Category Archives: Summer Science

Summer Science: Rockets & My Choice

Rockets and My Choice were the two final summer science programs I ran for school age children.  The rocket launcher was incredibly easy to build. It was a huge hit at both the library and when I went camping with another family. I am going to use it with my Girl Scouts at some point this year – probably at our fall camp out.

I use used the Paper Stomp Rocket tutorial from Instructables. It cost less than $15 for materials (including the pvc glue), and took about 15 minutes to build. I used an electric saw as opposed to a hand saw, so that probably helped keep the building time down. When prepping the pvc pieces used as a forming tubes, only wrap one layer of tape around the tube. Any more than that, and the rockets will be too loose. I also didn’t glue the bottle cap into the bushing/coupling (the library’s hot glue gun didn’t work). It turned out not to be a problem. In order to keep the bottle set in the bushing/coupling, I placed a small rock under it. Worked like a champ. It is important to have a TON of 2 liter bottles. One, even two, are not enough as they get mangled fairly quickly.

My Choice
I did three  activities for the final program:

  1. Film canister rockets
  2. Heat sensitive color changing slime
  3.  (I cannot remember for the life of me, nor can my director remember for the life of her.)

1. Film Canister Rockets – This idea came from a Girl Scout badge I did with my troop. It is very simple, inexpensive, and a lot of fun. Someday I would like to do the rockets as night, turning them into tracers with glowstick goop. Canisters can be purchased on Amazon. The only other two things you need are Alka-Seltzer tablets and a little bit of water. Put half a tablet in the canister, add about a tablespoon of water, pop the lid on, set it on the ground lid down, and get away. Some blow quickly, and others take a minute or two. The canisters can shoot over 15 feet into the air, so they are an outside-only activity.

2. Heat Sensitive Color Changing Slime  (from Left Brain Craft Brain) – A twist on the basic slime recipe, but oh so fun. I bought red and green thermochromic powder from Glomania. We did several color combinations:

yellow liquid watercolor + red powder (the yellow stays fairly true)
blue liquid watercolor + green powderyellow liquid watercolor + green powder (the yellow ends up being more of a snot green)
blue liquid watercolor + red powder

slime 2 slime 1


Summer Science: Mixing & Snow

Mixing and snow were two separate toddler/preK programs, but for the sake of getting the post done, I’m combining them. Well…that and mixing was somewhat of a flop (entirely my fault).

All of my toddler/preK programs were well attended, and we’ll finish off the summer with an “arty party” at the end of the month.


The idea for this program came from The Show Me Librarian’s ALSC blog post about Chemistry Science.

I started off by reading Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle. It was not my first book choice, but Whopper Cake by Karma Wilson didn’t arrive in time. I would not use the Eric Carle book again. The children were over the book before we hit the halfway mark.

For the activities, I only planned out two thinking they would take enough time (silly me).

1. Fireworks in a Glass – This activity bombed. It would have been fun if I had managed to tell everyone to gently pour the colors into the glass, instead of dumping them in.

2. Baking Soda Color Mixing – I placed two small heaps of baking soda on plates and gave each child two small cups of colored vinegar. They used pipettes to squirt the vinegar onto the piles of baking soda.


I started this program by reading Winter is for Snow by Robert Neubecker. This was followed by three activities (two science, one art).

1. Insta-Snow – I put a half a teaspoon of the powder in bowls, and poured around a tablespoon of water into small cups. The children dumped the water into the bowls, and the powder instantly expanded. I did not go into the concept of polymers. This was more a fun, tactile experience.

2. Snowstorm in a Jar (from Growing a Jeweled Rose) – I did not have enough supplies for each child to make their own snowstorm, so they gathered around the table to watch me put everything together. It was a good thing I had plenty of Alka Seltzer because they loved it!

snow jar3. Snow Paint – I’ve used this before under different names for other programs/storytimes. Shaving cream and glue make a fun paint. Glitter was added at the end. The last time I made this paint, I learned that glitter added during the mixing process disappears – unless you add an entire jar.

snow paint

Summer Science: Catapults

The first of three summer science programs for school-age kids (ages 6-12) was catapults. I got the idea from HERE, with supplemental ideas from HERE. I opened with a brief explanation about catapults and how they work, then we spent the rest of the time building catapults, giving them a go, and making modifications.

catapult 1

catapult 2

catapult 3

My son playing with my demo catapult.

Summer Science: Bubbles

Tuesday, July 7th, marked the first of six Summer Science series – three for toddlers/pre-K, three for school age. Bubbles was the first session, geared towards the T/PK set. I did a slightly different version of this program last year. There was a lot of overlap, but the age group for this year’s program was specifically for 2-5 years old. Last year it was a family event, and the age of the participants skewed older.

I opened with a book, then the children had two activities to choose from. To close out the program, I turned on my bubble machine and sang, “My Bubbles Float Over the Ocean” (tune: “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”).

bubbles float

Bubbles Float, Bubble Pop (Science Starts) by Mark Weakland


1.Bubble Painting – I tried this last year, but it was only marginally successful. I found this blog post after the fact and decided to follow her instructions instead. It was definitely a better choice. The mess factor was still there, but it was less frustrating for the children.

Small cups of bubble solution mixed with liquid watercolor.

Small cups of bubble solution mixed with liquid watercolor.

bubbles 4

My sample.

bubbles 3

Participant artwork.

2. Blowing Bubbles – I made two tubs of bubble solution: a basic recipe (water, dish soap, and glycerin), and a more fancy recipe. I also set out a tray filled with different types of bubble wands. The fancy recipe was the fan favorite – it did a great job making big bubbles.

bubbles 1 ed


Miss Emma’s Choice (Summer of Science)

There was no educational component to this session, it was purely making explosions or creating goo. I chose the activities because I liked them, I had a good response from previous sessions, or I wanted to test out an activity. Gak was by far the favorite.

This was my final summer science session. All of the sessions were popular, and I will have to work in other science programs throughout the school year to keep the excitement going. I also have plenty of time to figure out what I’m going to do next summer.


1. Mentos Geysers. This was our first activity. I could not find my geyser tube, so I followed the instructions on Steve Spangler’s website for making one out of construction paper. The homemade tube works, but you’ll need to make a new one for each bottle (a few of mine lasted for two bottles, but you lose time removing and reattaching the tube). You’ll also want to have an awl or ice pick to create a hole to put the toothpick through. It is very hard to force a toothpick through multiple layers of construction paper.

We used: Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Diet 7up, Mountain Dew. Diet 7up performed the best, followed by Diet Coke.

2. Baggie Bombs. This was a repeat from the Acids & Bases session. This time we used two different sized baggies (lunch and quart) to see if there was any difference. I bought regular baggies instead of the sliding ones, and it made a huge difference (in a bad way). Always buy the slider bags. The regular ones (quart-size) didn’t pop. The lunch-size ones sort of did, but it was rather disappointing as a whole.

3. Gak. I decided to do a test run of making gak before the family science program. I used the recipe from PBS. What I learned is that it takes a lot more than 1 teaspoon of the Borax solution to make the gak gel together. We had to keep adding a little bit at a time until there was no more liquid mixture left. Fingers also do a better job mixing than craft sticks once you’re past the initial stages.


Almost-completed gak.

Sticky, Slimy, Gooey (Family Science)

The second, and final, summer family science program was all about sticky, slimy, and gooey things. I read one book and then dived into the goop. 18 children participated.

My 4-year old received this book as a birthday gift. It is popular in my house, so I figured I would try to create some kind of storytime around it. My favorite illustration is the one with the frazzled art teacher sitting on the floor huffing into a paper bag.

too much glue

Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre


1. Oobleck. The oldie, but goodie oobleck was our first activity. 2 parts corn starch to 1 part water. Food coloring optional. As families made (and played) with it, I explained what oobleck was and what they could do to make it act like both a solid and a liquid.

2. Gak. I tested this out last week at the final school-age science program. It was a hit then, and a definite hit this time as well. There are many recipes for it, but I mostly used the one from PBS:

4 oz white glue mixed with 4 oz water (pour water into empty glue bottle to get more glue out). Add food coloring. In a separate cup, mix 1 teaspoon Borax with 1/4 cup water (this is a modification from PBS, which calls for a 1/2 cup of water). Add 1 teaspoon of Borax solution to glue mixture (though you will ultimately need more than just a teaspoon), and mix with your fingers until it firms up.

I had the children pour the mixture onto sturdy paper plates to mix. They added small amounts of the Borax solution until all of it turned into a lump of gak.

3. Slime. This one came from Science Bob and is incredibly gross. Think of the saliva dripping from the alien’s mouth in any of the Alien movies, and you’ve pegged it (Slimer’s slime might also work). Very mucousy. The basic recipe is equal parts white glue, liquid starch, and water (I used 4 oz). Mix it together and prepare to be grossed out.


jlaw disgusted

Acids & Bases (Summer of Science)

The third science session, on August 5th,  focused on acids and bases. I should have planned more activities because we were done in 45 minutes. I also figured out that 1 hour is probably the right length for this kind of program instead of an hour and a half. 12 children attended, so a decent number.

This was also the session where I asked if there was any interest in science programs during the school year. Based off their responses, I’m going to give it a go. Art bots in October on a Tuesday evening.

We started the session with the “school” part. What acids/bases are –

acids: citrus: sour taste
bases: soap: taste bitter: feel slippery

The pH scale, indicators to tell where a substance is on the pH scale, and what chemical reactions are.


1. Foam at the Mouth – My husband introduced me to this a couple years ago, and it was a hit with my daughter (not so much my Girl Scouts when I did it with them). It was also a hit this time. I made extra packets for several of the children to take home to show their parents.

Recipe: equal parts citric acid, baking soda, and powdered sugar. Maybe 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each. A little foams a lot. A cup of water to clear out the taste when the reaction is finished.

The citric acid and baking soda react when saliva is added (make sure to have the children take a swig of water first to wet their mouths, it will increase the amount of foam). The powdered sugar helps with the taste. I put the mixture in larger plastic cups so they could double as foam holders. Towards the end, it will taste salty (acid/base reactions create salt).

2. Acid or Base? – I made red cabbage litmus papers and chose 3 acids (vinegar, pickle juice, soda) and 3 bases (dish soap, conditioner, antacids) for the children to test. I thought about printing up a results sheet so they could write down observations and attach the litmus papers to, but I did not. This activity took all of 5 minutes, which was incredibly short given how long it took me to prep it.

acid base

3. Baggie Bombs – I used the instructions from Science Bob. We ended up doing it twice (increasing both vinegar and baking soda the second time) because the children absolutely loved it. Make sure to use slider-closing baggies.