Summer days are long and sunny. You may be tempted to hide inside in the air-conditioning but there are a lot of great experiments and learning opportunities you can do centered around the Sun. Here are a few of my favorites.
Create a Sundial
The Sun can be used to tell time, direction and seasons. For older students you can watch this video called the History of Telling Time that gives a good background of how sundials work. Make your own sundial using the directions from Krokotak.
Use sidewalk chalk to trace your friend or siblings shadow. Color it in with pretty colors or draw clothes on the shadow. You can also take out toys like Lego people, action figures or plastic animals. Place them on a piece of construction paper and trace the shadow that they make. Color the picture and add a background like palm trees or a house.
Figure Out How Big the Sun Is!
Kids really have no idea how large the Sun actually is. When you look up in the sky it seems smaller than Earth, but it is actually way bigger! This activity is a great activity to learn the names and order of the planets as well as to understand how massive the Sun is. It also incorporates the use of measurement in a fun way.
Start by printing and cutting out the printable planets from research parent. She has already made the planet pictures the correct size in relation to each other.
Next, get two pieces of poster board (tape them together) or butcher paper. Cut a piece of string 33 inches long and tie it around a pencil. Place the other end of the string in the center of the butcher paper. Use the string and pencil as a compass to draw a large circle. The circle will end up being 66 inches across. Now, paint the circle with yellow and orange paint. Mix in some white to make different shades of yellow and orange. This painted circle now represents the sun.
Take your sun and other planet pictures outside to a large open area. Lay your Sun down on one side. Use a tape measure to measure out 30 cm. Place Mercury there. Measure the next planets at the following distances from the Sun:
Venus 50 cm
Earth 75 cm
Mars 108 cm (3.5 feet)
Jupiter 370 cm (12 ft)
Saturn 680 (22 ft)
Uranus 1, 375 (45 ft)
Make an piece of art by laying different objects on a piece of paper and leaving them outside all day in the sun. Start by choosing a piece of colored paper. Place the paper on the ground or a table outside in full sun. If it is a windy day, tape the paper down. Lay pennies, leaves, pattern block shapes etc. on the paper. The construction paper will fade in the sun, but the parts covered up by the objects won’t! You’ll be left with some cool prints. Just make sure you use objects that can lay flat so they make a solid line on the paper.
*There is also specially designed Sun print paper I found out! You use this paper in the same way as described above but you’ll get more dramatic color contrast. I have never used it, but I think it sounds great.
Experiment With What Melts In The Sun
Gather a bunch of different objects from around your kitchen and home. Some items that are great for melting would be chocolate, crayons, ice, butter, cheese. Things that don’t melt might be a Lego, marble, quarter, block of wood. Once you have guided your children to choose some objects you know will melt and not melt. Lay them inside a cupcake tin. Use the printable table and write down each of the objects you choose. Predict whether the object will melt in the sun or not.
Stick the cupcake tin outside in a sunny area. Wait a few minutes and go check the tin. The ice and chocolate will probably be the first things to melt. You can write on your chart that they have melted. Wait another few minutes and go check the tin again. Write down what has melted now. Now wait a long period of time like a few hours. Go check the cupcake tin again. Those items which didn’t melt earlier still won’t melt even after several hours. You can mark on your chart that these items didn’t melt in the sun.
Pony Bead Suncatchers
You’ll need: translucent pony beads, cupcake tin, outdoor grill or toaster oven.
Arrange the beads in a single layer at the bottom of the cupcake tin. You could place them in a pattern, a spiral or just randomly.
Melting plastic is not good to breathe in so its best to do the next step in an outdoor grill or a toaster oven that you can take outside.
Place the cupcake tin in the oven for about 10 mins. After the plastic cools, flip over the cupcake tin and the suncatchers should pop right out. They won’t ruin your pans or leave any residue.
Drill a small hole in the top of the suncatcher and attach a string. Now, it’s ready to hang by your window or from your porch! Thank you artful parent for this great idea.
For other ideas to do with your kids check out these resources