SOL Science Projects Using Everyday Stuff

By Dionna L. Mann

What first-grader wouldn't love to feel his tongue tingle because of the spark of a lemon battery? Or what fourth-grader wouldn't think that it would be supercool to make a balloon fill with gas after mixing vinegar and baking soda? Have your child pick any one or two of these great, fun projects, grab a handful of supplies and a mind full of hypotheses, and prepare yourself for some hands-on learning fun! Scientific investigation is the stuff that makes neurons connect. It is that which satisfies the human quest for knowledge and creates a sense of wonder about the amazing world in which we live. It is no wonder then that the Virginia Board of Education has for over 10 years adopted a Science Standard of Learning (SOL) so that every public school child can experience the richness and excitement of scientific discovery....The purpose of these projects is to infuse young minds with curiosity and to develop within our youth a respect for logic and rational thinking. Attention to accuracy and precision as well as mastering the art of patience and persistence are all said to be the outcome of science in the classroom. But, why leave all the fun for school? Why not engage your little ones—natural quest for knowledge by doing these nine simple science projects using everyday household materials at home? Grade recommendations are provided since each corresponds to a particular SOL.



Senses and the Silly Sack

SOL K.2: Students will investigate and understand that humans have senses that allow one to seek, find, take in, and react or respond to information in order to learn about one's surroundings. Key concepts include: a) five senses and corresponding sensing organs (taste–tongue, touch–skin, smell–nose, hearing–ears, and sight–eyes); and b) sensory descriptors (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, rough/smooth, hard/soft, cold, warm, hot, loud/soft, high/low, bright/dull).

What you'll need: A warm washcloth for wiping hands, paper plates, 10 brown lunch bags with a zipper-locking storage bag inside, lemon wedges, lime wedges, granulated sugar, honey, molasses, a popsicle broken in pieces (kept frozen until ready to begin), pretzels, marshmallows, sour gummy worms and salt.

Procedure: Place individual items inside the plastic bags within brown lunch bags. (Do this before your child is present.) Discuss with your child the five senses and how these help us discover our world. Then, have your child guess what's in the bag. Have him smell inside the bag. Any new guesses? Have him reach in and touch what's in each bag. (No peeking!) Encourage your child to use sensory descriptors to explain what he feels. Can your little one guess what's in the bag now? Then, with eyes closed, taste what's in the bag. Again, encourage the use of sensory descriptors. Does your child have a better guess yet? Pour out what's in the bag onto the paper plate. What was in each bag?


Sundial a While

SOL K.7: The student will investigate and understand that shadows occur when light is blocked by an object. One key concept is that shadows occur in nature when sunlight is blocked by an object.

What you'll need: Play dough, a straight stick, sidewalk chalk, rocks and a sunny day.

Procedure: Place the stick straight up in the center of the dough and, early in the day, place the dough and stick outside on the sidewalk. Have your child place a rock where the shadow of the stick lands. Use sidewalk chalk to draw a line from the dough to the rock. Repeat throughout the day at one-hour intervals. What made the shadow? Why did the shadow move? Could you use this information to tell the time tomorrow?


Make that Tune

SOL 1.2: The student will investigate and understand that moving objects exhibit different kinds of motion. Key concept: objects may vibrate and produce sound.

What you'll need: A small- to medium- sized, thin stainless steel bowl, 7 glass soda- pop bottles (or drinking glasses), 1 large drinking glass, water, a spoon and a 1/8 measuring cup.

Procedure: Turn the bowl upside down and balance it securely on top of a large glass. Hit the bowl with a spoon. Listen to the sound. Repeat. This time, have your child lightly touch the bowl and feel the vibrations. Next, have the child hold the bowl firmly on its side. Hit the bowl. What is different about the sound? Explain how vibrations create sound. Fill soda pop bottles with water at 1/8 cup increments. Hit each glass with a spoon. Notice the different pitches in sound. Challenge your child to create a recognizable tune like:Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.


Dissolve that Donut

SOL 1.3: The student will investigate and understand how different common materials interact with water. Key concepts include: a) some liquids will separate when mixed with water, but others will not; b) some common solids will dissolve in water, but others will not; and c) some substances will dissolve more readily in hot water than in cold water.

What you'll need: Bowls, warm and cold water, a spoon, a timer, and items to try to dissolve (sugar, salt, saltine crackers, donut holes, a pencil, orange soda, oil).

Procedure: Fill bowls with cold water. Place items in bowl and stir. See if the item dissolves or separates after five minutes, 15 minutes, one hour and three hours, stirring each time. Record your results. Repeat experiment using warm water. What items dissolved? Why did those items dissolve more quickly in the warm water? Why didn't the pencil dissolve? How did the soda and oil react with the water differently?



Create a Chinese Compass

SOL 2.2: The student will investigate and understand that natural and artificial magnets have certain characteristics and attract specific types of metals. Key concepts include: a) magnetism, iron, magnetic/nonmagnetic, poles, attract/repel; and b) important applications of magnetism including the magnetic compass.

What you'll need: An empty yogurt cup, a permanent marker, a strong magnet, a needle, a sewing pin, a cork or other small floatable object.

Procedure: Label "North" on the yogurt cup and fill with water. Place the cup on a table so that your North lines up with directional north. Magnetize the needle by rubbing the magnet in the same direction along the needle about 60 times. Test to see that the needle has been magnetized by seeing if it will pick up a sewing pin. Stick the needle's end into the cork. Place the needle and cork into the water and watch it point north. Why does the needle point north? What does this tell us about the earth?


Lets Make Some Gas!

SOL 2.3: The student will investigate and understand basic properties of solids, liquids, and gases. A key concept includes the identification of distinguishing characteristics of solids, liquids and gases.

What you'll need: Small plastic funnel, clean plastic soda bottle, helium-quality balloon, 3 tablespoons baking soda and 1 cup vinegar.

Procedure: Using the funnel, place the baking soda (SOLID) inside the balloon. (Tip: Use a funnel-shaped coffee filter with a hole cut out of the center.) Pour vinegar (LIQUID) into the bottle. Twist the balloon so the baking soda does not get out, but keep the mouth of the balloon free. Place the mouth of the balloon on the mouth of the bottle, not allowing any baking soda to escape. Untwist the balloon so all the baking soda falls into the bottle. Watch the balloon fill with gas! Where did the gas come from? Does the gas take up space?



SOL 2.7: The student will investigate and understand that weather and seasonal changes affect plants, animals and their surroundings. A key concept includes the weathering and erosion of the land surface.

What you'll need: Two quart-sized milk cartons (empty), scissors, dirt, water, a watering can pitcher and a nice day.

Procedure: Lay the milk cartons on their sides. Cut out the roof (side) of the cartons, leaving the original pouring top of the cartons in tact. While outside, fill the cartons loosely with dirt. Open the pouring part of the carton. Fill the watering can with water and gently pour water over one of the cartons filled with dirt. Repeat two or three times. How much dirt comes out? Dump water out of the pitcher over the second carton with dirt. Repeat two or three times. How much dirt came out? Would the result have been the same if plants were growing in the dirt? Why not?



Sunshine, Cook Mine

SOL 3.11: The student will investigate and understand different sources of energy. Key concepts include: a) the suns ability to produce light and heat energy; and b) sources of energy (sunlight, water, wind).

What you'll need: A take-out pizza box, tin foil, clear plastic wrap, black constructionpaper, masking tape, a marker and an Exacto knife.

Procedure: Create a homemade oven by drawing a square on top of the pizza box about one inch from the outside edge of the pizza box. This makes the oven's door. Use an Exacto knife (carefully!) to cut along three of the four sides of the square, leaving the line that is closest to the back of the pizza box uncut. Cover the inside of the flap with tinfoil, keeping the foil as smooth as possible. Next, make a window out of the opening that was created by taping plastic wrap on the inside of the box. Be sure to create a tight seal so that no air will escape. Place tinfoil on the inside "floor" of the pizza carton, and place black construction paper on top of that. Angle the tinfoil-covered flap so that the sun is hitting the flap and reflecting toward the inside of the carton. Your oven is ready to make some s'mores, or melt cheese on nachos! Where did the energy to cook the food come from?



Lemony Electricity

SOL 4.3: The student will investigate and understand the characteristics of electricity. One key concept includes the process of basic circuits (open/closed, parallel/series).

What you'll need: One fresh lemon, 1 dime (cleaned very well) and 1 penny (cleaned very well).

Procedure: Roll the lemon around, gently squeezing it so the juices will be released inside the lemon. Make two slits close together on the side of the lemon. Place the dime in one slit and the penny in the other. Touch both coins simultaneously with the tongue, and feel the electricity tingle. Where did the spark of electricity come from? How is the lemon battery similar to a real battery?


Though only a few science projects are mentioned here, why not do some research online and pick a project every few weeks, keeping in step with the SOLs as they are presented in your child's grade? Or, with your child's teacher's permission, bring the project to your child's classroom and have the whole class ooh-ing over a science experiment that shows the reality of what they've perhaps only heard about from a book. Science is fun!


Dionna is a freelance writer and weaver of childrens yarns who loves to ask "Why?" when things sparkle, sizzle or pop.

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