Tag: Spring

Studying and comparing different vegetable and edible flower seeds – nature study activity for kids.

Studying and comparing vegetable and flower seeds - fun spring nature study science activity for kids

This year the kids and I decided to try our hand at growing our own food. Jewel, my eldest daughter, has declared she wants to be a farmer when she grows up (just one of her many ambitions), so I thought this would be a great way to introduce some early farming concepts. It’s also a great way for kids to learn about the plant life cycle and where our food comes from.

We decided to try growing from seed, as this is the start of the plant life cycle. Ideally we’d like to harvest our own seeds later on, so we can plant them again and see the full cycle in action!

In the meantime, we bought some seed packets that we thought would be impressive to grow, tasty to eat, and able to withstand our harsh Australian summer sun. We chose mostly vegetables, but Jewel also insisted on a few flowers – so we compromised and chose two edible flower varieties!

But before we planted them, I thought this would be a good opportunity to study and compare them. My girls hadn’t really come across many garden seeds before, and certainly hadn’t had a good look up close!

Studying and comparing vegetable seeds - fun nature study science activity for kids

I set out seeds on two trays (one for each of my daughters), along with seed packets, magnifying glasses, paper and pencils as an invitation to explore, and then let the girls decide what exactly they’d like to do with these materials.

My 6.5 year old daughter Jewel found the ‘invitation’ first, and decided to compare the seeds according to visual characteristics. She referred to the seed packets to help her with spelling, and wrote down which seeds she thought were the longest, biggest, roundest, etc.

Comparing seeds - nature study science activity for kidsSeed comparisonShe declared that the corn seeds were the biggest, marigold the longest, nasturtium the fattest, carrot the smallest, radish the roundest, and parsley the pointiest.

So awesome to see her combine combination of science, literacy and maths in the one self-directed activity!

As an extension, I suggested she could rank all the seeds according to each characteristic (ie corn seeds are the biggest, nasturtiums the next biggest…), but she wasn’t interested in that at this time. (Perhaps she’ll do this next time…) For now, she was more interested in labelling each seed according to their one distinguishable characteristic.

Jewel and I discussed how different the seeds look, and how a seed’s appearance doesn’t necessarily indicate what the final plant will look like. A marigold seed looks nothing like a nasturtium seed, even though they are both flowers.

A little while later, my 4 year old daughter, Bumble Bee, stumbled across the invitation and took a different approach. The seeds on her tray were all jumbled up by this point, and so she enjoyed studying them and sorting them into their different piles. She wanted to label her piles, so we decided to write plant names onto coloured craft sticks, which could double as seed markers when we plant them later on.

Labelling craft stick seed markers

We’re very excited to be planting these seeds, and look forward to watching them grow!

 

For more nature activities, check out our Nature Study Projects for Kids page, including:

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

 

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

How to make a paper plate ladybird (or ladybug) craft, with rotating elytra and hidden wings underneath! Fun biology / nature science project for kids.

Anatomy of a ladybird craft, with elytra and wings

Did you see the paper plate ladybird life cycle craft that I shared last week? (If not, you can check it out here). My daughter and I made it to celebrate the loveliness of ladybirds that appear in our backyard each spring and summer. (Loveliness is the collective noun for a group of ladybirds – isn’t that the coolest thing ever!!)

(In case you’re wondering, ladybird, ladybug and lady beetle are all the same animal – they are just called different things in different countries. Technically they are called coccinellids, but I’ve never heard anyone actually call them that. We call them ladybirds here in Australia…)

Anyway back to our story. Shortly afterwards, my daughter found another species of ladybird at a nearby park!! This one was orange and black, and had v shaped markings on it’s back (which, as we’ve since discovered, is a type of ladybird called a Transverse Ladybird). She brought it home to show me.

Orange and black Transverse Ladybird

Tiny transverse ladybird with orange and black markings

Transverse ladybird

And so, of course, this got us thinking about different types of ladybirds, the anatomy of ladybirds, what each species eats, where they live, etc.

Here’s a fantastic website that delves into basic ladybird anatomy. Did you know that a ladybird’s ‘shell’ is actually called the elytra, and underneath the elytra, there is a hidden set of wings?

We decided to make a ladybird craft, for three different species of ladybirds:

  • The orange and black Transverse Ladybird with v shaped markings is the type of ladybird my daughter Bumble Bee found in the park that morning.
  • The yellow and black Fungus-eating Ladybird has zigzag markings. These are the ladybirds we often find in our own backyard.
  • The red and black Seven-spot Ladybird (also known as the Seven-spotted Ladybug), has three spots on each side and one spot in the middle. This is the most common ladybird in Europe, and is the ladybird we most often see in children’s picture books.

Seven-spot ladybird craft for kids, with hidden wings!

Suitable for

This is a fun craft idea that uses common craft supplies and other everyday items.

Preschoolers will enjoy learning generally about ladybirds, and should be able to help paint the paper plates (with an adult assisting with the rest of the craft). Kindergarteners may be able to do more of the craft themselves, and learn about basic insect anatomy. Older kids may enjoy researching ladybirds in more detail, including variations between different ladybird species, their markings, their habitats, their diet, etc.

Bumble Bee had just turned 4 years old when we did this activity. She enjoyed painting the paper plates, and “helping” me with the rest of the craft. She also enjoyed learning about the various ladybirds that we’ve come across, and their basic anatomy. Plus she really enjoyed role-playing with her new ladybird toys afterwards!

contains affiliate links* to similar products

Make a paper plate ladybird and learn about beetle anatomy

 

How to make a paper plate ladybird

We used:

The first thing we did was to look at our real life samples of ladybirds (for the fungus-eating ladybird and the transverse ladybird), and online (for the seven-spot ladybird) to get an idea of their basic shape, colours and markings.

We noticed that each ladybird has a head with two antenna, a section just behind the head (the pronotum), a body with brightly coloured elytra, and three tiny legs on each side. We noticed that the elytra is symmetrical – with exactly the same markings appearing on each side. We also noticed that ladybirds have hidden wings, that are folded away under the elytra when a ladybird is not flying.

We used two paper plates for each ladybird craft. We painted the underside of the first paper plate black, and set aside to dry. This would become the ladybird body.

We cut the second paper plate like this below, to create a head, and the two sides of the elytra, or shell.

(If you were doing this with older kids, you might like to add more detail to the head area, adding in the eyes, the mouth and the pronotum.)ladybird cut lines

We referenced our real and online ladybirds to see what colours and patterns to paint. We painted the underside again (which creates a doming effect, making our ladybirds look slightly 3D).

While we waited for the paper plates to dry, we cut two long wings from a plastic bag – roughly twice the length of the ladybird’s body.

We also cut one regular black pipe cleaner into six small pieces, which would become the legs, and a second black “bump” pipe cleaner into two pieces, which would become the antenna.

(We used bumpy pipe cleaners because we had them already and they look cool! But you could use regular pipe cleaners for the antenna too if you want).

Once the paper plates were dry, we glued the head to the body. I poked two holes though, so we could add the antenna, twisting into little knots at each end to stop them slipping back out (and to make cute knobbly antenna ends!)

We stapled the six legs to the sides of the body as well. (Bumble Bee loves using the stapler, so she really enjoyed that part!)

Next we glued the plastic wings to just below the head. (You could use double sided sticky tape here instead if you prefer).

How to make a paper plate ladybug

Then we attached the two elytra pieces on top, attaching with a split pin. I used a knife with a sharp point to create the holes, before pushing the split pins through and fastening underneath. Here’s how it looks on the underside.

Paper plate ladybug craft

When we flipped it back over, we could now choose whether to fold the wings neatly underneath if we were pretending our ladybird was walking, or rotate the elytra slightly and release the wings if we were pretending our ladybird was flying.

Fungus-eating ladybird craft

Paper plate ladybug craft for kids

Paper plate ladybird (or ladybug) craft, including three different ladybird species. Fun nature science activity for kids

How to make a ladybird (ladybug) craft with hidden wings! And learn about three different ladybird species. Fun biology entomology nature scien

Fun Science Facts

Coccinellidae is a widespread family of tiny beetles, known as ladybugs in North America, and ladybirds in Australia, UK and other areas.

Entomologists prefer to use the term ladybird beetles or lady beetles, because technically they’re not actually classified a ‘true bugs’.

A “bug” is actually a technical term which describes insects that have sucking, beak-like mouth parts. Bugs also have an incomplete metamorphosis life cycle – meaning they go from egg to nymph to adult with no larva stage. Aphids, cicadas, bedbugs are all true bugs. Beetles are not.

Beetles are a group of insects whose front wings have hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguishing them from most other insects. They are the largest order of insects: roughly 400,000 species make up about 40% of all insect species described, and about 25% of all animals – wow! Most beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, passing through four main stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

More light reading: A Bug Is Not A Beetle (American Scholar)

Paper plate ladybird (ladybug) craft, with wings! And learn about three different species of ladybird.

If you’re looking for more fun activities like this, check out our Biology archives, including:

Paperplate lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird (ladybug)- fun nature study activity

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Nature Study Activities 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!

How to make paper plate ladybirds (ladybugs) and learn about different ladybird or ladybug species. Fun insect entomology biology nature scienc

* This post contains affiliate link(s) to similar products used. An affiliate link means I may earn a referral fee or commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little project afloat. Thank you so much for your support.

Not all ladybirds are red & spotty! Learn about metamorphosis and the life cycle of this cool yellow & black ladybird beetle. Fun spring nature study craft for kids.

Paperplate lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird (ladybug)- fun nature study activity for preschoolers and up!

This spring we’ve been inundated with ladybirds (or ladybugs or ladybeetles as you might call them). Except that our ladybirds are not red, and they aren’t spotty!

The ladybirds in our backyard are always yellow and black, and they have a cool mask / zigzag pattern on their back instead of spots.

Fungus-eating ladybird - yellow and zigzaged, instead of red and spotty!

My 4 year old daughter Bumble Bee is obsessed with insects and entomology. So of course, these yellow and black ladybirds presented the perfect opportunity to learn more!

 

Suitable for

Try this nature study activity with preschoolers or kindergarteners. Bumble Bee had just turned 4 years old when we did this.

But first – can I tell you the most adorable thing? I just found out that a group of ladybirds is called a “loveliness of ladybirds” or a “loveliness of ladybugs”. Isn’t that so sweet! We have a loveliness of ladybirds in our backyard. πŸ™‚

fungus-eating ladybird

Anyway, back to our story. Turns out that the yellow and black zig-zag ladybirds in our backyard are actually called Fungus-eating Ladybirds (illeis galbula), and they feed on tiny spots of black mould that grow on the underside of leaves (and, as I discovered, on the underside of our dog kennel). And here I was thinking all ladybirds ate aphids!

This particular ladybird is actually native to New Zealand, but seems to have infiltrated much of Sydney. Sydney’s a very humid city in spring and summer, so it makes sense that black mould and fungus-eating ladybirds would both thrive here.

Lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird eggs, larva, pupa and adult

Ladybirds undergo a complete metamorphosis, just like a butterfly, changing from an egg to larva to pupa to ladybird.

We found lots of ladybird larvae all over our backyard – they’re super speedy, running around all over the place! The pupa took a little more searching as they seek a secluded place to undergo their transformation. I found many stuck to the underneath of our dog kennel, where they (normally) wouldn’t be disturbed. Once the metamorphosis process is complete, they break through the pupal casing and emerge as a beautiful yellow and black ladybird, complete with wings!

larva and pupa of the fungus-eating ladybirdPupal case of the fungus-eating ladybird

contains affiliate links* to similar products

 

fungus-eating ladybird Life Cycle craft

Bumble Bee and I decided to create a fungus-eating ladybird life cycle craft, that tracks all the stages that this ladybird goes through, from egg to metamorphosis.

We used:

 

We did one life cycle plate each, crafting alongside each other, as we like to do. It’s a two-way learning experience – Bee copied from me and I copy from her, as we both learn about this fascinating insect together.

We also spent a lot of time referring to the live specimens in our backyard, making sure that we were getting as many of the details as accurate as possible. Lots of nature study going on!

Studying a fungus-eating ladybird

Fungus-eating ladybird adult and larva

Our first step was to divide our paper plates into quarters.

Drawing quarters

We painted yellow eggs in one quarter, using the stem of a gum leaf to create tiny little dots. (We couldn’t find any actual eggs in our backyard, so we Google searched to find out what fungus-eating ladybird eggs look like.)

Painting ladybird eggs with a leaf

We mixed yellow and white paint to make a pale yellow, which we used to create the body of a larva and a pupa. We used a brighter yellow colour to paint the head of the larva, and the ladybird.

Painting the pupa and larva body

We waited a few minutes for it to dry (paint dries quickly in the Australian heat), then we added all the extra details using black permanent markers.

Drawing a ladybird lifecycle

We noticed that the larvae have 6 legs (but no wings). You can’t see any legs on the pupa at all, as the ladybird is inside the pupal casing. Once the ladybirds emerge, they have 6 legs and 2 antennae. They also have wings underneath their shell. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can find a ladybird that has just landed, and see its wings quickly before it folds them away. The wings are about double the length of the shell when they’re unfolded.

Bumble Bee decided to draw wings coming out from underneath the shell of her ladybird, so everyone would know that they were there.

I wrote labels on mine, which caused Bumble Bee a bit of angst, because she doesn’t know how to write. She didn’t want me to write on her project, as she wanted to do it all by herself. I suggested that perhaps I could write labels on another paper plate, and she could cut them out and glue them on. She was happy with that idea.

Sticking labels onto her paperplate ladybird lifecycle

And here’s her finished project!

Paper plate lifecycle of the fungus-eating ladybird - nature study activity for kids.

While we were crafting, a teeny little ladybird larva decided to walk on Bee’s project! I thought this would be a good chance to show you how small they are, as you can use the plate for scale.

Fungus-eating ladybird larva

Of course, being the snap happy blogger that I am, I took hundreds of photos of ladybirds. They’re so cute! Here’s just a few of the best ones…

Collage of photos of the fungus-eating ladybird, including adult, pupa and larva images.Fungus-eating ladybird

Fun Science Fact

Ladybirds are also known as ladybugs or ladybeetles. There are over 100 species of ladybirds in Australia.

Ladybirds are an insect that goes through complete metamorphosis, which means that they go through a four stage life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupa and adult ladybirds.

One species of ladybird is the fungus-eating ladybird (or its scientific name is illeis galbula). Both adults and larvae feed on mildew fungus, so fungus-eating ladybirds are very welcome in most gardens to help with this problem!

The adult fungus-eating ladybird are bright yellow with two black zigzag markings on their back. Female ladybirds lay small groups of white eggs on the underside of leaves infested with powdery mildew.

These eggs hatch into pale-yellow larvae, with rows of tiny black dots on the back. The larvae are very active, and shed their skin as they grow.

When the larvae are fully grown, they attach themselves to a sheltered place and moult into a pupa, which remains attached by one end.

Adults hatch from the pupa and mate, to start the life cycle over again.

You can find more detailed information on the fungus-eating ladybird here.

Ladybird life cycle craft - learn about metamorphosis, and that not all ladybugs are red and spotty!

For more nature study ideas, you might like to check out our Nature Study Projects for Kids page, including:

 

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Nature Study Activities 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!
* This post contains affiliate link(s) to similar products used. An affiliate link means I may earn a referral fee or commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little project afloat. Thank you so much for your support.

Sensory play meets explorative science with this nature-based backyard science experiment.

What lives in dirt - outdoor explorative science for preschoolers

Science experiments don’t have to be complicated! Sometimes the simplest things can enthrall young kids. My 3.5 year old daughter Bumble Bee loved this backyard dirt observation activity so much that we’ve done it several times now, and it’s been interesting to notice how the results have varied each time.

My daughter’s interest in the scientific method has been recently kindled by the book 11 Science Experiments That Failed, and so we followed the scientific method for this backyard dirt experiment too, which of course, makes it feel extra science-y. πŸ™‚

Playing in the dirt - a science experiment

Note: This post contains affiliate links* to similar products

Question:
What lives in the dirt in our backyard?

Hypothesis:
Worms live in dirt.

What You Need:

Invitation to investigate what lives in dirt

What To Do:
1. Dig dirt with spade.
2. Put dirt on sheet.
3. Sort through dirt to see if there are any living creatures. Study them with magnifying glass.
4. Record (or ask an adult to record) findings.
5. Dig more dirt and repeat.
5. Tally results at end of the dirt play experiment. Compare with previous results.

What happened:
When soil was moist, many (dozens and dozens) of worms and one slater (aka woodlice, roly poly or pill bug) were found. When soil was dry, few worms were found, and no other insects.

Digging up and investigating dirt

What lives in dirt

Honestly, I can’t emphasis enough how much Bumble Bee loved this activity. “What lives in dirt?” might seem like an obvious question to us, but Bumble Bee loved being able to verify her hypothesis (that worms live in dirt) for herself. She did sometimes ask for help with the digging part (perhaps our spade was a little big for her), but she really loved sorting methodically through the dirt to see if there were any worms in that particular load. When our sheet was too full of dirt, we emptied the ‘old’ dirt back into the same patch of garden and started digging again.

What lives in dirt - explorative backyard science for preschoolers

Finding a worm

finding a worm

We found many, many worms. We talked about what sort of things worms would need in their habitat. We talked about how worms need food, water, and shelter (dirt and leaf litter) to protect them from the birds. We talked about how they wouldn’t be able to live outside of the dirt for long. We decided to rehome a few into our worm farm, and carrying worms back and forth from the garden to the worm farm became part of the play.

Investigating dirt

We also found one slater (which, depending on where you live in the world, are also called roly polys, pill bugs, woodlice or potato bugs). Bee wasn’t expecting to find anything other than worms, and so she was pleasantly surprised. (I, on the other hand, was surprised at the lack of insect diversity in our soil!) We duly recorded it, and then put it (all rolled up) into her specimen tray, along with a few of the smaller worms. Every time Bee turned around, one of her specimens escaped. One of the challenges of field science!

Slater or roly poly insect

Using a magnifying glass

We repeated this experiment again several weeks later, after a particularly dry spell, and that time we hardly found any worms at all. We hypothesised that this may be because the habitat in our backyard top soil no longer catered to what worms need, and that all the worms had moved to a wetter part of the soil that was better suited to their requirements.

Preschool science - what lives in dirt

This would make a great Earth Day science experiment. In fact, we actually did it just before Earth Day, and then used the same soil to make our Planet Earth craft, except I hadn’t a chance to write it up until now… (Sorry – been busy and all that!)

What lives in dirt - explorative backyard science experiment for preschoolers

For more nature-based science ideas, you might also like:

* This post contains affiliate link(s) to similar products used. An affiliate link means I may earn advertising / referral fees if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps keep this little blog afloat. Thank you for your support.

Which flowers are best at absorbing vibrant colours - classic spring science experiment for kids

What do you do when your grocer has a selection of stunning white flowers on sale all at the same time? Why – you do a nature science experiment with them of course! You may have seen our recent colour changing flower and bi-coloured flower experiments with gerbera daisies. This time I thought we could try dyeing several varieties of flowers (gerberas, lilies and chrysanthemums) at once to find out which flowers absorbed the most vibrant colours. We also decided to try both red and blue food colouring, to see what worked best.

The set up for this experiment is simple. You just need:

  • several varieties of white flowers
  • food colouring
  • vases
  • water

 

Step One: fill vases with water.

Pour water into the vases

Step Two: Add food colouring to each vase.

Step Three: Trim your flowers, and add some to each vase.

Add cut lillies, gerberas and crysanthemums

Step Four: Take a moment to pause and study the flowers. They are so beautiful, after all!

Pause and smell the gerberas

Step Five: Wait and see what happens!

 

The chrysanthemums were showing pretty flecks of colour in less than an hour. (Quick enough that you could do this as a cool gender reveal activity at a baby shower – provided you kept the water in the vase hidden of course…. But I digress!)

First flecks of colour on the chrysanthemums

The next morning, here’s how the two vases looked!

Adding blue colour to white flowers

Adding colour Red and white flowers

This experiment was slightly unfair as none of the red lilies had opened, but I’d still say the chrysanthemums were a clear winner. They absorbed colour the fastest, and the most vibrantly, and it didn’t appear to have caused any wilting at all.

Stunning blue and white chrysanthemum flowers

Interestingly, whilst we’ve had success with gerberas in the past, they didn’t absorb very much colour this time. It’s a bit hard to see here, but I also found it interesting to note how much the lilies’ stems and leaves changed colour, demonstrating that transpiration delivers water to all the areas of the plant, not just the flowers.

 

Fun Science Fact

Flowers absorb water through a tissue of thin tubes found inside the stem, called the xylem. Water is transported up the xylem to the various parts of the plant, including the flower, leaves and stem. One of the ways that water moves up the xylem, is a process called transpiration. Transpiration occurs when sunlight evaporates water from the flowers, leaves and stems. This evaporated water loss creates a vacuum at the top of the xylem, encouraging water to be sucked upwards from the roots (or in this instance, the cut stems) to fill the empty space. This is similar to the movement of water up through a straw when someone is taking a sip.

 

Which flowers are best at absorbing vibrant colours? Classic colour changing flower science experiment for spring

How to create beautiful bicoloured flowers – a fun nature science project for kids for spring (or any time of year)!

Bicoloured flowers - fun kids science experiment for spring by Go Science Kids

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could change the colour of cut flowers? Actually, you can! If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Jewel’s colour changing flowers experiment that we posted about a few weeks ago…

But, what if you wanted to dye your flowers more than one colour?? My three year old daughter Bumble Bee and I decided give it a try…

 

Suitable for

Bumble Bee was 3 years and 1 month old when we did this activity. I’d say it’s best for 3+ year olds, as younger kids may not be gentle enough handling the delicate cut stems.

This is a fun nature-based science activity just in itself, but kindergarteners and older kids might also like to predict where on the flower the colours will appear, which colours will appear first, and which colours will be the most vibrant. They could also experiment by varying the amount of food colouring or where you cut on the stem, and see how this affects the results.

 

Before we did this experiment, I asked my 5.5 year old daughter Jewel what she thought would happen. She’s been learning about colour mixing theory in kindergarten recently, and quite confidently hypothesized that putting half a flower’s stem in red water and the other half in blue water would create a beautiful purple flower.

Of course, in science, hypothesizing and then proving your hypothesis wrong, is all part of the scientific process. πŸ™‚

Read More Bicoloured Flowers