4 Cool Science Experiments for Kids That Teach Sustainability

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

A science project can be a great way to teach kids about important concepts like sustainability and how to be eco-friendly. You don't need a laboratory or any fancy equipment to conduct some fun and educational experiments at home. Here are a few cool science experiments for kids that will teach them about the environment using items you already have at home.

1. Air Pollution Experiment

It can be hard to understand the concept of air pollution when it's not always easy to actually see it. This simple experiment can help kids understand that there is more in the atmosphere than just air and why it's important to keep it clean.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A piece of clear plastic (such as a plate or a cup)
  • Petroleum jelly
  • A small rock
  • A sheet of white paper

Spread petroleum jelly on the plate or cup and then use a rock or other heavy object to weigh it down. We used the clear plastic front from a picture frame.

Take a before picture and leave the cup outside for twenty-four hours. The next day, place the white paper behind the plate or inside the cup to make it easier to see all the particles that have collected in the petroleum jelly.

This simple experiment can help you see pollution.

2. Compost Bottle

Explaining how composting works can be tricky, even when you have your own compost bin, because it's all contained. Make your own transparent compost bottle so the kids can discover how the process of decomposition actually works.

Here's what you'll need:

  • An empty, two-liter, clear plastic bottle
  • Soil
  • Leaves, grass clippings, other yard waste, or compostable kitchen scraps

Remove any labels from the bottle and cut off the top. Fill the bottom with soil and then add a layer of compostable material. Alternate layers of soil and materials until you fill up the bottle. Add a small amount of water—just enough to make it wet without soaking. Place the bottle outside in a place where it will get sun and won't be disturbed.

Let it sit for several weeks and check it regularly to see the decomposition. For older kids, you might also consider keeping a scientific journal where you can note how the compost changes on a daily basis.

3. Glacier Melt

How glaciers form and melt is a complex process that can be hard to explain to younger kids, but you can make a simple re-creation at home with ice and soil.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A plastic container
  • A small tub or bin
  • Soil

Fill a plastic container with water and freeze it. Grab a small tub or bin and fill it with dirt. Throw in some leaves or other garden debris. Put the bin outside in a sunny spot and prop it up so that it is on a slight incline.

Place the frozen ice block in the bin at the top of the incline and let it sit. Depending on how hot it is, you can let it sit for several hours and observe as it starts to slip down to the bottom end, hopefully picking up some of the dirt along the way.

After it has slid down a bit, stick the whole bin back in freezer and let it reset. Once it has refrozen, take it back outside and repeat the process. You can do this multiple times.

Ask your kids how the ice changed as it melted and froze again. Have them note how the dirt "landscape" changed as the ice moved across it. They can write down their findings in their scientific journals.

An experiment can help kids understand how glaciers melt.

4. Oil and Soap Experiment

You've probably seen pictures of wildlife affected by oil spills and of rescuers' efforts to clean these animals. One of the simplest science experiments for kids uses a petroleum-free dish soap to demonstrate the process of emulsification, or the mixing of two liquids that normally tend to separate. This easy experiment illustrates why water alone will not remove oil from a bird's feathers and shows that you also need an emulsifying agent.

Here's what you'll need:

  • An empty plastic bottle
  • Cooking oil
  • Natural food coloring
  • Dish soap

Fill the bottle about halfway with water. Add about 1 tbsp. of cooking oil and observe. Because water is denser than oil, the liquids will separate and the oil will rise to the top. Add a few drops of natural food coloring and observe what happens.

Next, add 2 tsp. of dish soap, which acts as an emulsifier by breaking the oil down and allowing it to mix with the water. Notice how the food coloring tints the water to a uniform color and the oil no longer rises to the top.

These cool science projects are a great way to teach kids about the environment, and since they are so much fun, the kids won't even realize the activity is educational. Tweet us the results of your own science experiments!

Image Sources: Pixabay | Sher Warkentin | Pexels

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Why It's Good

Science experiments for kids are great for giving hands-on lessons about big concepts like sustainability. These experiments are easy, fun, and don't require any more materials than what you have at home.