Teaching Science to Kindergartners

I am going to be visiting a kindergarten to do some kind of science presentation and/or demonstration. Anybody got experience with this or otherwise have suggestions? I am at a near-complete loss for what to do.


  1. kathleenmcnamara says

    Go with simple, visual things. You could do something with sound, using a really long slinky, to get standing waves. Simple (and relatively safe) chemical reactions that change color. You could do something that generates a gas in a test tube, with a balloon over the top. It’s fun to see the bubbles, and they can see that the bubbles don’t just disappear, because something is filling up the balloon. Make oobleck (Non-newtonian fluid from water and cornstarch).

  2. carlie says

    Easy, nontoxic, goopy. One of my favorites is the rock cycle with soap. The only pain is that it’s prep ahead of time on your part.

    What you do: Get bars of ivory soap, and maybe a colored soap (Caress is peach), and a big box of sandwich baggies, the kind with a good zip closure. The ones with the big blue zipper pull cost more, but they’re worth it in frustration later. Use a grater to grate shavings of each, store in plastic baggies.

    Sedimentary rock: Shavings go into a baggie (one for each kid). They smoosh it with their hands to make a sedimentary “rock”, but not too hard!. Put in a little more shavings from the other color, that smooshes too, now you can talk about sedimentary layers.

    Metamorphic rock: They now sit on the smooshed baggie. The heat from their butt changes the rock even more. It does not matter that there is no chemical change that is required for actual metamorphic rock, because they will be giggling too hard from thinking about their butts to care.

    Igneous rock: You bring out a fresh bar of soap. Tell them that this is what it would look like if you totally melted what was in their baggie and let it re-solidify. (or, let one kid pour shavings into a beaker with water that you will leave in the classroom for a few days so they can watch this happen over time)

    Another thing entirely is making different types of rock: sandstone, conglomerate, and limestone.
    Sandstone: requires sand
    Conglomerate: sand and pebbles/gravel
    Limestone: plaster of paris (dry plaster mix)

    For any of the above, put in a dixie cup (it being a paper cup is important) along with a mixture of water and Epsom salt. It can either sit on their shelves for a couple of days to form, or, if you want the on-site wow factor, ask ahead if they have a microwave and they can microwave it until dry. Peel off the paper, and they have a “rock”. (here are better instructions: here

  3. carlie says

    (when I did the above, although with a 2nd grade class, “I made a rock with my butt” was the most popular phrase of the day)

  4. eeke says

    I saw a talk delivered by Bruce Alberts about science education, and he mentioned an exercise for kindergarteners that involved them describing what they find stuck to the bottom of their shoes after recess. Really simple, no prep. Dead bugs? Grass? Dirt? Pebbles? As I remember, he said the purpose was to get them engaged in observing, measuring, and interpreting what the data means. Of course, if this school is in NYC, the kids probably don’t have access to grassy playgrounds. Not sure if that matters. Another idea, my nephew (who was ~7 at the time) did some cool experiment where he used different household materials to see which was best at absorbing oil (non-toxic veggie oil in this case): paper towel, newspaper, nylon stocking, cotton socks, etc. Whatever you do, it sounds like fun.

  5. Lithified Detritus says

    Carlie’s suggestion is good. The key is simple and hands-on. You might find some useful ideas . here

  6. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Use the word fucke a lot.
    Make a presentation and putte in lottes of spelling errores to show you are special and a rule breaker.
    Tell them there is no god.
    Tell them about half dead cats and why men are rapists.
    Tell them in the US they are innocent until proven guilty unless girls say they did something wrong.
    Use the word fucke a lot.

    Since you’re a physiologist I suggest something physiological they can each do in their seats or just by standing up.

    Maybe effects of alcohol on giggling, and then you could have a control group in the glass that only gets grape juice.

    Anyway have a good time and remember you are speciale.

  7. grendelsfather says

    Any demonstration with dry ice or liquid nitrogen will make an impression on kindergartners. They will all want to be scientists. For the wrong reasons, of course, but by the time they figure out that scientists don’t play with dry ice or liquid nitrogen all day, they are already hooked and it is too late to pick another career. The only hard part is trying not to freeze the kids or any of their body parts.

  8. Peter B says

    Hands on demonstration — not very messy . . .

    Materials: Ice cubes in a bucket. Mound of salt on a paper plate. (Buy 5 pound bag. Be generous with the salt.) Container of water to wet kindergartner’s hands. Paper towels.

    One little hand gets wet. That hand goes on the salt. Each hand picks up an ice cube. Squeeze hands.

    The salted hand gets colder than the other. Provide paper towel to volunteers. Expect most of the class will want to try.

    Tell teacher your plan. Be sure that classroom has a sink. Setup on table. Cleanup is simple.

    If salted roads are common in your area reference that.

    I live in the San Francisco Bay area. A VERY many years ago 1/4 inch of snow shut down San Francisco. They practice solar snow removal. Two hours later the snow melted. Salted roads are not uncommon in the winter, but one has to drive 3-4 hours east into the mountains.

    Oh yes, you may be asked to explain why the salted hand got colder. Try to avoid mentioning heat engines, entropy, enthalpy and the laws of thermodynamics.

    Share how it went.

  9. TheGrinch says

    Take along a lemon, lime and a coconut. Borrow a bucket full of water (better if it is transparent). Ask the kids which one will sink to the bottom.

  10. ottod says

    Depends on how much time you want to spend assembling equipment. These all work for that age level.

    Acid/base experiments using the extract from red cabbage as the indicator. Non-toxic, and can be sent home for further investigation.

    Air/vacuum: Why does a suction cup suck? Kids love seeing old-fashioned red rubber plungers. For better suction cups, get the dent pullers from an auto supply. Boil water in a Coke can (bernzomatic torch or such) and crush it by sealing the opening in a pan of water. Ball rotating (at an angle) in the exhaust stream of a vacuum cleaner. A small vac pump and a vacuum desiccator (polycarbonate) gives you a lot of options: flame, balloons, boiling at room temp, sound (with a bell or buzzer).

    How do things really taste? See whether a child can tell the flavor of a skittle without seeing it.

    Cryogenics: Rubber becomes brittle (ala Challenger o-rings), drive a nail with a frozen banana. Frozen mini-marshmallow crunch and have almost no flavor.

  11. janeymack says

    You can talk about how plants grow, and the parts of plants, etc, then they can plant seeds (two or three sunflower or beans in a clear plastic cup–they might be able to see the roots if they’re lucky). In a few days, they can see that their seeds are growing. You won’t be there for that part, but their teacher can remind them of the highlights and planting the seeds and seeing them grow helps make it “stick.”

  12. RMH says

    I separated plant pigments with whatman filter paper. Each kid got an unknown–I had three plants that I had cut up and extracted with alcohol. each kid put a piece of paper in to separate then they had to figure out which plant juice came from which plant. Pretty obvious–more red, more green, more yellow.

    and we talked about why leaves change color.

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