The new school year is closer than it appears! Whether you are preparing for back to school or already relishing in teacher PD, I wanted to share my favorite back to school science activities for elementary. Mostly because I know how our brains are at the beginning of the school year – excited, overwhelmed, and sluggish. I’m here to help you conserve brain power!
Before I share, I wanted to let you in on a secret: I am one of those teachers that teaches content from day one. On day one, my students are already engaging in science experiments. A lot of the classroom routines and expectations can be taught while also engaging in content, so I challenge you to jump right in, too!
Here are my first five days of back to school science activities (but feel free to use them on the days and order that works for you):
Day One: Tallest and Strongest Cup Towers
This activity is great for day one because it will show your students creativity, personalities, and teamwork! In groups of two to three, students will engage in two challenges. For the first challenge, they want to build the highest tower using only cups.
In challenge two, they want to build the strongest tower of cups. Choose an object, like a textbook, to test the strength of each tower.
Personally, I like for students to also have a recording sheet where they can draft and design the towers for each challenge, record measurements, and then write their results. If you’re the print-and-go type, I have a procedure and recording sheet for this experiment already created!
Day Two: Which Glue Brand Works the Best?
As teachers, we always argue about the best school supplies (peacefully, of course!), and this experiment finally proves which glue sticks are truly the best. I like to use this experiment after talking about classroom supply expectations with students!
For the experiment, assign students to a group of two or three. Give each group small pieces of paper. Talk with students about creating a strategy. In order for the results to be valid, the same amount of glue (ex. a five inch line) and the same amount of paper (ex. six scraps of paper) need to be used each time.
Then, give students a few brands of glue, and have them run the experiment. They will glue and stick the paper, then wait for it to dry. After, they may want to blow or gently wave the paper to test the stickiness. Students will record their observations.
This experiment is included in my Fun Back to School Science Experiments Resource. Grab it down below for a procedure and materials sheet, plus the recording page.
Day Three: Scientific Method Steps
Every science teacher knows that the scientific method is a foundational concept! Whether you are reviewing with students, or introducing the scientific method for the first time, this is a great back to school science activity.
Start by simply introducing the five steps of the scientific method. Then, have students think back to their experience from yesterday. Where did they see these steps in their glue experiment?
Next, conduct a small experiment with students and note each step of the scientific method along the way. I like to do a simple paper towel experiment. I present the question, “Which brand of paper towels will absorb the most water?”
Students record their hypothesis. We complete the entire experiment together, and along the way I address the different portions of the scientific method. This is also a good way to set expectations on how to record information and utilize a scientific method recording sheet.
As I said before, we know how important the scientific method is! If you want to engage in a full scientific method unit with students, I recommend this one. It provides an in depth introduction, or review, and contains several experiments for practice and implementation.
Day Four: Observations vs. Opinions
This activity is something I refer back to a lot, so I have my students create a Verified Observations and Personal Opinions foldable for their notebooks.
For this back to school science activity, show students three different pictures. Have them write down opinions and observations for each image, and then share with their table. Bonus points if they have to determine their partners opinions vs. observations.
On the way out, I have my students answer an exit ticket. This is a super easy check for me to see how much they are picking up, especially the first week of school. The foldable, experiment procedure, and exit ticket is included in this Scientific Method Unit.
Day Five: Nature of Science Review Game Board
Okay, I try not to be too mean in the first week of school, so I like to end the week with a fun science game! You can create your own game, but I have one already made that’s easy to use.
It comes with twenty question question cards, a board game, recording sheet, answer key, and more. It’s super simple, and you can use any small object as a game piece (beans, mini-erasers, dots, etc). The game covers questions about the scientific method and the nature of science.
It’s fun, but also it will give you an informal assessment for where your students are at – and where you need to go!
If you like these back to school science activities, I have a free download that will give you TWO more weeks of free activities. Basically, your first three weeks of school are mapped out for you (I know, my summer brain needs it, too). Sign-up below to receive the free download.