It’s Spring: Get Your Science On!

Spring and summer mark the start of severe weather including tornadoes; they also mark the arrival of bees and butterflies.  Spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoors but a great time to learn! Children are fascinated (or terrified) by tornadoes; we all are somewhat.  So, why not help children face their fears and learn what a tornado is while making their own. While you’re at it, it would be beneficial to review how to stay safe when a tornado warning occurs.   It is also a great time to teach children about the importance of pollinators and how to help their populations grow while at the same time adding some charm and appeal to your garden. And the best part? You get to play in the dirt!

Be Like Dorothy Without Leaving Kansas: Make A Tornado In A Jar

Materials:

  • 8 ounce with a lid (pickle, mayonnaise, or canning jars are perfect.
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Food Coloring
  • Dish soap
  • (Old Glitter is Optional – and a lot of glitter isn’t environmentally friendly)
  1. Fill the jar with water leaving about an inch at the top.  
  2. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, dish soap, and glitter (optional). ***if the jar is bigger than 8 oz. try doubling the measurements, for example 16 oz. water to 2 tsp. of vinegar and soap.
  3. Add the lid and tighten.  
  4. Swirl the jar in a fast circular motion for 10 seconds.  Lay it down on the table and watch the tornado.

Discuss with children words like: vortex-a whirling mass (water, air) moving in a circular path and centipedal-a force that makes an element or object follow a curved circular path.  Share with children that a tornado is a column of air that is created when cold air meets warm air and that they typically appear out of cumulonimbus clouds. The really extreme tornadoes can have winds as high as 300 mph and can be bigger than two miles in diameter.

Tornado safety is important, so this would be a good time to discuss the family’s plan during a tornado warning.  Choose a spot in the interior of the home and explain to children that this is to avoid outside doors and windows.  You can also discuss the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

Bees, Butterflies, and Dirt, Oh My!

Spring is an awesome time to talk about pollinators and the importance they have on our food sources.  Learn all about bees and butterflies, including: how they help the environment, how they help your family and how they can help the insect populations grow.  

Plants need pollinators as much as they need sunshine, dirt, and water, and pollinators, like bees and butterflies, need plants.  If plants like corn and other fruits and vegetables are going to produce more plants to feed people, the Earth needs lots of pollinators.  

Design a bee and butterfly garden and get planting!

Materials:

  • Seedlings or plants: salvia, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, penstemon, snap dragons, verbena, cleome, coreopsis, milkweed, echinacea, buttonbush and some herbs like fennel, dill, oregano, and parsley are great for caterpillars to feed on, raspberry bushes and vegetable plants
  • Potting Soil
  • Plant food (fertilizer)
  • Water
  1. Prepare an area for the plants.  Rake up the soil and add in some new potting/top soil and plant food.  
  2. Dig holes as big as the containers.
  3. Lay the plants in the holes.
  4. Surround the plants with extra soil and pat firmly.
  5. Water

Bees and butterflies are attracted to flowers.  Bees particularly like white and yellow flowers and butterflies like big areas of red and purple flowers.  With older children, make a map (plan) when things will bloom and for how long so that you have a combination of plants that will continually bloom all summer long.

Another great addition to your bee and butterfly garden is a bird bath where they can get a drink of water.  And if you want to take it a step further, do some research on creating insect nesting grounds where you can further encourage the growth of bee populations.

Spring is a great time to experiment, to be outdoors, to be immersed in nature, and best of all, to dig in the dirt, so get to it.

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