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Fireworks and Picnics: Summer of STEM (Week 5)

Join Science Buddies each week this summer for fun STEM themes for kids of all ages, suggestions for simple hands-on activities, book picks, and more. We'll keep you inspired all summer with creative and innovative science and engineering activities — for free. This week: fireworks, picnics, and other celebration-themed science activities!

Fireworks image to represent the fireworks, picnics, parades, and celebrations theme for Week 5 of Summer of STEM virtual summer camp with Science Buddies

Celebrate with STEM!

Week 5 puts summer celebrations in the spotlight! They may look different this year, but fireworks, picnics, and parades are all common at this time of year, so this is a great week to pair some fun hands-on science and engineering with 4th of July festivities and other popular summer celebrations. This week features a mix of things kids can make or build to join in with celebrations (like musical instruments and noisemakers) — as well as things to make and eat (like ice cream and slushies). Fireworks are an anticipated part of summer for many families. Even if the local fireworks display isn't happening this year, the hands-on "rainbow fire" activity is an exciting way to learn more about what makes fireworks so colorful. This activity is sure to bring lots of oohs and aahs!

Tip: This downloadable PDF contains a summary of the ideas for Week 5. 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 5

Use these questions to prompt conversation and reflection this week about the science behind fireworks- and picnic-themed science activities:

  • What area of science helps explain how fireworks work?
  • What is your favorite color of fireworks? After this week, do you know what chemical might create that color?
  • When mixing up summer treats like ice cream or slushies, why do you need salt?
  • What can you learn about sound from simple homemade instruments?
  • What happens when vinegar and baking soda combine that can cause small rockets to fly high?
  • What do your eyes have to do with how you think something tastes?
  • Which science or engineering activity did you try? What did you learn?
  • What kinds of STEM jobs are related to the STEM activities you explored this week?

DO & EXPLORE: Fireworks & Picnics Activities

  • Discover the Flaming Colors of Fireworks: you will need a few special chemicals (or this convenient kit) for this activity, but if you have the materials, skewers dipped in the chemicals can be lit to explore the different colors produced as different chemicals burn. This "rainbow fire" flame test experiment is a great way to use science to talk about fireworks! (Adult supervision required.)
  • Make a Fire Snake: create an impressive fire snake when you combine lighter fluid and sand + baking soda and sugar. (Adult supervision required.)
  • Underwater Color Bursts: create colorful underwater explosions with this simple activity that uses density and diffusion to create "fireworks in a cup"!
  • Blowing the Best Bubbles: bubbles make even the most ordinary events magical, and they are great for picnics and time spent outdoors. Use science to help find out the formula for the best bubbles. What ingredients are especially important and why? (Tip: use the "make a bubble wand" activity from Week 2: Gadgets & Gizmos for your bubbles!)
  • Make Ice Cream in a Bag: kids making their own ice cream is as easy as dumping the ingredients into a set of plastic baggies and shaking, shaking, shaking. This activity makes it easy for kids to make their own summer treat and is a great way for kids to create fun taste-tests. What flavors will be most popular at your house? (Need inspiration? See how this family used the basic recipe and added their own custom twist to try and make "fancy" flavors like their favorites at a local ice cream shop!)
  • Homemade Slushies: when it's hot outside, an afternoon slushy is a tasty way to cool down. With this simple kitchen science activity, kids can make slushies in whatever flavor (or color) they want. Does the color need to match the flavor?
  • Color Taste Test—Do You Taste with Your Eyes?: would you drink green milk? What role do your eyes play in how you respond to what you eat or drink? This fun activity puts your taste buds to the test! (Tip: combine this activity with the slushies or ice cream activity! Or, make lemonade in unexpected colors!)
  • Launching Homemade Baking Soda Rockets: head to the backyard or a nearby park for high-flying fun with baking soda rockets. These rockets use small film canisters, which you may need to order online (or you can try other small containers that can be tightly closed). Kids can decorate the canisters and create fun, rocket-inspired designs, or just fill them up and watch them fly!
  • Make a Kazoo and Make a Rubber Band Guitar: both of these activities have kids build simple instruments using recycled materials and then experiment with playing the instruments and finding out what kinds of sounds are possible. These can be great props for imaginative play at home! When this family did the rubber band guitar activity, they also added a neck to the guitar to make it even more fun to hold and play.
  • How Tails Help a Kite to Fly: whether you picnic at a park or on the beach, with some clear space and a nice breeze, kids can put their own homemade kites to the test. This is a great activity to make at home in anticipation of a picnic. Kids can decorate their kites to personalize them and even try different shapes, materials, or tails. See how this family's kites turned out.
  • Build a Pizza Box Solar Oven: build a simple solar oven out of a pizza box and then experiment to see what foods can be cooked with it. (Tip: if s'mores are on the menu, you can even experiment with making your own marshmallows!)
  • LED Stickies: for nighttime fun, these light-up magnets are sure to bring a smile and a colorful glow. Each light-up magnet has its own simple circuit. What's the trick to getting the circuit to work? (Tip: be sure and disassemble them or find a way to break the circuit when you want to turn them off so that they don't use up the coin cell battery.)

WATCH: Videos for Week 5

These videos demonstrate activities highlighted for Week 5's Fireworks & Picnics theme:

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


Image of the materials included in Rainbow Fire science kit Hand holding syringe making juice filled balls made from spherification kit molecular gastronomy activity

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

  • Rainbow Fire Kit: the Rainbow Fire kit contains four chemicals that can be safely burned to explore the "colors" of fireworks using directions in the Discover the Flaming Colors of Fireworks activity.
  • Spherification Kit: wiggly juice balls that you make yourself can be a fun addition to your picnic treats! Make your own juice balls and then eat them one by one or add them to a cold beverage for tasty, juice-filled fun! What flavor will you try?

Learn more about Science Buddies Kits and see our 12 Science Kits for Summer Science Experiments and Discovery recommendations.

READ: Books to Pair with Week 5's Fireworks & Picnics Theme

Sticks cover Ice Cream Summer cover Sand Castle that Lola Built cover Landon's Lemonade Stand cover
30-Minute Chemistry cover When Gramma Gives You a Lemon Tree cover> Firework Maker's Daughter cover Bear ate your sandwich 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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