Summer Science Activities for Kids from Virginia Tech

The summer can be quite monotonous for kids especially when they’re stuck at home during a pandemic. Instead of just watching TV and playing video games, why not branch out and try some fun science and engineering activities to help spice things up at home? Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Science Institute has some great recommendations for at-home science projects both you and your kids can enjoy and learn from.

  • Learn to make a bird feeder and identify common backyard birds
    • In this activity, you will learn how to make pinecone bird feeders for your backyard. Instructions are on the site. Once birds start eating from them, you’ll make a log describing all the birds you see, which you can then use to identify the birds later on. 
  • Extract DNA from a strawberry
    • For this activity, you’ll need to get some coffee filters (if you’re like me and use a Keurig, you probably don’t have any)! The remaining materials can be found on the site. After following the instructions you’ll be able to see the strawberries’ DNA. You can also try to examine other fruits’ DNA.
  • Test for microbes in petri dishes and learn to grow them (Parent supervision recommended)
    • First you’ll learn a little about what microbes are and what they do. In this activity, you’ll be collecting microbes from around your house and growing them into larger colonies. You’ll be making food for the microbes that requires boiling a few ingredients. After refrigerating the food for at least four hours, you can collect microbes from different areas in and around your home. After placing your petri dishes near a good source of heat, you can check them daily to look for any colony development. 
  • Learn about native plant species and how to identify them
    • This activity is simple but fun for everyone in the family. By downloading an app called “iNaturalist”, you can snap a photo of any plant to identify what type it is. This can be done in your yard, the park or even a hiking trail. It is recommended to only track native trees – not trees in your garden (since they may be from other places). The app will use your location to mark where the plant is located, which will help scientists better understand the plant distribution in your area. 

Credit to Rasha Aridi (original author), Fralin Life Science Institute, Virginia Tech. Link to original article: