Weekly Challenges

Science & Technology: Week of September 28, 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.

Thank you,

Beth Worthy
bworthy@esd101.net | (509) 789-3525

Grades K-2: Static Electricity Butterfly Experiment (Physical Science)

Static Electricity is a fascinating subject. Every once in a while someone in my household will touch another family member after unintentionally rubbing their feet on the carpet and will give them an accidental shock. It stirs up all sorts of fun conversations about electricity. With this experiment, children charge a balloon and can "magically" make butterfly wings flutter up and down.

How does Static Electricity work?

Usually, an atom has an equal number of protons and electrons. Electrons have a negative charge of electricity and protons have a positive charge of electricity. Opposite charges attract, so when materials rub together and one material becomes negatively charged and one is positively charged, static electricity results.

Our experiment will demonstrate the effects of static electricity. What will happen if we charge a balloon by rubbing it in our hair, and then hold it over tissue paper wings of a butterfly?

  • Cardboard
  • Tissue paper
  • Cardstock paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Balloon
  • Glue stick


  1. Start by cutting a square of cardboard. I made mine 7 inches x 7 inches.

  2. Use your pencil to draw butterfly wings on your tissue paper. Since my cardboard square was 7″ x 7″, I just made sure to make them smaller than my square. Cut them out and set them onto your cardboard. DO NOT glue them onto the cardboard!

  3. Cut a butterfly body out of your cardstock paper and glue it down the middle of your butterfly and overlapping it onto your cardboard. Again, DO NOT glue the tissue paper wings down. You will want the wings loose like shown in my picture below. Glue your googly eyes down onto your butterfly. I should have drawn antennae on our butterfly but I just didn’t think about it at the time. You can add those if you choose.

  4. Now comes the fun part. Blow up your balloon. We used water balloons that we had leftover from this summer so they were small in size, but using regular sized balloons would have been even better.

  5. Rub your balloon in your hair to give it an electric charge. Now hold the balloon on top of your butterfly, close but not touching it, and watch the wings raise and lower as you move the balloon closer and farther away. If the charge starts to fade, simply rub the balloon in your hair again and it's ready to make your wings flutter all over again!

Results: Why did the butterfly wings move?

When we rubbed the balloon onto our hair, electrons were lost from our hair and gained by the balloon giving it a static charge. When the negatively charged balloon gets close to the positively charged tissue paper they are attracted to each other, and the pull of attraction is so great that the lightweight tissue paper moves toward the balloon.

Grades 3-5: Wind-Powered Cars (Physical Science)

In this challenge, students will be using materials to design a rolling car that is wind-powered. They will have to consider the placement of the car’s axle and the size of the wheels in order to make the best car. Also, they must decide if a very long car is the right way to complete this task. In order to use wind power, the car will need a wind catching device- like a sail! Many decisions will be considered to solve these problems! Finally, the car will be tested by blowing a very strong wind (a fan) on it to see just how far it will travel.


  • Cardboard tubes (toilet paper, paper towel, etc. will work)
  • Cardboard pieces (students will cut wheels from this)
  • Wooden skewers (shish-ka-bob sticks or similar)
  • Making tapes
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Cardstock
  • Straws
  • Access to a fan

*Teachers can also give the kids freedom to use additional materials as they wish, or within certain parameters.


  • ASK the students "How can you design and build a rolling car that will be powered by the force of a wind?" The ASK step is the beginning of the Engineering Design Process. This is a place to begin by addressing the task and/or problem that will be solved. This sets a purposed for the task and gives students some expectations of the project.
  • IMAGINE: The whole premise of this challenge is that a car will be powered by a blowing wind. So, why would this be needed? What would the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of car be? Have students record their brainstorming in their science notebooks.
  • PLAN: Go over the materials students will be using and the rules of the task. As soon as students have these things they are ready to start planning. Have each student sketch and/or write about his or her plan.
  • CREATE: Your students will begin to assemble the car bodies, wheels, and sails. During this building time, students should record any changes they made to their original design plan and indicate why those changes were made (what didn't work as they thought, what did they think of that they hadn't before, etc.).
  • TESTING: The testing for this challenge is likely to happen throughout the building time. As students have a car ready, they will test it with the fan and then modify the car based on what was learning in the testing. The goal of testing the cars is for students to see what is not working and then take their cars back to improve.
  • PRESENT: The students can present their designs, explain how it works, maybe show a demonstration via the online platform their are using for school.

Grades 6-8


Watch the transition from solid to liquid to solid in this science project for kids on states of matter -- and make something good to eat. Solids can change into liquids, and liquids can change into solids. Make ice pops with juice, and you can see both transformations.


  • Can of frozen orange juice (or any juice you like)
  • Pitcher
  • Large spoon
  • Water
  • Paper cups
  • Wooden craft sticks


  1. Open the can of frozen juice, and spoon it into a large pitcher. Touch the frozen juice to feel that it is both solid and cold.
  2. Add water according to the package directions to make the juice.
  3. Fill several paper cups about 2/3 of the way with the juice.
  4. Put a craft stick into each paper cup.
  5. Being careful not to spill, put the cups of juice into the freezer.
  6. Check them after two hours. Can you gently pull the craft stick out, or has the liquid juice frozen solid around the stic?
  7. Once the juice has frozen, peel off the paper cups. You and your friends/family can enjoy a frozen treat!
Composting is a fun and rewarding way to give back what we take from the Earth. Show how to get involved in composting by following these easy and Earth-friendly steps! Young environmentalists will enjoy learning why and how to compost as they create their own kitchen compost pail, explore the items they can put in their compost and the items to exclude, and then help with the process of filling their compost, turning it, and observing the changes that occur. A great way to grow their observation and critical thinking skills while getting them involved in the gardening process.


  • Kitchen compost pail
  • Two large 5-gallon buckets with lids and holes for aeration
  • Gardening gloves


  • Have your students write down what they think compost is.
  • Have them research what compost is and what makes it (each student can research all, or you can break down topics to each student and they can report back to the class).
  • Create your own compost pail by following the steps from the Kitchen Compost Pail activity.
  • Collect scraps from vegetables and fruits, as well as brown material from cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, etc.
  • Cut the scraps into tiny pieces so they break down more easily. This can be a daily activity you do together as a family.
  • Place the scraps in the compost pail.
  • When your compost pail is full, bring the pail outside and dump the scraps into the 5-gallon bucket.
  • Make sure the lid is tight, turn the bucket on its side and roll it around.
  • Continue this process until the bucket is full.
  • Set the first bucket aside and allow it to sit for a month (or as long as it takes for the scraps to decompose) as the materials continue to break down.
  • Ask your student to make daily observations through writing or drawing in a journal. Discuss the changes you see.
  • Continue rolling the bucket around regularly for optimal decomposition.
  • Start adding your scraps to the second bucket so that you have both a new compost and ready-to-use compost in a cycle.
  • After a month, check out the beautiful dirt you made in your first bucket and set aside your second bucket! Create a small garden with your compost by planting easy to grow herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Involve children in picking the herbs to add flavor to delicious meals!

Note: During cold weather, consider covering the compost with a tarp. You can add to the compost, but the cold will dramatically show down the process.


In life, things you can’t see are often the most difficult to understand and accept. Genetics is no different.

Our genetic information has been passed down and refined for billions of years, and it literally tells our cells what to make of us.

The human cell count in a body can get up to roughly 37.2 trillion cells, constantly doing work and then dying and being replaced with other cells to do that same work. Most of those cells have a nucleus – and in that nucleus you find your DNA.

But it gets even smaller than that.

DNA – the substance that carries all your genetic information in the format of strings upon strings of genes – is packed into structures called chromosomes. Humans have 46 chromosomes split up into 23 pairs; half from each parent. So even if you tend to look more like one of the people who gave you your genes, you still got half from each.

It’s a pretty incredible idea - that the emotional, behavioral, visual and all other differences between you and everyone else on Earth could be due to a slight variation in portions of your DNA.

A great way to understand such distant concepts is by making the invisible visible, so here is an experiment to make genetics and DNA a little more tangible.

Strawberry DNA Extraction
The crème de le crème of DNA experiments, and one that quickly proves – DNA is a physical form that you can actually pull out and look at.

This experiment literally pulls the DNA out of strawberries for you to see. Why strawberries? They have more DNA than most other fruits and are ‘octoploid’ - which means they have eight copies of each chromosome, unlike humans who got short-changed with only two (diploid).


  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
  • Dish soap
  • Salt
  • Strawberries


  • Put the isopropyl alcohol in the freezer

  • Put around 90ml of water into a small container (or beaker if you want to be fancy) and then add around 10ml of the dish soap

  • Add ¼ tsp of salt and then mix it up

  • Pour this liquid mess into a Ziploc bag with one or two strawberries

  • Squeeze out as much air as you can, seal it, and then smash it up

  • Just really pulverise that strawberry

  • Pour the solution through a sieve into a container, trying to get as much of the strawberry mess through as well

  • Now add around 5ml of your cold isopropyl alcohol

  • After a bit, you should have a white stringy substance forming that you can try and twirl around a pencil

  • That’s the DNA!

Why? The dish soap dissolved the cell membranes to get that sweet genetic material. The salt broke down the nucleic acids into something a big more manageable. And DNA isn't soluble in alcohol so it just sits there like the exposed genes it is.

Technology Challenge


To introduce students to coding, a fun way is to play "Light Bot". You can download the app on your device, or visit lightbot.com/hour-of-code.html. The goal of Light Bot is to light up all of the blue squares. Note: You may need to enable your browser to run flash if you don't have it activated already.

Light Bot will walk you through the basics of writing a code and the importance of each movement needing it's own line of code. You can progress up from basics to loops and procedures.