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Early Childhood

Hands on Learning

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Anita Johnson Anita Johnson 45 Points

Hello I am a graduate student at Xavier University and I was wondering what kinds of science activities or projects you all like to do that involve hands on learning for kids in grades K-3?  

Michelle Tensing Michelle Tensing 30 Points

Hi Anita,

I love to have the students garden.  We have also done some pretty cool science experiments this year.  I teach preschool and kindergarten so some of my ideas might be a little young for your students, but we often have things out on the shelf like magnetic vs. non magnetic, having the children test weather something sinks or floats.  With these activities I always introduce the ideas of a hypothesis and observation.  Last summer I made 'lava' lamps with the students with water, vegetable oil, food coloring, and alka seltzer tablets.  They had a blast! 

Michelle Biddinger Michelle Biddinger 405 Points

Hello Ms. Johnson,

    I am a preservice teacher who is working on my graduate degree in early childhood education.  I am currently taking a science course that focusses on how to teach this subject to students. 

    During some of our classes, we learned about different science activities that incorporate hands-on learning.  Just recently, we discussed several activities that focused around teaching students about fall.  One activity consists of students going on a nature walk to collect items that represent the fall season.  If students collect leaves, they can observe their leaves where they look at things, such as their color and shape.  Students can then create leaf rubbings where they place their collected leaves under a piece of paper and rub a crayon over top of the paper to create a leaf impression.  Students can then work in groups to create a picture using the leaves that they collected.  In relation to this activity, educators can discuss the science behind what causes leaves to change color, how there are different kinds of leaves, and the importance of trees (e.g. provides oxygen, serves as a habitat, etc.). 

   Another activity that we discussed in class incorporated engineering where students build a boat out of three pieces of aluminum foil.  The students compete to see whose boat holds the most pennies before it sinks in a pan of water.  Another hands-on activity that students can do focuses on the topic of weather.  Students take a clear glass, fill it with water, and put shaving cream on top of the water.  Next, students squeeze serval drops of food coloring on the shave cream.  Students will then observe the food coloring moving through the shave cream and entering the water.  During this activity, the shave cream represents clouds and the food coloring that sinks to the bottom of the glass represents rain.

Brittany Hammes Brittany Hammes 2665 Points

Hello! I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa and I'm majoring in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. There are tons of ways you can add hands-on activities for children this age. A few of these include ramps and pathways, magnet play, and bottled waves. For ramps and pathways, it is best to not give students any direction, but rather let them play around with the different ramps and things they can roll down. This sparks their imagination and creativity. In most cases, students will come up with a design or challenge that you would never even think of. This is their time to explore and see what they can do with all types of designs. For magnet play, have magnets and different objects they can test to see if they are magnetic or not. For this, I would suggest setting up a T-chart with one side saying “Magnetic” and the other saying “Not magnetic” so the students can organize their thoughts properly. For bottle waves, students will all have an empty water bottle, food coloring, and castor oil and water where they will fill the water bottle up with that. This is pretty simple as they move the bottle side to side, up and down, etc. to see how wave patterns change. They can also play around with speed and look for different wave patterns. Hands-on activities are truly the best as they give students time to explore, ask questions, and then find the answers to those questions.

Emily Flockhart Emily Flockhart 3390 Points

Hi Anita, I'm a student at the University of Northern Iowa majoring in Early Childhood Education. I am currently taking teaching elementary school science course and learned a lot about hands on science activities. As a class, we worked a lot on sinking and floating, which I enjoyed a lot as a college student and think K-3rd grade students will also enjoy. We were able to predict if an object would float or sink, then we were able to test our predictions and collect data. Depending on the age of the students, you can make a T-chart and record the data as a class or have the students do this individually. You can use many different objects to see if they float of sink, for example, food. You can use apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and watermelon. You can also expand on the food concept and cut or peel them and see if they will still float or sink. You can also use other objects, such as classroom items. Paper clips, erasers, pencils, and markers. As a class you can record the students reasoning of why these items sink or float. You can also make a chart of the similarities and differences between the items that float and sink. As a class you can determine the features that make an item float or sink. Depending on the age of the students, you can transition your sinking and floating activity into buoyancy. As a class you can record the different types of boats and draw what each boat looks like. Then you can do an activity that invovles small groups. Each group will make 3 different types of boats out of aluminum foil. These boats will have to float with multiples pennies on them. The students will predict how many pennies each boat can hold before sinking. Then the students will test each boat doing 3 trials and record their data. Depending on the age of the students and what has already been covered in math. The students can calculate the average number of pennies each boat was able to hold before sinking. The students can graph the data they collected. Sinking and floating activities can be enjoyable for all ages of students. Teachers can go indpeth and incorporate other subjects into these activities. Teachers can also expand more than just predicting and testing out which items float or sink. I hope you like this activity and will be willing to try this with your future students. 

Hannah Tweedy Hannah Tweedy 2810 Points

Hi Anita, I am a senior student at University of Northern Iowa studying Early Childhood Education.  I know that student enjoy doing the 'Density Tower' or layering experiment with different types of liquids.  This only requires a bottle and liquids such as light corn syrup, water, vegetable oil,
dawn dish soap, honey, ect.  The students could make a prediction about which one will go the bottom and so forth.  Then you could give students that opportunity to pour in the liquids and observe what happens.  You could even add food coloring to them to make the layers more distinct.  This experiment will teach students about density or the compactness of the molecules of a liquid.  Then of course you would want to discuss why certain liquids settled closer to the bottom.  Hope this helps.

-Hannah T.

Karina Herrera karina Herrera 4340 Points

Hello Anita,

My science professor just introduced me to a variety of new fun experiments to do in the classroom! One fun experiment was mixing corn starch with water and letting the kids have fun mixing the two substances with their hands. With this experiment you can let kids explore solidss and liquids. It can get a little messy but this experiment is so fun yet so innovating. Another experiment that my professor shared was a butterfly gravity project. You simply provide your students with butterfly cut outs, let them decorate it to their likings and then glue two pennies in the two front wings. Balancing the tip of the front of the butterfly with your index finger and demonstrating points of gravity while still having a blast and very hands on!

Christy Beatty Christy Beatty 305 Points

I love this experiment.... Oobleck!! I was in awe myself when we had to make it in class. I can not wait to try this with my future students. I went straight home and tried it with my eight year old and he loved it!!!!

Monica Malila Monica Malila 2810 Points

Hello! I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa and I'm majoring in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Science activities that I have seen children enjoying in grades K-3 are sink or float, magnet play, and color play. For sink or float, as a teacher you can create a 'T-chart' and as a class make the students vote whether they think it will sink or float. After the students make their predictions, they test each object to see if it sinks or floats and record it down on their own. This activity is great as students will be surprised whether or not an object sinks or floats, and will keep the students engaged as they will have many questions. Magnet play can be set up similarly to sink or float. as children can group items that were magnetic and were not magnetic and then examine the features of the items that were magnetic vs. that were not magnetic. Color play is a simple activity where you can give students a cup of water and let them explore with food coloring by mixing colors together and seeing what colors they can create. Hands-on learning activities are great for children as it gets them actively engaged in learning and makes learning more fun!

Madison Rost Madison Rost 3140 Points

Hello I attend the University of Northern Iowa and ways that I like to incorporate hand-on activities is to try experiements with students. In my level 3 experience we did an experiement with hurricanes and earthquakes and whose building would have a safe and secure structure to it. I worked with 2nd graders at the time and they loved this activity. They were able to work in groups and they had to come up with a blueprint at first and then try to create it out of sticks and tape and had to be 40 cm tall. They worked on it for about an hour to figure out what would work best and then after completed we would test them. They had a blast with this hands-on activity and it was a good learning experience as well. 

McKenna Tow McKenna Tow 2240 Points

I attend the University of Northern Iowa and I like to incorporate hands on learning by doing some experiments. Some exmaples could be Yoga, making slime, using clay to make buildings for engineering, stacking cups, any type of measuring. The list could go on and on. It all depends on your age group of course. For students of the younger ages I would have hands on learning acitivities that aren't too hard and complex. I would have activities like sorting beads by colors on pipe cleaners or have gel in a baggie and have them trace certain letters on it. For the older grades I would have them try and stack cups that have numbers on them to add up to certain number or have them build something out of clay to withstand wind, water, and an earthquake. The list could go on and on. These are just a few of my ideas. 

Lorena Leal Lorena Leal 3025 Points

Hi, I attend the University of Northern Iowa and there are several ways I would incorporate hand-on activities for example I would like to do experiments with my kids. During my level 3s my mentor teacher did not have much hands on activities for the kids to do, he did mostly worksheets. I think allowing hands-on activities in science is important for kids, they learn more, they get more engaged and they are able to touch the materials. For my hands-on activity if my if I were to be teaching a lesson about Erosion I would allow them to use the sandbox, where they would build their own sand castle, town area. Then I would have them pour water and see how the castles, and town areas fall or become destroyed by the water and they would check how much of the sand is left and how much eroded. I think this would be a good experience for the students to learn and see for themselves how erosion works. 

Camie Crawford Camie Crawford 2830 Points

Hi Anita,

I am currently a senior at the University of Northern Iowa. One idea my professor gave us was floating and sinking. I think this would be fun for the students in grades K-3. You could bring multiple objects and ask the students if the items would float or sink. The cool thing about this is, that some objects will surprise the students. So then you could stop and talk about whats happening or why they think that object was floating or sinking. This is just one idea but there are so many others out there too.

Hope this helps,


Tulia Mulibinge Tulia Mulibinge 1885 Points

Hi Anita,

I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa. As educators, we are responsible for encouraging curiosity, experimentation, and exploration in our students at this young age. Kids are naturally curious creatures and once you have peaked their curiosity, you have also turned on their observation skills, critical thinking skills, and experimenting skills. They naturally want to know more, go one more step further, and explore fully something that's new to them. One of my favorite experiments I have seen while on my field experiences is the walking water experiment.I saw how much fun the kids had with this. 

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