Spending a summer day, or even a whole vacation, lounging on the beach can be a great way to kick back and relax with your family. However, the beach is also full of opportunities for you and your children to learn about astronomy, geology, and chemistry. By trying out a few fun science activities, you can keep your children learning, even while they relax and have fun in the sun.
1. Stargazing and Learning About Tides
If you are at a remote beach, the wide-open skies and darkness can be the perfect opportunity to go stargazing with your child. By printing out star charts, or just borrowing some from your library, you can help your child learn and find many of the major constellations. The huge open expanses that a beach has also are great for watching meteors, or shooting stars burn up as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. To increase your chances of seeing these, spend a night out on the beach on August 11th or 12th, when the Perseids meteor shower will come and illuminate the sky with thousands of flashing meteors. If you can’t make the meteor shower, than a normal night, with a pair of binoculars, you and your child may be able to easily spot satellites, and even Jupiter’s moons.
There is also plenty to be seen on our own moon. For example, the moon is covered in the craters from meteorites that crashed into it (don’t worry, Earth should be safe during a meteor shower because our atmosphere will burn most of the meteors). If you go out and the moon is directly overhead, look at the ocean. It should be near high tide because of the moon’s gravity. On the other hand, if there is no moon lighting up the night from above, chances are that it will be low tide.
2. Desalinate Your Own Water
When your kid first swam in the ocean, she probably immediately noticed how salty the water was. If she were like me, she may have tried a sip of it, only to feel even thirstier and perhaps a little queasy. However, you can easily turn ocean water into fresh water with only a few supplies, a little time, and a sunny day.
You will need:
– A large glass bowl
– A small cup
– Plastic wrap
– A few clean pebbles
– Salt water (from the ocean or home made)
– A warm, sunny day
To desalinate the water, first place the small cup in the middle of the large glass bowl. Then, begin adding salt water to the bowl until it is about 1.5 inches away from the rim of the cup. If the cup starts to float, put pebbles inside of it until it sinks to the bottom. Put the plastic wrap over the top of the large bowl so everything is sealed, but allow a small amount of slack in the wrap. Then, on the center of the wrap covering, directly above the small cup, place another pebble. It is important to make sure that the plastic wrap sags slightly above the cup. If it does not, readjust it to make it looser, or add more pebbles to further weigh it down. Finally, put the whole thing out in the sun, and then check back 5 or 6 hours later.
On a hot day, some of the water should have evaporated leaving the salt behind, condensed on the plastic wrap, and then dripped into the cup as fresh water. To test out if the water has been desalinated, your kid can taste test it (if you made your own salt water with tap water) or you can use a salinity test strip (if the water came from the ocean). This experiment is a great way to teach your child about how solids can be dissolved in liquids and how processes like evaporation work.
3. Create Magic Sand
Ok, to be honest, this has very little do with the beach, except for involving sand. However, it is a fun experiment that can be used to teach your kids about chemistry, and an interesting and exciting real life demonstration of how waterproof spray works.
You will need:
– A baking pan
– A few handfuls worth of sand
– Waterproof spray
– An oven (optional, but suggested for best results)
Preheat your oven to 210 degrees Fahrenheit. While it preheats, spread the sand across the baking pan. Once the oven is ready, place the sand inside of it for an hour to make sure it is completely dry, then carefully remove it. (If you choose to skip the oven step, you can try drying your sand out in the sun, but give it several hours and make sure it is not a humid day.) After allowing the sand to cool down, coat it thickly in a well-ventilated area with a waterproofing spray (it may be best to do this outside so that you don’t have to worry about the gasses or spraying anything else). Allow the spray to dry for about 20 minutes, and then shake the sand on the pan around and spray it again. Once this spray has dried, the magic sand should be ready.
First, have your child drop a handful of normal sand into a clear container filled with water. They will probably see the sand spread out, and then settle more or less evenly at the bottom. Then your child can try dropping a handful of the magic sand into a clear container filled with water. If the magic sand came out right, it should stick together in clumps, even under water. This is because the waterproof spray made the sand hydrophobic, or afraid of water. This is why the waterproof spray can keep water from coming into tents, rain jackets, or even magic sand. Your child can try piling the sand underwater, holding it in their hand while you pour water on it, and many other experiments to see what will happen.
Vacation and education don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Whether you are taking your child out under the stars, teaching them how to turn salt water into fresh water, or even making magic sand, you can keep their minds working and their brains learning all summer long!
This post was written by Fred. Fred enjoys going on beach vacations, discovering science activities for kids, and finding the perfect gifts for his cousins at www.funkidspajamas.com.
Author: Lauren Pohl
Lauren Pohl is the CEO and founder of Kidz Central Station and a mom to two amazing kids. She came up with the idea for Kidz Central Station while on maternity leave with her youngest child. On a quest to find the right music class for her young child, she quickly grew frustrated with having to search dozens of websites in order to find the right class, many of which didn’t even have online enrollment! Thus, the idea for Kidz Central Station was born. Lauren enjoys learning about all of the great kids’ programs that help busy parents keep their children active and happy.