Thursday, 22 March 2018

Making Science Fun : Weather Reports

Snow Brittany Making Science Fun Weather Charts
A light dusting of snow

The weather has been rather strange recently hasn't it with late cold snaps and unexpected snow. Perhaps that's why we decided to make our own weather reports. To chart the weather for a week and see what we found out.

I know a week isn't very long but this was just a beginning. An overture if you like into the world of scientific observation, chart making and eventually data interpretation. 

It was a great way of making science fun by combining a crafty activity (chart design and execution) with a hands on one (checking the local weather outdoors) and a computer based one (looking up the wind direction and the weather in other locations). 

Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography Maths
Maya preparing her charts


Before I tell you how we went about making our charts, I'd like to talk about observation. As I mentioned in previous posts, I think it's important that kids learn about and apply the Scientific Method. Observation is for me one of the cornerstones of any good scientist's (and artist's for that matter!) approach to his work.

"Observation is essential in science. Scientists use observation to collect and record data, which enables them to construct and then test hypotheses and theories."
                                    Science Learning Hub
Observing something and recording your results is a classic scientific activity. Charting your observations is one way of recording your data. 

Encouraging observation skills can begin very early with very young children. It starts by talking to them about things you notice like new buds on the trees or the first blossom. Or how the iced over puddles look like they have trapped stars in them. These kinds of observations encourage children to look closely at things. They foster an attitude of wonder faced with the magic or science of the natural world. 

Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography Maths
Lotta's Weather Chart

Record making

This time we chose charts or tables to record our observations. We often record our natural science observations in nature journals (herbiers) and water colour sketches. 

Combining craft and science is probably one of the most effective ways of making science fun for kids. Although this is often fostered in younger children, older kids often miss out on the crafty side of things in school as the work environment gets more serious and focussed on written records. I think that's a great shame as artwork and making things can really help invigorate their studies and help things stick in their minds.

Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography Maths
Rainy day in New York City

Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography Maths
Snow falling in Paris

Why weather?

My kids have always been interested in the weather and the seasons. They're used to observing it and using that information to fill in the little calendar we have up on the wall. Furthermore, choosing the weather for our first chart making task made this a cross-over activity covering concepts from maths and geography as well as scientific method. 

Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography Maths
A book we used for inspiration

How we did it

  • First we talked about what a chart is and why we might want to make a record of the weather. We also discussed how meteorologists gather their data. 
  • We looked at some examples of weather charts and decided to chart the weather in our commune (local area), St Barthélémy. Both girls also picked another place to chart.
  • We agreed our charts would cover one week and record wind direction, temperature and weather type.
  • We drew up our charts (8 columns and 4 rows)
  • We filled in the days using our calendar to help us* (this led to an interesting conversation about abbreviations such as Mon and how we write the date).
  • We devised a key. This involved deciding on how to depict the weather conditions, the wind direction and temperature. 
  • Our charts were ready to be filled in so we did the first day!
Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography Maths
Using the calendar to fill in the days and dates



There are several ways to individualize this project. In our case both girls decided to chart their home town and another place. 

Maya (11) picked Manchester, UK a city we have visited. Lotta (5) picked Wellington City, NZ because she really wants to go to New Zealand. 

The children were also able to personalise their charts by designing their own symbols for the different weather types. They all really enjoyed thinking them up.   

Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography Maths
Noah's Weather Chart


Adapting this activity to different ages

This project is easy to adapt to different ages. For younger children you might need to give more help with drawing the table. I began the lines for Lotta at either end and then she did the joining up using a ruler. I also helped her with the writing by doing dot to dot letters for her to trace. She really enjoyed drawing her weather type symbols including a purple umbrella for rain! 

Noah (8) was able to do his table by himself. He needed some input particularly for revising the cardinal points and writing the text. He came up with an airplane symbol to indicate wind direction which was very innovative. 

For an older child like Maya there are lots of ways to make this more complicated. She was able to do her own research online to check the weather report each day. Concerning her chart she also chose to record the temperature in degrees Celsius rather than as cold, warm or hot like her younger siblings. 

Making Science Fun Weather Charts Home Education Geography
Maya filling in her weather chart for Manchester

Recording our Results

We filled our charts in for a week. Although the children did forget at least once each, they were able to complete their charts by asking their siblings. Only Maya the eldest ended up with a hole in her data. I felt this was an important lesson for her to learn, that you need to be constant to get good scientific data.

I know a week might not seem very long, but I felt it was a good beginning without the project becoming tedious. We have enough data to produce a graph, work out an average and a mean, all things I'll be doing with Maya. Most importantly the children ended the project still excited about it!
If the children show enough enthusiasm I may suggest doing this again over a longer period. I'd also like to make a rain gauge (pluviomètre) and add rainfall to our chart of local weather at least. They also want to make a traffic chart in our local town though we're waiting for it to warm up a bit first as we don't fancy standing outside for an hour in temperatures only just above freezing!

More tips next time on how to keep history and geography fascinating and fun for all ages! As well as more science with Rainbows in a Jar and our list of some of the best science videos out there.

* The gorgeous artwork on our calendar is by Victoria Keeble. It's published by the people at John Austin cards.  

Thursday, 15 March 2018

How To Help Your Kids Record their Scientific Experiments

Today, as promised I'm sharing with you the fruit of my research into how to help your kids record their scientific experiments.  

Recently we've been writing a lot of what we call science reports. You could say that's because we've been doing a lot of science experiments. However, in the past we didn't often keep a written record of what we were doing. So I suppose you might ask why now?

Home Education comes in many shapes and colours. Every family does things their own way. Some have a curriculum some have no programme at all and let their children decide how they fill their days. Others like us fall somewhere in between. As our eldest daughter has got older we've become more organised. Mostly because that's what she's been asking for. But also because as her interests have emerged we want to make sure we're giving her the foundations she needs to achieve her goals. And that my friends means more science and perhaps more importantly a strong understanding of the scientific method. Writing up her lab work seems to me an essential part of the process. 

All good scientists record their findings. As noted over at,

"Science is all about collecting evidence, and if that evidence hasn't been written down at the time, people have no way of knowing how reliable your results may be." 

Not only is this an essential tool for any budding scientist to master, it's also incredibly interesting in education on several layers. Firstly, for encouraging learners to communicate and share their discoveries in the written form. Secondly, for rubbing out the line that divides real scientists and them. As soon as they decide to do an experiment, to record some data, to further their understanding, they are scientists. Even if someone's taken the steps they're taking before them. 

That said I can't emphasize enough that the most important thing is to get hands on with the kids and to make sure that what ought to be recorded in a report is covered orally. Ask the questions, what are we using today? What are we doing today? And perhaps most importantly of all, what do you expect to happen? and what is happening? 

But back to the reports and how we do them! My kids are nearly 12, 8 and 5. They all like to do the experiments and they've all been involved with report writing. Here's how you can adapt science reports to different ages and keep it fun. Because making science fun is fast becoming my mantra. And guess what, I'm having a great time myself too!


Writing Science Reports 


Whatever the age of the child a science report should cover 3 main areas:
  • Materials
  • Method
  • Observations
The words we use to label and describe these sections and the way in which we fill them in are what we can adapt to different ages and/or abilities and/or affinities. By the latter I mean that not all children like writing whatever there age or abilities be whereas some children love producing reports even from a young age. That noted, for the sake of organisation I'll be explaining three ways of recording data for the age groups 5+, 7+ and 11+.

Five and upwards


Science Reports Home Education Home Schooling kids

Younger children like to do things like their older sibling. My youngest daughter loves writing reports for just that reason. However this age group can also have short attention spansit's best to keep reports concise. Lotta's reports answer the questions, what did we use? with a picture. And what did we do? with a couple of short sentences. As she likes to practice writing, I write these out for her in dot to dots and she traces them. 

Seven and upwards


An older child can write a basic lab report. Although it may not be very detailed it prepares them for what may be required in the future. Noah doesn't like writing much for the moment. So although he is 8 we try to keep his reports brief. We organise it as follows:
  • Our tools
  • Our method
  • Observations
He sometimes draws the tools rather than writing a list. And sometimes I act as a scribe for him and he tells me what to write. With a child who likes writing and has more patience with the written record you could probably work on something more detailed. For us the important thing is that he gets an idea of how we record an experiment and we get a record of his personal observations concerning what happened. We are also planning to give video reporting a try to see if that medium suits him better.

Eleven and upwards


By this age a lot of children are more comfortable with writing and recording their own thoughts. They're also open to following a model. Maya enjoys this kind of written work and so her science reports are longer and more detailed. 

We are focussing on the scientific method and so I encourage her to order her reports as follows:

  • Title
  • Hypothesis (if valid as some of our experiments are demonstrations)
  • Materials
  • Method
  • Observations
  • Results (again if valid, this is often covered in the observations for the moment)
  • Science (this could also be a conclusion but Maya likes to record a bit of what she's learnt about the science behind whatever experiments we do).

Maya often illustrates her report with pictures. Recently she also included a table with mass, volume and density using the formula mass/volume = density to fill in the third column. With each report I can see that she'd refining her written skills and gaining a deeper understanding of the value and importance of record keeping.

To conclude, as I said at the beginning, we haven't been recording our scientific experiments for long and we no doubt still have a lot to learn but I hope this quick guide might be as helpful as this one was to me. For now, the kids are enjoying writing their reports.

We also chat about what we've done with other family members who weren't present (dad, grandparents...) which gives the children another opportunity to process what they did and what they observed. And that act of processing and communicating to someone else what you did is what it's all about really. 

More science fun soon with weather reports and density. And also coming up soon, digging in to history and geography with lego, tv and lots more.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Lava Lamps : The Ultimate Kids Science Experiment

Lava Lamps have to be one of the funnest science experiments we've ever done. Seriously, if you want to know how to make science fun for kids and encourage their sense of wonder you can't look much further than this.

Experiment - check, there are fluids and solids involved and  scientific gear required. Hands on - check, lots of pouring, mixing, shaking. Relevant - check, who doesn't think a funky lamp like this would be a great addition to any kid's room? Can be supported by interesting documentaries - check, and books - check.

So on to the details.  

kids fun science experiements lava lamps
Bubbling Beauty - Lava Lamp

Lava Lamps



  • Clear glass or plastic bottle
  • Vegetable Oil (liquid)
  • Water (liquid)
  • Food Colouring (liquid)
  • Alka Seltzer tablets(solid)


What we did

  • First we poured the vegetable oil into a tall glass jar.
  • Then we used a dropper to drip water into the oil This meant the kids could see how the water didn't mix with the oil but sank through it to pool at the bottom. I prompted their observations by asking them to watch what happened and describe it to me. We then talked about how this was because the water was denser than the oil. If you look closely at the picture below you can see the water droplets beginning to cluster at the bottom of the jar.

Kids fun science experiments lava lamps
Dripping water into the oil

  • We did the same with the food colouring and again observed how it passed through the oil and then mixed with the water.

Kids science fun experiments lava lamps
Passing through the oil

kids science fun experiments lava lamps
Mixing with the water

  •  We took half an alka-seltzer tablet and dropped it into the jar and watched what happened.

Kids Science Fun Experiments Lava Lamps

Kids Science Fun Experiments Lava Lamps
Watching the Reaction

  • We asked ourselves what else we could experiment with? What would happen if we put the lid on or dropped in a whole alka seltzer tablet? We also added some blue food colouring to the red to see what that would do. And then we got out our biggest torch and put it underneath the bottle.

Kids Fun Science Experiments Lava Lamps
Watching to see what happens!

Kids Science Fun Experiments Lava Lamps
Lovely Shades of Purple

  • And just for good measure, we made some more! Three children often means three experiments. We began this together but luckily I had just enough oil and alka seltzer for them to do it again in smaller jars. This time they each worked by themselves and tried out some things differently to see what happened. Shaking happened, tipping upside down happened, adding differing quantities than the first time happened. And a lot of smiling and delight in the magic bubbles each and every time.

Lotta (5)

Noah (8)

Maya (11)

Best for...

Our sense of wonder. If you had to ask me what was the single thing that made this the ultimate kids science experiment for me so far, it would have to be the sheer delight on my kid's faces every time those bubbles appeared. With such simple and easily obtainable ingredients we did something really special.  There is something amazing about Lava Lamps. They reveal the beauty and wonder of chemical reactions between liquids, solids and gases in a very peaceful and stunning way. 

Kids Science Fun Experiments Lava Lamps
Watching the Lava Bubble
In conclusion, we had great fun with this experiment. It allowed us to continue exploring states of matter (check out our other experiments here) as well as the concept of density. As usual we wrote the experiment up on paper (more about how that works for kids of different ages next week) and talked about the science. We also learned about how real lava lamps are made by watching this documentary as well as reading about chemical reactions in our science books. 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Celebrating International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, a global day for celebrating women's achievements in whatever field they be. We'll be marking the day together by talking about the impressive women we know personally as well as the ones we've read and learned about. Perhaps there will be some discussion of gender equality or a history lesson on the suffragettes. We'll just see where the conversation takes us.

Later in the day I'll begin reading Madeleine L'Engle's wonderful book A Wrinkle in Time with my eldest daughter. I've been wanting to read this story with her before the new film version is released in April. What better day to begin a book with such a strong female character as Meg Wallace?

In this space, I want to celebrate a few of the amazing women in my life and offer them all a virtual bunch of roses. I'm lucky to be surrounded by many wonderful women younger and older. Family and friends as well as my lovely pottery/sculpture group and local knitting club. I feel privileged to know these women and to have their inspiration in my life. Thanks girls!

Of course I have to begin with my mum, a strong, independent woman, who raised me to never doubt women's absolute equality to men. Thanks for that mum!

Then of course there's my two beautiful daughters. They may be little women right now but they have taught me much about what it is to be a woman as they explore their own femininity and search out their own role models. Hilarious pink and skirts only periods aside, it is a joy to watch them bloom. I truly hope for a world in which they will not have to fend off the unwanted advances of men in positions of power!

Becoming Sisters

Playing Together

Growing into Themselves
Finding their Passions

Of course a mention has to be made of my sister, Sam. She'll always be my big sister and may not know just what a role model she was for me growing up. Thanks to her too!

And of course all my beautiful neices. As do my daughters, they remind me how important it is that we 'grown up' women keep equality on the agenda. I want the world they grow into to be even better than the one we have now. 

They are all so different and unique and growing up so fast. The one in the last photo will turn 16 next week, I was feeling a bit nostalgic, she's the one on the right!

And last but, I'm sure she knows, never least, my amazing best friend, who is without a doubt, hands down one of the women I admire most. Not only is she a brilliant mum but she works a demanding full-time job and still finds time to get involved with loads of great projects both at home and in her community. She's quite simply amazing. Oh and she's also raising two of the strongest young women I know, both of them kind, gentle and articulate and quite determined to make themselves heard. Just the kind of girls I like! 

Bonus post about Lava Lamps tomorrow. Raising my girls to be scientists!