Category: Science

Illustrate data! Use the shape of a line graph as inspiration for kids’ art.

Graph Art - illustrating data

I first came across the of idea of illustrating data, or using a line graph as the inspiration for an artwork, when an awesome barrier reef line graph artwork by Jill Pelto popped up on my Facebook feed. Not only is Pelto’s work artistically amazing, but I like the way her illustrations add context to the data being presented, encouraging the viewer to think about the data in a deeper way. Cool, huh?

So, one day when Jewel was feeling poorly and stayed home from school, we decided to do a little homeschooling and give our own version of “graph art” a try.

Suitable for

Jewel was almost 9.5 years old when we did this. I think this could be adapted to suit grades 3-6, or extended for early high school kids. Actually, it’s kind of fun for adults too.

How to create Graph Art (or Data Art)

These are the basic steps we followed:

  1. Think of a topic that you want to illustrate
  2. Research the available data, and see if you can find data that can be easily graphed as a single line graph.
  3. Conceptualise how you could use the shape of the line graph to create an illustration that is relevant to the topic.
  4. Create your graph art!

I love the way this activity combines several of the pillar STEAM (or STEM + Art) pillar subjects in the one open-ended activity. If you’re looking at trends in scientific / climate data, then you have the Science pillar right there. If you enter the data into a spreadsheet and create your own graph, then that’s your Technology and Maths ticked off. And of course the artistic component is the Art pillar. And because kids can choose the topics they’d like to research, and what they’d like to draw, it’s lovely and open-ended. So, tick, tick, tick, tick! (Let’s just leave the ‘Engineering’ bit for next time. 🙂  )

Jewel creating Graph Art

For our first artworks, Jewel and I looked at global temperature data from NASA. We thought that the annual mean temperature anomaly, (i.e. how much the annual temperature is different from the average), looked very spiky, like the tops of flames, which is a relevant image, as the graph is showing that temperatures are heating up! We downloaded the original data into a spreadsheet, created a basic line graph, printed this onto paper, and then used this as the basis for our art. Jewel and I used a combination of pencils, gel pens and marker to create these two artworks below.

Jewel global land-ocean temperature art

Global land-ocean temperature line graph with fire art zoomed in

Let me explain this graph a little bit. The x axis is the years, from 1880 (the year that climate data was first reliably recorded), until 2018 (last year). The y axis shows the temperature anomaly, or how much temperatures vary from the average. Can you see the dotted line above? That’s represents zero change from average. So, if the climate were staying more or less consistent, then you would expect the temperature to fluctuate on either side of this dotted line as the years progress. But the graph above shows a distinct upward trend, meaning that the temperatures are becoming a much higher than average. The top of this graph is 1.5 degrees higher than average, which is the point that many scientists say is the ‘tipping point’ for climate change. And if you follow the graph’s trend, that tipping point is fast approaching…. Scary stuff.

Jewel wanted our next graph art to focus on something more positive. She wants to focus on what we are doing to fix the world’s problems! So we started brainstorming positive topics that we might be able to find data for. We found these “good news graphs“, which are all very cool! The decreasing cost of solar electricity has a lovely downward curve which would make a great graph art topic.

But in the end Jewel and I decided to try illustrating the increase in electric vehicle sales in the US, partly because we’re considering buying an electric car ourselves, and partly because we found an electric vehicle sales graph we could print straight from the Internet (thus saving us the steps of having to find / download the data and create the graph ourselves). We used black marker and watercolour paints.

Increasing Electric Vehicle sales graph

For more math art ideas, my blogging friend Karyn from the fabulous Teach Beside Me blog (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite blogs of all time!) has just released an awesome new book called “Math Art & Drawing Games for Kids” that looks really cool. It has over 40 fun art projects that also build math skills! You can find it on Amazon here (please note, this is an affiliate link). But don’t tell Jewel about it yet, as she might be getting this under the Christmas tree this year!

Or for more arty or crafty STEM ideas, you might like to check out our STEAM activities page. (This page is live updated whenever we post a new idea, so be sure to check back often).

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Fun Science for Kids boards on Pinterest.

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities straight in your Inbox.

Graph art - illustrating graphs - fun STEAM activity for kids

Cool science craft idea for kids – make DIY articulated skeleton’s hands, and learn about hand bone structure! (They make a great Halloween prop too!)

How to make an articulated skeleton hand

You might remember back when Jewel and I first made our DIY articulated hand models? They were so much fun, and a great way to explain to Jewel how tendons work.

My younger daughter Bumble Bee was too young to join in at the time, but now that she’s a big 7 year old, we decided to make another set, this time with a Halloween-twist!

Skeleton hands

Suitable for

This is a little tricky and will need adult assistance for 5-6 year olds, but 7-9 year olds might be able to do most of it themselves. Bumble Bee had just turned 7 years old here.

Skeleton hands DIY

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Bumble Bee was so excited to make these skeleton hands. With Halloween coming up, I thought it would be awesome to use them to wave to trick-or-treaters.

Bumble Bee tells me she wants to use them as part of her DIY Dementor costume. (She wants to go as a Dementor for Halloween, and Jewel wants to go as Bellatrix Lestrange – they’re both a bit Harry Potter obsessed at the moment!) I’m not quite sure how the rest of the Dementor costume is going to work out, but we still have another week or so to work on the idea!

Either way, I think these skeleton’s hands are pretty neat. And they’re a great way to learn what the bones in the human hand are called, and how tendons work to make them move….

Here’s how we made them…

How to make an articulated skeleton hand

We used:

Trace around your hand using a pencil Cut out the hand shape
Step 1: Use a lead pencil to lightly trace your hand on craft foam and cut it out.

Gluing on the cut straws

Step 2: Cut paper straws into small sections to represent bones. Glue these on.

A few tips:

a) check which way your foam hand is facing before you glue on your straws. We accidentally made two right skeleton hands instead of one right and one left – oops!

b) make sure you leave a large gap between each straw section – otherwise you won’t be able to bend your skeleton’s fingers later on.

c) leave small space for the chopstick in between the hand bones – this will be added in the next step.

You might also notice that we tried colouring the straws black for one of the hands to see how this would look. The idea was that the black straws could hide how the fingers bent. But personally I like how the plain white straws look better. But if you prefer the ‘incognito’ black straws, you could use black marker to colour your straws first (or buy black straws).

Step 3: Paint a chopstick black, and glue this between the straws on the hands. This will act as your handle later on. Leave to dry.

Threading yarn tendons through the straw bones

Step 4: Cut five long pieces of wool. Tie a pony bead to the end of each piece. Then thread each piece through one of the four fingers / thumb, and through the corresponding straw in the hand. A large-eye blunt needle makes this process easier, but you can do it without this if you don’t have one. Leave long ‘tails’, as these are what you will pull on later to bend the fingers and thumb.

Painting on the hand bones

Step 5: Flip the skeleton hands over, and paint bones on the other side using white acrylic paint and a thin paintbrush.

This is, of course, a great chance to discuss what the bones in the human hand are called!

Fun Science Fact

You have three bones in your fingers, but only two bones in your thumbs! These bones are called phalanges.

The tips of your finger and thumb are called distal phalanges. The middle bone of your fingers are called middle phalanges. The lower bone in your fingers and thumb are called proximal phalanges.

The proximal phalanges connect to five longer bones in your hands, called metacarpals.

There are also 8 bones in your wrist called carpals (but we focused mainly on the hand and finger bones this time.)

diy skeleton hand

If you hold the chopstick handle, and tug on the different tails of yarn, you can make the different fingers bend over! The yarn works similarly to how the tendons work in your hand. Can you make your skeleton hand wave? Can you make it hold up just a couple of fingers?

Articulated skeleton or dementors hand

If you’re looking for more Halloween ideas, you might also like to check out the salt crystal ghosts that we made a few weeks ago! (The kids have asked to make them again with their Girl Guide group, so hopefully they’ll work well when done on a 25 x girl scale!)

So far these are the only two Halloween ideas we’ve tried so far, but we’ll add more to our Halloween science page as we try them….
Articulated skeleton hands - fun science craft for kids to make

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Fun game to learn how to find north using your senses, the sun, and a compass!

Finding North - Hiking Science Game for kids

We love hiking in our family (or bush-walking as we tend to call it here in Australia). It’s such a fun way to combine our love of nature, exercise and family-time!

Recently Bumble Bee gave Jewel a compass for her 9th birthday, so we decided to bring it along on our next hike to try it out – and we invented a game called Finding North.

 

Suitable for

This is a fun outdoor activity for younger or middle primary / elementary school aged kids. Jewel was 9 and Bumble Bee was 6.5 years old here.

Read More Finding North: a fun hiking game for kids

How to make (and test) DIY craft stick catapults! Fun catapult STEM project for kids, that combines physics, engineering and math with play.

Catapult STEM - how to make DIY craft stick catapults

Making catapults is one of those classic STEM activities that are so much fun.

Y’all know what a STEM activity is, right? STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and a great STEM activity is one that incorporates two or more of these pillar subjects, in an open-ended, lets-find-out, hands-on kinda way.

Making catapults involves three of the four pillar STEM subjects – there’s the whole projectile, forces, physics thing (Science = tick!), creating a machine and evaluating different designs (Engineering = tick!) and measuring the height and distance of your projectiles (Maths = tick!).

So I’m pleased to present this as the C is for Catapult submission in this year’s A-Z of STEM Activities for Kids series that Little Bins for Little Hands is running. (We also submitted a Why STEM for Girls is So Important post to that series too – because that’s something that we tend to be a bit passionate about around here!)

Anyway, I digress.

We’ve made easy upcycled catapults before (which were so much fun!). But this time, I thought we’d try making classic craft stick catapults – mostly because I’ve been wanting to make some for ages and ages and ages.

Launching a DIY craft stick catapult
Read More C is for Catapult!

My girls have started watching a TV show called Ready Jet Go! (which, incidentally, is an awesome show for learning about outer space), and they’ve caught on to one of the catchy tunes from the show that teaches the scientific method. (Here’s the official version, although I prefer this informal one…)

My kids now think the scientific method is cool, and they’ve been singing the song to each other, trying to remember all the steps. Awesome!

But perhaps you’re asking, “What is this whole ‘scientific method’ thing anyway?

I’ve touched on the subject here on Go Science Kids before, but I hadn’t really introduced it properly. And it really deserves a proper introduction, don’t you think?

what is the scientific method

What is the Scientific Method?

The scientific method is the process that modern scientists use to work out what is true about something. It’s a method that reduces bias, and follows a series of logical steps.

The 6 steps of the scientific method

Step One: Ask a question

Kids are the best at asking questions, they ask them all the time! If they are asking really deep complicated questions, try breaking them up into a series of smaller ones that you can test one at a time.

Step Two: Form a hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated guess about what will happen if you combine two variables. It’s a “guess you can test”. It’s written as a statement, rather than a question. It can sometimes be a “if, then” statement, such as:

“If I increase the slope of the ramp, the toy car will travel further”.

This hypothesis has two variables: the slope of the ramp, and the distance that the car travels. You can change the slope of the ramp, and then measure how this change affects the distance.

Think about what you can measure, with the tools that you have available.

Step Three: Experiment!

See if your hypothesis can pass the test. Remember to do a ‘fair test’ by using a control and testing variables one at a time. If you try an experiment and it doesn’t work, it’s a great opportunity to ask why not? What could you change?

Step Four: Observe and record

What can you measure, document, record? Remember that scientists don’t just record numbers – they often draw pictures to record observations too.

Step Five: Draw conclusions based on your observations

If you didn’t prove your hypothesis correct, it doesn’t mean the experiment failed. Quite the opposite! Ruling out a possibility is just as important as proving one correct in science.

Modify your hypothesis based on your findings and test again.

When your hypothesis consistently lines up with observations, then you have formed a theory.

Step Six: Share your findings

Publication and peer review are important parts of the scientific method. Kids can share their findings too!

Before a theory is accepted by the scientific community, experiments are rigorously tested. But even if a theory is currently accepted as true, doesn’t mean it can’t be proven false if new information becomes available. The body of scientific knowledge is constantly shifting based on the most current information.

It’s a cycle

Scientific Method Cycle

The scientific method is not supposed to be viewed as steps done strictly in order 1-2-3-4-5-6. More likely it may be 1-2-3-4-3-4-3-4-5-2-3-4-5-6, or something like that! You can also skip a few steps if you’re reproducing an experiment at that someone has already done before, more like 2-3-4-5. Reproducing experiments is often called a ‘science demonstration’.

Science Demonstrations vs Science Experiments

Teaching Science at Home - demonstrations vs experiments

The first time we do a science activity, we’re often reproducing an experiment that we’ve read about elsewhere. My kids’ learning curve seems to be more about the exposure to new materials, new concepts, new vocabulary. They want to follow the instructions, and see an activity through to the (often cool) result at the end.

By the second and third time we do an activity, my kids’ confidence starts to grow. They know how the experiment works, and start to take ownership of the process, teaching the steps back to me. They can predict the outcome based on prior experience, and can then do the experiment to prove it (or go back and see what they did wrong if their experiment didn’t work.)

By the time we’ve done a project a few times, the kids often start asking deeper questions. “What happens if we change this one aspect?” This is when an activity morphs beyond ‘just’ a demonstration, into a experiment. This is the opportunity for kids to formulate their own hypothesis, test it, document results, make conclusions and (most likely) revisit their hypothesis again. All important steps in learning the scientific method!

This is why I cringe whenever I hear people calling kids’ science activities as ‘just’ science demonstrations. In our experience, doing science demonstrations is a first (and very important) step towards encouraging confidence and a love of science in young kids!

How to make a cool Christmas tree bubble wand – and learn about bubble physics though play. Fun Christmas STEM activity for kids!

Make a cool Christmas Tree Bubble Wand and explore bubble physics through play

We’ve been playing with bubbles a lot this year. We’ve worked how to make quick and easy DIY bubble wands, so we can theme our wands to match the occasion!

Each time we’ve made our own bubble wands, we’ve had a chance to learn a little more about bubble physics, and what makes them take a particular shape.

Plus, bubbles are fun!

Related: We’ve also made geometric shapes bubble wands, Easter egg bubble wands and heart bubble wands….

Suitable for

Bubbles are fun for any age! Babies and younger toddlers are usually entranced with catching bubbles, rather than the implement used to make them, so this activity is probably best for the preschooler and kindergarten / early primary school age group. Bumble Bee was 4 and Jewel was 6 when we did this.

Christmas tree bubble play

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How to make a DIY Christmas Tree Bubble Wand

You need:

We used two different types of pipe cleaners – a sparkly one and a furry one – to make a two different looking trees. They work equally well (although aesthetically I think the girls preferred the sparkly one).

Here’s how to make them:

  1. Fold the pipe cleaner in half. This middle point will become the top of your Christmas tree.
  2. Bend into a Christmas tree shape, with both ends joining in the middle of the base of the tree.
  3. Weave the remaining pipe cleaner around the end of chopstick.
  4. Wrap tape to secure.
  5. Pour bubble mix into a cup.
  6. Ask your child to guess what shape bubbles your bubble wand will make.
  7. Dip your bubble wand, and blow!

Bubble physics - what shape bubbles does a Christmas tree bubble wand make

Four year old Bumble Bee initially thought the bubbles would be Christmas tree shape, and then quickly revised her hypothesis when she saw that they were round. She discovered that after blowing a few bubbles into the air, she could then use the bubble wand to catch the bubbles again and study them!

Christmas tree shaped bubbles - bubble physics

Studying bubble shapes

Make a Christmas tree shaped bubble wand

We talked about how bubbles are made up of both bubble mixture and air.

The bubble shape is called a sphere, and the outside of the sphere is the bubble mixture, and the inside is the air that she blew.

When her older sister Jewel (6 years old) came out to join us, we took the bubble physics explanation a little further.

Bubble fun with DIY Christmas tree bubble wands

We talked about how there is air all around us, even though you can’t see it. When a bubble floats through the air, the air that is inside the bubble pushes out, and the air outside the bubble pushes in. That’s why it is a round shape. If there were pointy bits (like if it were still Christmas tree shaped), then the inside air forces and the outside air forces wouldn’t balance each other out. The outside air forces would push on it until the bubble was round again.

Jewel noticed that the bubble changes shape if it lands on the (very wet & soapy) table.

“It’s a semi-sphere!”, she cried.

Semi-spherical bubble

We talked about how the table acts as another force, and that whilst the part of the bubble against the table is flat, the part of the bubble that is pushing up against the outside air is still round.

Jewel wanted to see what would happen if she added another bubble to this first one.

We noticed that the parts of the bubble that were touching something else (like another bubble, or the table) were flat, but the parts that were exposed to the air remained curved.

We talked about how, if you had a bunch of bubbles joined together on each side, you could create a middle bubble that was flat on all sides, like a cube.

Next Jewel tried to see how big a bubble structure she could make. Her record was eight bubbles. It’s not easy though, as the bubbles refused to stack, and sometimes when she added a new bubble, the existing bubbles would join together and make one big one!

Making bubble domes

I love how we’ve done this activity a few times now, and we’ve been able to revisit our prior knowledge, and expand upon it, each time. Bee is still quite a way off understanding about forces just yet, but it seems that Jewel is starting to ‘get’ it.

Fun Science

Our (store-bought) bubble mix is made up of (mostly) soap and water. The soap makes the surface tension of water weaker than normal, and also forms a very thin skin (or film) that is flexible, perfect for making bubbles.

Bubbles are actually a film of soapy water with air trapped inside. There are two forces occurring here: the air inside the bubble is pushing out, whilst at the same time, the soapy film and the outside air, are pushing in. To balance these forces, the soapy film assumes the smallest surface area it can, and that shape (in the absence of other forces) just happens to be a sphere.

Therefore, in the absence of other forces, bubbles that float in air are always round, regardless of the shape of the bubble wand used.

I wonder what shape a bubble would be in space???

How to make a Christmas tree bubble wand and kids can learn bubble physics through play

For more Christmas-themed fun, check out our Christmas Science page, including:

For more physics fun, check out our Physics Experiments for Kids page, including:

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids, Fun Science for Kids and Christmas Science Projects for Kids boards on Pinterest.

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities straight in your Inbox. We’d love to have you join us!

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