Join Science Buddies this summer for virtual summer camp! Each week, we'll have a fun STEM theme for kids of all ages, suggestions for simple hands-on activities, book picks, and more. With our Summer of STEM, we'll keep you and your kids inspired all summer with creative and innovative science and engineering activities — for free. This week: birds, bugs, flowers, weather, and other backyard science investigations!

Birdhouse image to represent the backyard science theme for Week 10 of Summer of STEM with Science Buddies

Backyard Science

This week, head outdoors for backyard science! With activities to inspire kids to explore local biodiversity, kids will be looking at birds, insects, worms, and even squirrels with new eyes this week. There are also fun options to create homemade weather monitoring tools, a simple compass, and an indoor constellation.

Most activities highlighted this week are nature-themed, but there are lots of science explorations kids can do in the backyard. Be sure and look back at previous weeks of Summer of STEM for fun explorations related to frisbee (Week 7), water sprinklers (Week 6), homemade kites (Week 5), mini-golf (Week 1), DIY sports equipment (Week 3), paper rockets (Week 9), bubble wands (Week 1), and more!

Tip: This downloadable PDF contains a summary of the ideas for Week 10. Print this out and use it as a check-list for activities you try this week! You can also print and use our simple activity log (PDF) if you want to encourage your younger students to reflect on their activities.

ASK: Science Questions for Week 10

Use these questions to prompt conversation and reflection this week about the Backyard Science activities:

  • What kinds of animals (including birds, insects, and larger animals) are common in your neighborhood?
  • Did you observe animals this week that you didn't know lived around you? What questions do you have about these animals?
  • If you looked for (or fed) birds this week, how many different kinds of birds did you see?
  • Which activities are of most interest to you, the ones about bugs, birds, and animals, or ones about weather? Why?
  • Which science or engineering activity did you try? What did you learn?
  • What kinds of STEM jobs are related to the nature-themed activities you explored this week?

DO & EXPLORE: Backyard Science Activities

  • Build a Bird Feeder to Study Birds: make a bird feeder from a recycled container and craft materials and see what birds visit your backyard.
  • Dissect a Flower: take flowers apart, piece by piece, to learn more about the anatomy of a flower and to compare different flowers. Do all flowers have the same parts?
  • Explore Biodiversity Using a Homemade Bug Vacuum!: make a simple bug collector to explore the biodiversity in your backyard. (Note: This collector helps kids examine insects and other small invertebrates like spiders, pill bugs, and centipedes.)
  • How Biodiverse is Your Backyard?: pair this activity with the bug vacuum activity to learn how animals are classified by phyla and to investigate bugs and other species that appear in your backyard or neighborhood.
  • Make a Homemade Fly Trap: build a simple fly trap from a plastic bottle. What liquids or foods are most effective as bait? (See the Which Bait Works Best for a Homemade Fly Trap? project for ideas about other liquids and foods you might try.)
  • Build a Bird Nest: different types of birds build different kinds of nests. In this activity, kids build their own nests from natural materials.
  • Measure Up with a Homemade Thermometer: make a thermometer and test it to see how it works as temperatures go up and down.
  • How Does a Wind Meter Work?: use small paper cups and straws to make your own anemometer and explore how it is used to measure the speed of the wind. (Note: use the step-by-step directions on the "Procedure" tab along with the video for assembly. Kids interested in wind and wind-power might also want to make and test pinwheels as a science project.)
  • Light Pollution and the Stars: make a homemade constellation and experiment inside to see how easy or how difficult it is to count the stars as the level of light changes.
  • Make a Homemade Compass: how does a magnetic compass use the Earth's magnetic fields to indicate direction? Make a simple magnetic compass and explore. Make a simple magnetic compass and see if kids can use it to figure out which way is North.
  • Worm Observation: create a small habitat for worms so kids can observe worm behavior!
  • Have a Cricket Tell You the Temperature!: learn what the number of times a cricket chirps indicates about the temperature!
  • Candy Camouflage: use colorful candies to explore how camouflage is used in nature for protection.
Tip: As you investigate insects, bugs, birds, and other animals in your area this week, you might be able to contribute to citizen science projects like Project Squirrel or Lost Ladybug. You can learn more about citizen science in the Calling Naturalists of All Ages: Citizen Science Projects for the Whole Family and Citizen Science for Earth Day posts.

DO & EXPLORE: Birds, Squirrels, and Backyard Animals

A unique bird foot for a science project looking at bird feet Hummingbird feeder for a project looking at the color of feeders Squirrel obstacle course A duck foot for a project looking at the adaptation of duck feet

Once kids start looking, they may discover that there are lots of animals that live in the area. Many of these animals invite observation. For example, kids can observe birds that come to backyard feeders or use binoculars to find birds in trees. (This is a great time to encourage nature journaling. Have your kids draw the birds they see and make notes about their observations.) If squirrels frequent your yard, kids can observe their natural behavior or set up a project to see how squirrels respond! Kids interested in animal science may enjoy learning more with projects like these:

For more information about these and other bird-themed science projects, see the 10+ Backyard Bird Science Projects collection.

WATCH: Videos for Week 10

These videos demonstrate activities highlighted for Week 10's Backyard Science theme:

These videos are not from Science Buddies but tie in with this week's theme:

EXPLORE with KITS

Electronic Sensors Kit example of a project with a sensor to measure moisture in soil Crystal radio made from the Crystal Radio kit and decorated to personalize it

The following Science Buddies Kits fit in with this week's Backyard Science theme. These science and engineering kits provide the specialty materials kids need for a variety of fun electronics explorations:

Learn more about Science Buddies Kits and see our 7 Science Kits for Summer Discovery recommendations.

READ: Books to Pair with Week 10's Backyard Science Theme

Hack Your Backyard cover The Boy Who Drew Birds cover Joan Procter: Dragon Doctor cover An Egg is Quiet cover The Big Book of Bugs
Alfie: Turtle cover 30-Minutes Outdoor Science Projects cover Carl and the Meaning of Life cover The Street Between My Feet The Girl Who Drew Butterflies The Boreal Forest cover Magic and Mystery of Trees cover Big Book of Blooms cover The Big Book of Birds cover

For other great STEM stories for summer reading, see our Book list for science-filled summer reading! post. Also, don't miss this roundup of creative STEM activities for storytelling and imaginative play.

Summer of STEM Posts

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