Science & Technology Challenges

Week of November 30, 2020

The goal of the NEWESD 101 Science Kit Cooperative is to send out bi-weekly science challenges to our members. The challenges will sometimes be tailored to a grade level, or a more general challenge which can be adjusted or added to based on the grade level you are teaching.

If you are needing additional support, please reach out so that we may assist you. I would love to hear what you think about the challenges!

Thank you,


Grades K-2: Oceans, Lakes & Rivers (Earth Science)

Explore how water flows over a landscape!


  • 1 large piece of wax paper
  • 1 marker
  • Baking pan or similar container
  • Blue food coloring
  • Spray bottle with water


  1. Take a piece of wax paper and crumple it into a ball.
  2. Next, straighten the wax paper out a little bit, leaving some bumps and ridges.
  3. Place the wax paper into the baking pan.
  4. Circle the places on the wax paper with the marker where you think rain will collect.
  5. Put 4-5 drops of blue food coloring into the spray bottle of water.
  6. Now mist the wax paper evenly to make it "rain" and observe.

How it Works:

The wax paper is a lot like a landscape. The bumps and grooves are like mountains, hills and valleys. When it rains, gravity pulls the rain down, so it ends up collecting in the lower areas. This is why many lakes are found next to mountains. Rain water can run down a mountain and into a lake.

Grades 3-5: How to Make a Weathervane (Earth Science)

Wondering which way the wind blows? Is there a storm brewing? Learn more about earth science as well as meteorology by learning how to make a weathervane! All that is needed are materials that you probably have in the pantry, and items that can be recycled.


  • Old business card
  • Straw
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • Pencil
  • Stickpin
  • 1 liter plastic bottle
  • Sand
  • Compass
  • Black permanent marker

What You Do:

  1. Start by researching what a weathervane is and what purpose it serves. Many people have decorative weathervanes on their roofs.
  2. Gather the materials needed to create the weathervane. Offer assistance cutting the liter bottle in half if necessary.
  3. Now cut a triangle out of the business card to create the front and back ends of the weathervane. You can also trim the straw so it is 6 inches long. If the straw has a flexible end, make sure it’s the end that is cut.
  4. Carefully cut slits into both ends of the straw, about half an inch deep horizontally, and slide the cut card onto each end. Secure each of the ends with a small piece of clear tape.
  5. Take the pencil and stick pin. Use the ruler to find the middle of the straw. Now position the pencil under the straw and secure the two together with the stickpin creating to top of the weathervane!
  6. To create the weathervane base, fill the cut bottom of the plastic bottle with some sand, and firmly stick the pencil weathervane into the center of the sand.
  7. Place the weathervane in a windy spot and observe how it moves with the wind. Guess which direction the wind’s blowing, and then use a compass to check your guesses. You can even use a permanent marker to write the directions on the side of the plastic bottle if you want!

Grades 6-8: Catapult Trajectory (Physical Science)

Trajectory is the path a free-flying object (a projectile) follows through the air. A projectile has two forces working on it. The inertia that launches it into the air and the gravity that brings it back down to earth. So how do you study trajectory? By hurling things into the air!

A catapult is something you can use to launch something a far distance away, using the release of accumulated tension instead of explosives. I wanted to make simple catapults for the kids in our science co-op to use during our trajectory experiment.


  • A lever (could be pieces of wood, thick cardboard, cookie sheet, etc.)
  • A fulcrum (this is what sits under the level that allows it to move up and down like a see saw).
  • A small stuffed animal that is excited to try to fly!


  1. Ask the kids what they thought was going to happen, their hypothesis.
  2. First, we headed outside. Take one of the catapults and a small stuffed animal to launch. The kids put their animal on the end furthest away from the base and stepped down on the other one. The animals went straight up into the air and landed close to the catapult. None of them traveled too far.

    They decided to try again, this time increasing the force by stepping harder. Some of animals moved further, especially for the bigger kids. One of the kids stepped so hard, he broke his catapult in two!

    On the final attempt, the kids jumped or stepped onto the end of the catapult as hard as they could. This did send the animals the highest they had been, but it was still less than what everyone was expecting.

It was obvious through the three attempts that trajectory is only changed by two things; the speed at which you launch the projectile and its angle during launch. When you increase or decrease the speed or angle during takeoff, the trajectory of the projectile will change.

By increasing the speed at which they were launched (by stepping on the board harder) some kids were able to lengthen the distance they flew. If we had also increased the angle of the wood, we probably would have seen a bigger difference in the path.

Since we couldn’t change the angle of the catapult, we decided to try it with a lighter object, a marshmallow. The kids followed the same steps as before but had much better results. The decreased weight of the projectile was a much better match for the catapults we had.

Grades 6-8: Speaking in Phases (Physical Science: Electricity, Waves & Information Transfer)

The tiny spacecraft we have sent to explore our solar system “phone home” across millions of miles of space using only about as much electricity as the light bulb in your refrigerator! How do they do it?

This question has been one of the biggest that space scientists and engineers have had to answer. The spacecraft are very tiny, from about the size of a washing machine to the size of a delivery truck. (New ones being planned are even smaller.) Most of them use solar panels to generate electricity from the sun. However, none of them makes enough electricity to operate a big, powerful transmitter that could beam a strong radio signal back to Earth.

One part of the answer is to focus the weak signal into a very narrow beam. Another part of the answer is pointing that tiny beam very accurately toward Earth. And another big part of the answer is the Deep Space Network (DSN for short) of giant receiving antennas here on Earth.

See attached lesson that includes the documents needed.

Grades 6-8: How to Make Edible Rocks (Earth Science: Earth's Dynamic Systems)

Making edible rocks is a wonderful way of combining learning about earth science with food!

Before you begin this science activity, review the types of rock with your students using the following information.

Rocks can be broken into three main categories based on how they are form. Those divisions are:

  1. Sedimentary rock - This type of rock is made from various layers of crushed minerals and the decayed remains of plants or animals. The layers can easily be seen and sedimentary rock tends to be very weak.
  2. Metamorphic rock - This type of rock that has been changed by heat or pressure. Metamorphic rock is very strong and the layers in it can be difficult to distinguish.
  3. Igneous rock - This type of rock is formed by fire. It begins as molten rock, or magma, from the Earth’s core and cools to form igneous rock. The shape and form are determined by how quickly it cools.

Crystals don’t fall into what we normally consider to be rocks, but they are composed of the same minerals. The difference is that these minerals were in high enough concentration and they had enough space to form the shape they were meant to be. This could have happened as the molten rock cooled or through deposits that form as water moves through the rock.

How to Make Edible Rocks:

So, now that you know how to explain the different types of rocks to your students, let’s do a simple activity to help them see the difference between a sedimentary and a metamorphic rock.

You will need the following:

  • Glass cup
  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter chips
  • White chocolate chips
  • Spoon
  • Plastic wrap

Begin by adding ¼ cup of chocolate chips, followed by ¼ cup of peanut butter chips, and finally by ¼ cup of white chips. Repeat the layers once more and observe what you see.

Next, use the back of the spoon to press down and crush the layers as much as you can. Observe how the layers have changed. (The students should see that the layers are relatively compact, but that it is still easy to define the different types of chips. This is meant to be a representation of sedimentary rock.)

Then, cover the cup with plastic wrap and heat it in the microwave at 30-second intervals until all the layers have melted together. (CAUTION: At this point, the cup and the material will be extremely hot. Do NOT remove them until the cup has completely cooled.)

After the cup cools, take it out of the microwave and gently smoosh the chocolate with the back of the spoon once more. Observe how the layers have changed at this point. (The students should see that the layers are even more compact and it is difficult to discern the different types of chips as they have swirled together. This is meant to be a representation of metamorphic rock.)

When your chocolate rock cools completely, you can pop it out of the glass and have yourself a metamorphic treat! If you can’t wait that long, put it in the freezer for a few minutes to quickly cool and it should slide right out into your hands.

Grades 6-8: Food Chains/Food Pyramids/Biomes/Ecosystems (Life Science: Ecosystem & Interaction)

Here are some activities relating to the Ecosystems & Interactions kit:

  1. BrainPOP – Food Chains Video and on page content is free (link)
  2. Study Jams “Food Web” Video (link)
  3. “Build a food web” – interactive link, (updated) can you build a food web in the Antarctic?
  4. “Bird Yard” – an interactive link for bird habitats (link)

Technology Challenge

CODE.ORG Introductions

Our International Computer Science Fundamentals courses are translated into over 25 languages. The different courses support students aged 4-18. Each course has 10-20 lessons that may be implemented as one unit or over the course of a semester. Students study basic programming concepts and develop interactive games or stories they can share.

The courses teach the foundational concepts of programming using drag and drop blocks rather than a programming language such as JavaScript or Python. Blocks are an easier way to get started and can be fully translated into any language. Course 1 uses picture blocks rather than words to support pre-readers.