Science is my jam. I live for the opportunities to take my students’ curiosity and help fan the flames. I love introducing them to the outside world and all its wonders. Now…Spring is far from my favorite season (ahem, muddy paws?), but I do love getting back out into the garden and seeing the return of the plants and wildlife.
Plus? There’s something refreshing about going outside as the weather warms up – and I take full advantage of doing that anytime I can and I think we’re all better for it. Many of the best springtime science activities happen outdoors, but not all. I’ve gathered a mix of my favorites for you below to help encourage your students to connect, explore, and engage with the world around them!
Activity 1. Bioblitz
A bioblitz is basically a group of people gathering information about what is found in a certain area over a short period of time. You can do this low-tech or high-tech – but I’d highly recommend the high-tech version. Using an app called SEEK by iNaturalist, students photograph plants and animals they find in the designated area. The app identifies the item, from the kingdom all the way down to species. Students can earn badges for capturing/identifying different flora and fauna. The app is fun for all – my 74-year-old dad and I both love using this app as well! Find more information about Bioblitzes from National Geographic’s Bioblitz Guide.
2. Hula Hoop Nature
You can find this activity in our newly updated Earth Day Unit – complete with a printable recording sheet. The gist of it is that you select an outdoor area for your students to explore and allow them to toss a hula hoop into that area. Wherever it lands becomes their spot – they then take in-depth observations about that area using the recording sheet, considering plants and animals, living and non-living, colors, shapes, sizes, etc. This is even more fun when you can go back to the same spot multiple times throughout the year and notice the differences and similarities in your spot throughout the seasons.
Spring just seems like the time to study weather – it is when severe weather season starts and is full of fun activities for students to connect to the world around them. Our Weather and Seasons Unit is jam-packed with fun activities and learning opportunities. One of my favorites is the Solar Oven S’More where students build a solar oven to cook a s’more using energy from the sun. Another favorite is making a cloud in a jar – students are always amazed by this one!
Activity 4. Citizen Science
One of the best springtime science activities is incorporating citizen science projects into your classroom. Citizen science is simply the gathering of data by non-professional scientists, engaging students in inquiry-based learning and stewardship of the environment. There are many of these available all over the country in a variety of topics and can involve anything from water quality monitoring to measuring night sky brightness to bird counts (the Bioblitz mentioned earlier can be a citizen science project, too!). National Geographic has a great collection of projects, as does PBS with a searchable database, and USGS.
5. Animal Cams
Animal cams are something I’ve been integrating for years – in particular the Decorah Eagle camera. We monitor the nest throughout the entire nesting season, watching the eagles as they update their nest, lay the eggs, incubate them, the eggs hatch, and the adults raise the babies until they fledge. The kids LOVE this. We check in a few mornings a week and then if there is work time, I’ll often leave it up on the SmartBoard for them to observe as they are doing or finishing their work. Surprisingly, it didn’t cause too much distraction to them completing their work.
There are innumerable wildlife cams available all over the world – a few of my new favorites are the Cornell Panama Fruit Feeder Cam at Canopy Lodge and the Tembe Elephant Park in Emangusi, South Africa. There is a great selection at explore.org!
6. Pollinator Problems
Pollinators play a crucial role in our lives, but they are in serious trouble. Spring is a great time to teach students about pollinators (mainly insects, but also bats, birds, some other mammals, and even a kind of gecko!).
After sharing about the variety of pollinators, how they do their job, and their importance, you can have students pick their favorite insect pollinators and make themselves a pair of wings and antennae. Draw and decorate two paper towels with flowers on them. Then, set one under a small dish with candy or erasers at the bottom and cheese puffs on top. Have students reach through the puffs to get to the candy at the bottom, transferring it to another dish with the second paper towel under it. Tell them to wipe their hands on the second paper towel after each piece is transferred. Continue until all pieces are transferred.
This process emulates how pollination takes place – with their hand (the insect’s body), the candy (nectar), the cheese puffs (pollen), and the bowls/towels (flowers) all playing a role and shows the students how the pollen is transferred! Bonus? Use one of these pollinator booklet/journal printables available from Kids Gardening and USDA.
Activity 7. Life Cycles
Life cycles are fascinating. The best part is there are so many to choose from – any of a number of insects, chickens, frogs, plants… This world is amazing to me as an adult, think about how cool it would be for a child! There are a few ways you can get actual critters to observe as they go through their life cycle (we used Nasco) and I can’t tell you the content knowledge, but also the excitement and social-emotional benefits from incorporating this into our classroom. One of my favorite memories is one of my more challenging behavioral students who had a really hard life and how he morphed when he was around the eggs and chicks once they hatched. Whether you plant a bean seed or hatch chicks, these life transformations are a must-do springtime science activity.
8. Sensory Walk w/Bracelet
All you need for this activity is a roll of tape (duct tape or wide masking tape). Basically, make a bracelet with the sticky side of the tape out on each student’s wrist and be on your way! Students should use the tape to collect items they find on the nature walk.
I use the rule that there’s no eating things we find, go somewhere there isn’t poison ivy or stinging nettles (or make sure they can ID them first), they can pick things up off the ground, and they may pick things IF there are many of them available (they wouldn’t be allowed to pick the one daisy, but if there are 40 dandelions, then yes). Once I remind them that the things in nature are there for a purpose (feeding animals, habitat, etc), they’re usually really good about it – and reminding each other of the rule if someone gets a little excited and tries to pick something they shouldn’t.
Once we get back to our home base, we discuss what we found using our five senses. An easy extension is to write poetry using sensory words.
This is another of the best springtime science activities that I love! For lunch on a given day, students keep any of their compostable food scraps. Using recycled plastic bottles, each student can then make their own, personal compost container to observe the process. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but if you do it early in the spring, and depending on what food scraps you put in, by the time school lets out, there is a chance you’ll have fully composted goods – and if not, they can take it home and watch the magic there. You can also do this compost in a bag.
Activity 10. Maple Syruping
If you live in the right part of the country and have the ability to travel to a sugarbush, or just have a sugar maple tree nearby your school, you can make your very own maple syrup. ‘Tap’ into your local community to see if there are any local experts that can help you or try it out on your own (this is a traditional Ojibwe food and I was fortunate enough to have cultural leaders available to teach my students about it). There are many resources available online that can help you, including videos like this to share with your students. This is by far the most delicious of the best springtime science activities!
11. Color-Changing Daisies
I am shocked by how many haven’t done this. As you learn about plants, this is a fun introduction to the structures within plants and how they transfer nutrients and water throughout the plant. If you don’t have daisies, you can substitute celery. Snip the end so there is a fresh cut and place a single stem into a cup of water tinted with food coloring and let it sit. The process usually happens relatively quickly, so make sure you’re watching!
12. Wiggling Worms!
Worms are quintessential spring. Wiggling Worms is a great way to study worms in a fun, engaging manner – with gummy worms and a sweet treat at the end! As an added bonus, I like to bring in some real earthworms for students to observe either before or after we do this project.
Activity 13. Make a Rainbow
Rainbows scream spring to me, too. Depending on the age of your students, there are two different make rainbow activities that I think deserve to be among the best springtime science activities. For younger kids, you can use two cups of water, rainbow-colored markers, and paper towels to make a rainbow. For older students, doing chromatography with black ink is a great option. Using a coffee filter, draw a design along the outside edge of the filter in black ink, fold it, and set it in a shallow dish of water to separate the colors in black.
Spring science lends itself to some wonderful opportunities to connect, explore, and engage with the world around us. These have always been winners for me. What else would you add to the list of the best springtime science activities? Share with us below!
Written By: Kristin Halverson, NBCT
At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources created by teachers for teachers. We strive to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.
If you enjoyed what we have to offer at ETTC, be sure to join our email list, so you won’t miss a beat.