Water Play: Summer of STEM (Week 6)
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: make a splash with water play and water-based science experiments!
Water Play Science
Week 6 focuses on science and engineering activities that float, sprinkle, splash, sink, siphon, and more. All of these activities can take advantage of a bucket or container of water to bring science and engineering concepts to life. For kids who love boats or building, there are multiple ways to compare boats, race boats, and get innovative with the engineering and design of toy boats. Kids can also experiment this week with "moving" water from one container to another as they explore siphons and even build their own classic Archimedes screw. Water play is, of course, especially fun when it's really hot outside. Sprinkler-type toys can be an exciting way to get "a little" (or a lot) wet, and activities this week provide fun opportunities to experiment, from poking holes in recycled plastic bottles to designing and building a life-size sprinkler toy in the backyard!
Tip: This downloadable PDF contains a summary of the ideas for Week 6. 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 6
Use these questions to prompt conversation and reflection this week about the science behind water-themed science activities:
- Designing and building boats so that they don't sink is important! What parts of a boat make a difference in how a boat floats?
- Even if two objects look similar, why might one of them sink and one of them float?
- What happens to the height of water in a container when an object is submerged in the water?
- What does it mean to siphon something from one place to another?
- Which activity did you try this week? What did you learn?
- Can you combine what you learned to make a fun water-based toy? What would it be?
- What kinds of STEM jobs are related to the "water play" STEM activities you explored this week? Can you list jobs for both scientists and engineers that involve water?
DO & EXPLORE: Water Play Science Activities
- How Much Weight Can Aluminum Foil Boats Float?: make simple boats out of aluminum foil and then see how much weight they can hold. What shape of boat will hold the most?
- Build a Water Strider: use wire to make models of water striders (a common bug seen on ponds, lakes, and rivers). How does a water strider hop around on the surface of water without sinking? Can you get your model to stand on the top of the water?
- Make a Toy Sailboat: build toy boats with different numbers of corks and see what it takes to make them balance.
- Do Submarines Need Fins?: make a submarine from a recycled soda bottle and experiment with adding fins to see what difference the fins make in the submarine's ability to move forward when the propeller spins.
- Make a Straw Siphon: use straws to build a simple siphon that can move liquid flow from one container to another.
- Candy Rainbow: hard-shell candies, water, and a bit of sugar are all you need to create colorful displays using molecular diffusion. (For extra inspiration, see this family's creative examples.)
- Walking Water: with paper towels, food coloring, and cups of water, kids can use science to create a rainbow display. (Tip: The movement will happen over a period of hours, not minutes, so set timers for period check-ins and take photos of different stages of the progression along the way.)
- Build an Archimedes Screw: explore this classic device and make your own to move water from one location to another.
- Holes That Do Not Leak!: what happens when you poke holes in a plastic bottle full of water? Maybe not what you think! Try this activity and then see if you can use what you learn to make a fun water toy for hot days!
- Build a Bathtub Toy Raft Powered by Surface Tension: this boat activity uses a simple boat to explore surface tension. What happens when a bit of liquid soap is added to the boat?
Design a Sprinkler System for Water Play!
If you have space outdoors, building your own sprinkler system from PVC pipes is a super way to design your own, custom, life-sized water toy! How your sprinkler works is, ultimately, up to you! Will your design be one you run under? Or will your sprinkler be one you can run by to get wet? The Build a Water Sprinkler Toy activity has all the information you need to get started designing and building your own water toy for the backyard. As summer heats up, this might be a great way to cool down!
WATCH: Videos for Week 6
These videos demonstrate activities highlighted for Week 6's Water Play theme:
These videos are not from Science Buddies but tie in with this week's theme:
- The Physics of Sailing (KQED QUEST)
- Why Do Ships Float? (SciShow Kids)
- Buoyancy: What Makes Something Float or Sink? (Kids Want to Know)
- Sink or Float? (SciShow Kids)
Watch Global Problem Solvers: The Series!
Global Problem Solvers: The Series is an animated video series from Cisco's Corporate Social Responsibility program. Featuring a diverse team of teens, each with their own special strenths and skills, GPS: The Series emphasizes the value of teamwork, the application of STEM for problem solving, and the importance of social entrepreneurship to create sustainable solutions within communities. Free and available for online viewing in a browser, GPS: The Series offers two seasons (14 mini-episodes) of exciting STEM-powered content for students.
Season 1 of GPS: The Series is an awesome fit for this week's Water Play theme, but in Season 1, water isn't all fun and games. Access to clean water is a challenge for the people of Malawi. The GPS teens work together to troubleshoot the problem and then brainstorm and implement a sustainable solution to help the village. After watching Season 1, kids might be even more intrigued by the water siphon and Archimedes screw activities highlighted this week.
You can watch the full 25-minute Season 1 below, or you can use the seven mini-episodes to watch in smaller segments.
Videos are also available on the Global Problem Solvers: The Series YouTube channel. (At YouTube, all videos are available in English, Spanish, French, and Hindi.)
To learn more about using this animated series with students, see 5 Reasons Global Problem Solvers: The Series Will Inspire STEM Interest in Your Students.
EXPLORE with KITS
The following Science Buddies Kits fit in with this week's Water Play theme. These science and engineering kits provide the specialty materials kids need for hands-on science explorations, including chemistry and electronics:
- Bath Bomb Science Kit: make your own bath bombs for extra fizzy fun in the bathtub. What's the secret to making the fizziest ones?
- Electronic Sensors Kit: for older kids interested in electronics, this kit can be used for a number of experiments, including creating a soil moisture monitor. Kids will use the science from the Green Technology: Build an Electronic Soil Moisture Sensor to Conserve Water project to think through the circuit, but there is plenty of room to get creative. See this tree version for extra inspiration.
Learn more about Science Buddies Kits and see our 7 Science Kits for Summer Science Experiments and Discovery recommendations.
READ: Books to Pair with Week 6's Water Play Theme
- Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming (Author), Boris Kulikov (Illustrator) (Follow along with this "Mama Moomi Reads" readaloud!)
- The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca (Author), Daniel Rieley (Illustrator)
- Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan (Author, Illustrator), Eric Fan (Author, Illustrator)
- Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
- Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating (Author), Marta Álvarez Miguéns (Illustrator)
- Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton (Author), Don Tate (Illustrator)
- The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater (Author), Terry Fan (Illustrator), Eric Fan (Illustrator)
- The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen
- The Big Book of the Blue by Yuval Zommer
- Deep in the Ocean by Lucie Brunellière (Author)
- Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola
- Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne (Author), Éric Puybaret (Illustrator)
- Who Was Jacques Cousteau? by Nico Medina (Author), Who HQ (Author), Dede Putra (Illustrator)
- Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin by Michelle Cusolito (Author), Nicole Wong (Illustrator)
- In the Deep Blue Sea: Jack and the Geniuses Book #2 by Bill Nye (Author), Gregory Mone (Author), Nicholas Iluzada (Illustrator)
- Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure by Torben Kuhlmann
- Mad Scientist Academy: The Ocean Disaster by Matthew McElligott
- Save the Ocean by Bethany Stahl
- 30-Minute Outdoor Science Projects by Anna Leigh
- Movin' and Shakin' Projects: Balloon Rockets, Dancing Pepper, and More (Unplug with Science Buddies®)
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
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- Amazing Art Science (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)
- High-flying STEM (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)
- Wizardly STEM! (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)