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DIY science fun for everyone

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park

Liz Lee Heinecke
Quarry Books
2016
144 pp.
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Age Range: 8 – 12 years

Grade Level: 2 – 5

Add one part adventure, one part scientific method, and one copy of Outdoor Science Lab for Kids, and the result will be hours of educational exploration. Organized by 12 scientific themes, including Driveway Physics, Picnic Table Chemistry, and Glorious Gardening, each of the book’s 52 labs provides a materials list, safety tips, succinct methods, suggested further study, and an explanation of the underlying science. Vibrant photographs of kids doing the experiment accompany each lab’s instructions.

The scientific concepts behind most of the experiments are appropriate for kids in elementary school or middle school, although younger kids may enjoy tagging along. A few of the experiments could be used to fill some spare time, such as marveling at a playing card that sticks to an upside-down jar of water or learning about pendulums while on a playground swing.

Most labs, however, will require preparation and patience. In addition to simple household items, materials include microscopes, ball inflation needles, plastic tubing, Plexiglas, and reagents that may require a trip to the store, such as agar powder, buttermilk, and red cabbage. Many of the experiments involve the observation of plants or insects over the course of hours or days. And young scientists may have to travel to find the lakes,
fields, or forests that their intended objects of study call home.

Most of the experiments do not have flashy payoffs such as explosions or magical effects (with some notable exceptions, such as foaming slime and marshmallows burnt with a magnifying glass). Rather, Heinecke encourages her pint-sized researchers to log their observations in a lab book and then alter the variables to explore their results more thoroughly through follow-up experiments.

Whether the kids are hunting for water bears, creating a catapult, or comparing the growth rates of plants, this book will give new meaning to the age-old entreaty to “Go play outside!”