Introduce your kids to the life sciences: 3 cheap, fun projects with a 10 gallon aquarium!
By the time kids encounter the life sciences in high school, these classes may seem a bit dry and lacking in entertainment value.
Botany, biology and zoology textbooks just don’t hold the same appeal as the hours spent during childhood, exploring the great outdoors, full of bugs, lizards, frogs and plants. Young children are full of natural curiosity, wanting to know every little thing about their fellow occupants in the natural world.
Exposure to the life sciences as an educational activity is a lot of fun for kids – in fact, kids won’t even realize it’s part of their education.
You parents can inspire your kids with projects that serve as an introduction to the life sciences, which will nurture an interest they’ll carry forward, years in to the future.
Here we have three projects for the family that are cheap and fun. All you need to get started is a 10 gallon aquarium.
As each project is completed, you can release the critters back into the wild and start with a new activity. Each project also gives you an opportunity to introduce your kids to basic research skills, using the net. All in the name of fun!
The first two projects don’t require anything more than a 10 gallon aquarium with a hood. The third project requires a few pieces of equipment to accommodate a study of the world of fish. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a 10 gallon aquarium. You can pick one up cheaply at a garage sale or through the classifieds. The total outlay shouldn’t exceed $5-10.
Kids find lizards and frogs to be fascinating creatures. They’re funny looking and so much different than the family dog or cat! Begin by explaining that every little creature in the world has different needs, for food, environment and care.
Let them know that they need to find out what these little animals need to thrive before installing them in their temporary aquarium home. Be on the lookout for programs on Animal Planet or the Discovery channel which pertain to the project.
The kids will be excited to learn all they can about their ‘guests’. Get on the net and search out websites and articles for further information. This research will inspires enthusiasm and confidence, knowing that doing this work affords them the privilege of viewing the little beasties firsthand.
Have the kids prepare the 10 gallon aquarium home with all that’s needed to keep the little critters happy and safe. When you feel confident that the kids know how to accommodate their guests, send them out in the back yard to search out their tenants … be certain that they understand that they must take good care of the creatures and also must be prepared to release them back into their natural habitat within a week or two.
Our second project involves plant life. A 10 gallon aquarium will accommodate a number of plants and the choices are many.
You can buy inexpensive house plants in 2 or 4 inch pots from the nursery. Lay a bed of gravel or pebbles in the bottom, topped by a four-inch layer of potting soil, and set the plant in place. Let the kids water with a spray bottle and watch the plant produce new leaves.
You can also take a leaf from a house plant, such as a begonia leaf, from your home and show the kids how to produce a new plant from a single leaf.
Buy enough sand from the nursery to cover the bottom of the aquarium with a few inches of sand. With a sharp knife, cut a single leaf from the mother plant, then make a small cut on a few of the veins of the leaf. With a crafts paintbrush, dust the cuts with a plant rooting hormone (available at any nursery) and set the leaf in the aquarium, securing the leaf to the sand medium with gravel or pebbles. Spritz the leaves with water and cover the 10 gallon aquarium with its hood. Within a few days, the leaf will sprout new plants at the site of the cuts.
The kids will be observing closely. Don’t be surprised at their shouts of amazement when the new plants make their appearance. This is a magical epiphany for children and an excellent introduction into the mysteries of plant propagation.
Our third project for the 10 gallon aquarium is a natural! Fish. Here’s where you’ll need to invest a few bucks in a water filter, pump and lighting. By now, your kids have gained a new respect for the living things on the earth and will be eager to provide an environment for this longer term project. Give the aquarium a good cleaning, pay a visit to the aquarium store and give some hardy little fish a new home.
These fun and educational life science projects will be remembered by your kids and make those high school courses far more interesting. All with just a 10 gallon aquarium!