How can we make our children more aware of the climate crisis without becoming overwhelming or scary? Not every child can be a Greta Thunberg! But we do need to encourage kids to take small steps to understand the issues and highlight that their part, no matter how small, will make a difference.
From a young age, children can be empowered to become environmentally active with simple changes. These might include walking to school, turning off the lights and TV when not in the room and wearing jumpers rather than turning the heating up. Encourage children to take showers instead of baths, to save water, and draw or read near natural light, such as a window, rather than turning on the light. To make sense of what actions they are taking, children also need to begin to understand why they matter. For instance: why are we turning down the heating or trying to use less water?
A discussion about what produces heat can lead into a conversation about fossil fuels and how these emit harmful greenhouse gasses such as CO2 that cause climate change – all without being too frightening!
Fortunately, we have natural energy resources all around us that we can show and talk to children about, for example explaining that the sun, wind and waves all produce energy and don’t run out. We can start conversations about these natural resources, creating less environmental pollution and allowing people to live healthier lives. Try our fun environmentally-themed STEM activities to help your children understand natural energy resources.
Encourage children to take showers instead of baths, to save water, and draw or read near natural light...
This encourages problem-solving skills and scientific thinking: Does
the chime make more noise in certain places? What makes the chime make
more noise? Are there any other factors that affect the wind chime?
You will need
A range of metal items, such as old keys, tins and unused cutlery, acrylic paint, string, and paint brushes.
Paint the metal items using favourite acrylic paints.
Attach the metal items to the string and place the completed chime outside on a blustery day.
Listen to how the sounds change depending on the gusts of wind.
PAPER PLATE SUNDIAL
An activity that promotes mathematical thinking along with scientific understanding of the sun’s movements and shadows. Encourage your child to predict what will happen when you put the finished product outside. You could also experiment with placing the sundial outside at various times of the week or year and with differing weather conditions. What affects the effectiveness of the sundial? Does it always work?
You will need
Paper plates, tape or masking tape, a marker and a pencil.
Mark spots for the four main numbers of a clock (3, 6, 9 and 12) on the underside of a paper plate.
Use masking tape to indicate these numbers at the
edge of the plate so that it will be easy to see when the shade hits
it. Label the spots with numbers. In the sub-number positions, place a
contrasting colour tape and label the numbers along the edge, where the
lip of the plate begins.
When the plate is all marked up, poke a hole in
the centre using a pencil and leave it there. At noon on a sunny day,
take the plate outside. The sun will shine on the pencil, leaving a
shadow on the 12. Leave the sundial out to see the shadow move
throughout the day.
Children can predict and test materials and learn about the sun's
power with this activity. What’s more, they will develop their
mathematical skills to read thermometers and understand the temperatures
needed to change the state of food items.
You will need
A deep lidded cardboard box, tin foil, a ruler and glue,
marshmallows, thin chocolate bar, digestive biscuits, a plate and cling
film. Also, paper in a variety of colours and textures to experiment
with the effectiveness of the box.
Use the ruler, glue and tin foil to measure and line the inside of the box, including the lid. Prop the lid open with a skewer or knitting needle.
Place the box facing the sun.
Make up the marshmallows by putting them with the chocolate between two digestives biscuits. You can also experiment by leaving the top biscuit off some of the marshmallows.
Place cling film completely over the base of the box covering the plate of marshmallows.
Observe the sun at work, noticing how quickly or slowly the chocolates and marshmallows melt. What happens if you place the chocolate below or on top of the marshmallows? Is there a difference in melting time?
Explore lining the box with different colours and/or textures. Does it make a difference to the speed at which the ingredients melt? What other factors make a difference?
Dams are an excellent way for children to understand the power of
water and how we may be able to control and harness it. In this
experiment, you can introduce scientific concepts, such as gravity,
energy and how we can use water to make electricity.
You will need
4 or 6-pint large plastic drink bottles, water, a nail duct tape. If
you’re working inside, you’ll also need a large container to catch the
Begin by piercing the bottles using the nail.
Make one hole at the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom. Seal
the holes with the duct tape.
Fill the bottles with water, making sure the level is above the top hole.
Before doing so, predict what will happen when
you remove duct tape. Then, remove the duct tape and see what will
actually happen. What do they notice about how the water flows? What
affects the water flow? What do they think will happen if you repeat the
experiment making the holes larger?
Activities created by Dr Thomas Bernard, co-founder of STEM
publishing company QuestFriendz and co-author of the SuperQuesters
series. SuperQuesters: The Case of the Great Energy Robbery covers environmental themes including renewable energy and is available from Amazon (paperback, £7.35).