter theme, too! Check out the challenge worksheet here.
Future Planning & Career Research
The end of the year is a perfect time to get in some PBL action. Project based learning is engaging and allows for student choice. When students are interested (and invested) in their activities, you will find their output increases exponentially.
I have always done a career planning and character building unit at the end of 6th grade for my students heading to middle school. However, this year, I tried to make the project more science based and turned it into a STEM Career Research project.
The students can choose ANY career they like, however, they MUST be able to explain how science, technology, engineering or math will be used in their career.
See the details here!
What are some of your favorite spring science activities? I want to hear about them in the comment section below!
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