Children learn best by doing. So imagine what doing a hands-on science project each week could do for every first grade student’s learning this year! Here are 25 first grade science projects, activities, and experiments to get you and your first graders through most of the year.
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1. Participate in the eBird citizen science project.
Image Credit: Robin Koval
Allowing your students the opportunity to think and act like practicing professionals is always a good way to get them to love science. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology K–12 team has done just this by creating citizen science projects where students not only act like scientists but actually collect data that scientists use!
2. Build a bird feeder.
Image Source: Science Buddies
Have students create their own birdhouses to accompany the citizen-science data collection mentioned above. Students will use recycled and upcycled materials to create their own birdhouses. This activity allows students to learn about the different aspects of bird habitats.
3. Learn about static electricity.
Image Source: Kids Activities Blog
An oldie but a goodie! We’ve all witnessed how a balloon can make hair stick straight up, but what about other objects? Collect a random assortment of objects (see the link below for ideas) and blow up a balloon. Touch the balloon to the objects and see what happens. Have the students record their answers. Then rub the balloons against a wool sweater or blanket. Have students hold the balloon near the objects again. Observe which objects stick to the balloon and which do not.
4. Identify seeds.
Image Source: The Learning Loft Preschool
Bring in seeds of fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, apples, grapes, strawberries, lemons, avocados, pumpkin, cantaloupe, watermelon, peppers—whatever you can collect. Then have students try to identify what kind of seeds they are.
5. Inflate a balloon without losing your breath!
Image Source: The STEM Laboratory
Have your students measure out these nontoxic ingredients: 2 tablespoons of dry yeast; 1 tablespoon of sugar; and 2–3 tablespoons of lukewarm water. Pour all ingredients into a cup and stir. Using a funnel, pour the ingredients into an empty bottle with a neck (like a 20 oz. water bottle) and quickly place the balloon over the opening. Put the bottle in a mug of lukewarm water and observe!
6. Create a crystal garden overnight.
Image Source: Babbledabbledo.com
This science experiment will excite students who are currently obsessed with the Frozen franchise! This is a great experiment to start in the afternoon because the crystals grow overnight. Have students use a magnifying glass to observe the different structures. The crystals are very fragile, so ensure that everyone has had a chance to look at the crystals before you allow students to touch them, as they will crumble.
7. Make a snowflake crystal.
Image Source: Geo Science Girls
This is a great experiment to do after making overnight crystals. In this experiment, students will create a snowflake made of pipe cleaners and then grow a crystal on it. Accompany this lesson with Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin to teach the wonders of snowflakes.
8. Make a musical instrument.
Image Source: The Great Grub Club
Gather the empty tissue boxes, toilet paper rolls, boxes, and other materials for this upcycling creation! Students will use the material to create their own musical instruments. What’s considered a musical instrument? Any object that produces a sound!
9. It’s getting dark in here.
Use a flashlight to see how different materials change the beam of light. Examples of materials could include those that are transparent (such as the top of takeout containers), translucent (such as wax paper), opaque (such as cardboard), and reflective (such as a mirror).
10. Create a phone out of a paper cup and string.
Image Source: The STEM Laboratory
What can sound waves travel through? This experiment will allow your students to find out. Using two paper cups and 20 feet of yarn, they’ll create a paper cup phone. When one student whispers into their cup, the other should be able to hear them.
11. Make chicken sounds with a cup.
Image Source: Science Bob
Take the paper cup phone to a new level by imitating a chicken! The cup creates a sounding board, and the vibrations from the string are amplified by the cup, which produces the “chicken sound.” Visit the link below for detailed directions and to see different versions of this project.
12. Create a survival signal.
Image Source: Education.com
Morse code is an internationally recognized code based on a series of dots and dashes (or short and long signals) matched to each letter of the alphabet. Use the resources here to have students learn Morse code and try to communicate with each other.
13. Create a coat of arms.
Image Source: Michele Beitel
All animals have different protection layers. Have students brainstorm a list of animals and, as a class, try to identify the protection layers they have to ensure their survival. How do humans use the same type of protection? A bike helmet is very similar to a turtle shell, for example. Encourage students to illustrate their comparisons.
14. Create a paper plate sun rotation.
Image Source: UNAWE
This experiment will demonstrate the rotation of Earth and help students understand how the sun and moon rise in one part of the sky, move across the sky, and set. It will also help them know why stars other than our sun are visible at night but not during the day. Have students draw a line across down the center of the paper plate, drawing a day scene on one half and a night scene on the other. Then cut a paper plate in half, attaching one half to the plate. This half plate represents the rotation that happens throughout the day. As students rotate the half, they will see different parts of their scenes. Have students discuss what time of day it is at various stops in the rotation.
15. Explore surface tension with milk designs.
Image Source: Science4us.com
In this experiment, students will see how surface tension allows liquids to resist an external force. Using only three ingredients— milk, dishwashing detergent, and food coloring—students will see surface tension in action.
16. Learn about penny surface tension.
Image Source: Sciencebuddies.com
Gather pennies and pipettes and have students see surface tension in a different way. Have each student clean their penny to remove any dirt and then place it flat on a paper towel. Next have students slowly drop one drop of water at a time onto their penny. Have students count the drops their penny can hold.
17. Make quicksand.
Image Source: Raising Lifelong Learners
Using just cornstarch and water, have students make their own quicksand to explore suspension. This quicksand can be a liquid when there is no pressure on it, but it can be a solid when pressure is added. Pressing the quicksand into a ball in your hand will make the mixture hard, but when you relax your hand, the mixture will liquify.
18. Test reaction time.
Image Source: AMNH
Students will get the chance to test their reaction time with this experiment. Have one student hold the ruler above another student’s hand. The student who is attempting to catch the ruler needs to have their hand in the form of a claw, ready to catch the ruler when it’s dropped. When the ruler is released, the student will close their hand and see how many inches it took them to catch the ruler. Allow students to try and beat their own personal records. This experiment allows students to see the connection between the eyes, the brain, and the motor neurons that automatically fire when we are reacting.
19. Make animal camouflage.
Image Source: AMNH
Lots of animals are able to blend in with their background as a survival tool. Visit the American Museum of Natural History to learn more and create an example of animal camouflage.
20. Try tinkering.
Image Source: Little Bins for Little Hands
The engineering process is about allowing students to think creatively, ask questions, make observations, and gather information. When students have ownership to try and solve problems, their independence and critical thinking are fostered. Set up a tinkering station (as suggested in the link below) in your room or read the Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia and have students build their own model homes.
21. Explore melting rates.
Image Source: Shelly Massey
This experiment helps students understand solar science and absorption. Collect different colors of construction paper and lay them in the sun. Place an ice cube in the middle of each paper. Start a timer and watch for the ice to melt. Which ice cube starts to melt first? Last? Learn how to observe and report on which colors affect ice-melting rates from the Discovery Children’s Museum.
22. Why do leaves change color?
Image Source: Howwelearn.com
Share the magic of fall with your students. This experiment shows students why leaves change color. All you’ll need is rubbing alcohol, green leaves, a container, and a coffee filter.
23. Learn about reflection with mirrors.
Image Source: Buggy and Buddy
This experiment is simple. Have students start with two mirrors and explore what happens when they look into a mirror while holding a mirror. Have them record what they notice. Then have students write their names and hold it in the mirror. What happened? Introduce the idea of mirror writing and have students write their name backwards. Tell students that Leonardo da Vinci, a famous inventor and artist, wrote his personal notes in mirrored writing.
24. Make a balloon-powered rocket.
Image Source: Broogly
Attach one end of a string to a secure location. Blow up a balloon and pinch the opening. Have a partner tape a straw to the side of the balloon (the straw needs to line up with the balloon opening). Have the same partner thread the string into the straw and hold the string tight to create a raceway for the balloon. Draw the balloon back and release it. Watch your balloon race down the string.
25. Help students understand the link between healthy teeth and healthy foods.
Image Source: Things to Share and Remember
Have students go through magazines and cut out pictures of food. On two pieces of chart paper, draw a large tooth outline. Have students determine what foods are good for their teeth and which ones are not. Take the opportunity to have students discuss their choices with a partner or extend this activity by having students look at the class creation and summarize the food choices in a poster, flyer, or advertisement.
What are your favorite first grade science projects? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers Chat group on Facebook.