Running a Science Week Event

Running a science week is a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of Science lessons in your school. So whether you choose to do it the same week as British Science Week, or you want to run it at a time that suits your own calendar, we really can’t think of a better excuse to get all the kit out and put those practical skills to the test.

Running your own Science Week

If you’re having a science week in your school then you need to start by choosing a theme – anything from The World Cup to chocolate, lined the curriculum or not – the choice is yours!  Once you have a theme you need to get all the children involved.  One of our favourite suggestions is to run a poster or presentation competition giving the children a chance to carry out their own investigations, at home or in school.  Children love to take ownership and find out the answers to their own questions so this is a simple and effective idea.  Consider some prizes related to your theme and if your involved in British Science Week then don’t forget you can enter their competitions too!

If the staff in your school need a bit of support to get involved then don’t be afraid to show them how it’s done, or alternatively get in touch with us at Primary Practicals to see how we can support your activities.

Here are a whole range of suggestions for simple practical experiments that you could run in your classroom during a science week (or at any time if you like!), we even gave you a couple of theme suggestions:

Children like to eat (sweets), so why not choose a food theme for your science week with these fantastic activities…

  • Dissolving is always an interesting change for children to observe, so why not dissolve some sugar in warm water before adding some food colouring and a (clean) stick.  After a couple of days you will have an edible crystalline treat to discuss.

  • For the older children, you can have an excellent discussion about the ‘Choc’ cycle.  Chocolate can be crushed (weathered), heated, cooled and compressed just like rocks – only it’s a little bit safer and a whole more yummy!
  • Colour changing milk is always a favourite, and you only need milk, food colouring, washing up liquid, plates and cotton buds.  The drops of food colouring on the surface of the milk get moved around (above and below the surface) by the effect soap has on the surface tension.
  • And if you like changing the colour of edible things, then red cabbage might just be answer to your dreams.  Extracting the red ‘colour’ is easy enough with a blender, and then you have a natural pH indicator that can be tested with orange juice, vinegar and baking powder as well as anything else you might have available (eggs are especially fun).  The best instructions I could find on the web are these ones.
  • You might already be looking at freezing and melting this week, changes of state are always interesting for the children to get their heads around – take it to the next level with these tricks!  Melting chocolate is always a nice alternative to ice, and you can do it in children’s mouths for the extra excitement (try timing it to melt with and without movement, or if they can keep it in their mouth long enough it will even dissolve in the saliva giving another change to measure and discuss after).  Coloured ice cubes (use food colouring for this, including mixing together for black(ish) and milk for white) melt at different speeds – get the children to work out which one is quicker and why.  Putting them under a lamp gets the best results and you can even just stand normal ice cubes on coloured card if you want an easier option.

Another thing that children like to do? Get messy!  Try out a messy theme if you’re brave enough to deal with the clean up…

  • My all time favourite messy practical is making oobleck, and what better way to get children talking about change than a material that is sometimes solid and sometimes liquid?  Oobleck is a mixture of cornflour and water (approx 2:1) that is a non-Newtonian fluid, which means if you move it quickly it acts like a solid.  Get the children to roll it between their fingers then see what happens when they stop – then get some literacy involved as they try to find the right words to describe it!
  • Rusting is a chemical change the children will be familiar with, but it’s far too slow for them to rust something themselves, right? Wrong!  In a jar with a lid, submerge an iron object (nails or steel wool work nicely) before adding a dash of bleach and vinegar to the water, then you can have some decent rust going within a day. (Give it a rinse with water before getting a closer look, or leave it for a week or two to get something even more impressive!)  Never mix the bleach and vinegar on their own and make sure you’re working somewhere well ventilated (i.e. outside) as you will be making tiny amounts of chlorine.  If you are worried, it also works without the vinegar provided the object you use has no protective coating.
  • Something fun to try inside is to compare how sticky different glues are – simply fold two strips of paper/card into thirds, punching a hole at each end.  Tie string through the two holes on each piece, hanging one up and hanging a plastic cup from the other.  All you do then is glue the two strips together, then add pennies into the plastic cup until the glue fails.  Repeat this for different glue, and even honey or other household stickiness!
  • My top tip this week is that you can make electrical circuits using playdough if you use salt in the mix when you make it.  This allows children to make simple circuits with LEDs, light up model animals, burglar alarms… basically anything you can do with electricity, without the problems of wires and whatnot!  The best recipe and examples I could find are here.  Don’t forget to change between series and parallel circuits and observe the brightness of the bulbs!

  • If the weather is good why not take the opportunity to get outside in science week?  You could be starting up a wormery, then observing the changes that occur to the potato peelings you feed them.  You could even risk bringing some worms (or woodlice) inside and let the children observe how changes to the worm’s environment changes their behaviour – a choice chamber is simply a flat bottomed bowl with one half light/one half dark, or one half damp/one half dry – then just count the worms in each area after a few minutes to see which they prefer – why do the children think this is?  You could even go on a bit of a bug hunt – all you really need it some paper and clipboards, and this resource should have you covered for everything else!