Backyard Science: Summer of STEM (Week 10)
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!
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 Projects for Earth Day posts.
DO & EXPLORE: Birds, Squirrels, and Backyard Animals
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:
- What Seeds Do Birds Prefer to Eat?: use multiple feeders to find out what kinds of seeds different species of birds like most. (Note: kids could use the recycled milk jug feeder activity to make multiple feeders, each with different types of seeds, and then watch to see if different birds visit different feeders.)
- How Sweet It Is! Explore the Roles of Color and Sugar Content in Hummingbirds' Food Preferences.: hummingbird feeders are filled with a sweet liquid solution. In this project, kids experiment to find out if the color of the solution (or the feeder) makes a difference.
- Can You Predict a Bird's Lifestyle Based on Its Feet?: if there are plenty of birds to observe in the area, zoom in and see how their feet look! What do the different features seen on different kinds of birds tell you about a bird's lifestyle and habitat?
- The Swimming Secrets of Duck Feet: if you live near a lake, pond, or other body of water, you can learn more about duck feet and the ways in which specific adaptations are related to how water birds swim.
- Squirrel Obstacle Course: How Far Can Squirrels Jump?: if squirrels are common in your area, kids may have noticed that squirrels often try to steal seeds from bird feeders. They can be very ingenious and determined in trying to get to the food! In a popular video this year, former NASA engineer Mark Rober created a "ninja obstacle course" to see how quickly squirrels could master the course and get to the food. The Squirrel Obstacle Course: How Far Can Squirrels Jump? project offers guidance for students who want to conduct a similar science investigation in their own yard!
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:
- Building the Perfect Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder (Mark Rober)
- Live Birds In 4K! Cornell Lab FeederWatch Cam at Sapsucker Woods
- Identify Your Backyard Birds
- Inside Birding: Size and Shape
- The Stunning Life Cycle Of A Ladybug | The Dodo
EXPLORE with KITS
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:
- Electronic Sensors Kit: explore circuits and sensors by creating a device to indicate when a plant (or other soil) needs water. See the Green Technology: Build an Electronic Soil Moisture Sensor to Conserve Water project to build the circuit. (For added inspiration, see this holiday ornament our engineer built to monitor the water level of a tree.)
- Crystal Radio Kit: build your own crystal radio and run the antenna in the backyard to see what local AM stations you can pick up!
Learn more about Science Buddies Kits and see our 10 Science Kits for Summer Science Experiments and Discovery recommendations.
READ: Books to Pair with Week 10's Backyard Science Theme
- Hack Your Backyard: Discover a World of Outside Fun with Science Buddies by Niki Ahrens
- 30-Minute Outdoor Science Projects by Anna Leigh (Author)
- A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Aston (Author), Sylvia Long (Illustrator)
- A Butterfly Is Patient by Dianna Aston (Author), Sylvia Long (Illustrator)
- An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston (Author), Sylvia Long (Illustrator)
- A Nest Is Noisy by Dianna Aston (Author), Sylvia Long (Illustrator)
- A Rock Is Lively by Dianna Aston (Author), Sylvia Long (Illustrator)
- A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Aston (Author), Sylvia Long (Illustrator)
- Alfie: (The Turtle That Disappeared) by Thyra Heder (Author)
- Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington (Author), Theodore Taylor III (Illustrator)
- Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman (Author)
- Charlotte the Scientist Finds a Cure by Camille Andros (Author), Brianne Farley (Illustrator)
- Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd (Author), Abigail Halpin (Illustrator)
- Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez (Author), Felicita Sala (Illustrator)
- Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward (Author), Steve Jenkins (Illustrator)
- The Big Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer (Author), Elisa Biondi (Contributor), Scott Taylor (Contributor), Barbara Taylor (Contributor)
- The Book of Brilliant Bugs by Jess French (Author), Claire McElfatrick (Illustrator)
- The Big Book of Birds by Yuval Zommer (Author)
- The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer (Author)
- The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World's Largest Land Biome by L. E. Carmichael (Author), Josée Bisaillon (Illustrator)
- The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies (Author), Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)
- The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman (Author)
- The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith (Author), Madeline Kloepper (Illustrator)
- The Magic and Mystery of Trees by Jen Green (Author), Claire McElfatrick (Illustrator)
- The Pod and The Bog (Zoey and Sassafras) by Asia Citro (Author), Marion Lindsay (Illustrator)
- The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain (Author), Yuval Zommer (Illustrator)
- Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner (Author), Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrator)
- The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
- We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines (Author), Julianna Swaney (Illustrator)
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
- Week 1 - Carnival Science
- Week 2 - Gadgets & Gizmos
- Week 3 - Wizards & Magic
- Week 4 - Artists & Makers
- Week 5 - Fireworks & Picnics
- Week 6 - Water Play
- Week 7 - Superhero Science
- Week 8 - Strange but True Science
- Week 9 - Mission to Mars
- Week 10 - Backyard Science
You Might Also Enjoy These Related Posts:
- Ready, Set, Go! (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)
- Awesome Summer Science Experiments
- Deep Dive into STEM—Do a Summer Science Project!
- 10 Science Kits for Summer Science Experiments and Discovery
- Imagine Your Story - STEM Activities for Storytellers of All Ages!
- Carnival STEM (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)
- Wacky Water Science (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)
- Radiant Rainbows (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)