When I was a girl, my favorite subject in school was science.
I loved learning more about how the world worked, why things were the way they were, and how intricately designed our universe is. I was blessed to be homeschooled, and my parents took care to connect me with curriculum, resources, and speakers that not only made science interesting and accessible to me but also pointed me to the One Who created all these wondrous things.
As a homeschool mom myself now, one of my favorite subjects with my kids is still science. I still find myself amazed at the power and creativity of God every time we take a deep dive into a subject and learn more about how He fit this world together.
There are some who try to pit God and science against each other as if they are mutually exclusive. I find that approach nonsensical. When we believe that God created everything we can see, science is not just a way to learn about the world around us, but also helps us to know more about God Himself – His creativity, power, goodness, and the love He has shown to all mankind in giving us this good planet on which to live.
Science experiments at home can be a little intimidating, even for someone who loves science like me! However, the critical parts of the scientific method are things we can easily teach our kids – asking a question, forming a hypothesis about what we think the answer is, and then just observing. We can observe by setting up an experiment, and we can also observe by going out into nature and seeing what we can see. In science, observation is the key – all we have to do is provide our kids with those chances to observe! I have a few wintery science ideas for you below, and you’ll get the most out of these ideas if you just keep in mind that the goal is to develop good observation skills, and have a little fun while learning more about God’s creation.
Water Content Of Snow
How much water is in snow? Fill containers with packed snow, and guess how much liquid water the snow will produce by marking your guesses with tape on the side. Discuss the different types of snow – was your snow more powdery, or more slushy? Was it fresh snow, or older? Consider looking into how atmospheric pressure affects what kind of snow falls. I also thought this page on the National Snow And Ice Data Center website had interesting information on all the different categories of snow.
Why does ice float? Fill a plastic cup with water, mark the water level, and then put it in the freezer. Does the ice take up more or less space than the liquid water? You should find that ice takes up more space – H2O is unusual in that its solid form is actually less dense than it’s liquid form – and it’s a good thing because if the solid form was denser than the liquid, as with so many other substances, water sources would freeze from the bottom up in the winter, offering no protection to the liquid water on top. We might have trouble finding liquid water to drink in the cold weather! God created water perfectly in order for us to survive in all of Earth’s seasons.
Did you know you can create “instant” ice crystals at home? This website had good instructions on different ways to accomplish this, but when pure water is cooled below freezing without the surface being disturbed, you can watch it freeze instantly in the bottle by shaking it, or pour the water out onto an ice cube and watch ice crystals form instantly!
If super-cooled water sounds a little intimidating, you can also observe crystal formation by watching salt crystals form instead. Fill a glass with boiling water and dissolve as much salt as you can into the water (you’ll know it’s saturated when the salt no longer dissolves). Suspend a string over the glass, partly in the water, using a pencil or spoon. Put it on the counter and check it every day to see how your crystals are growing! I’ve also read about doing this with a pipe-cleaner snowflake instead, which would add a fun winter twist. If you want more information about ways to form crystals at home, this site was a good resource!
Learn a little more about snowflakes by getting a piece of black construction paper, catching some snowflakes as they are falling, and breaking out a magnifying glass or a microscope to take a closer look. The microscope is the thing that will give you a really good view, but you could possibly get an idea of snowflake shapes with a magnifying glass as well. You’ll notice that snowflakes are always six-sided – that is because the water molecules bond to each other in a hexagonal shape. Remind your kids that there are no two snowflakes alike – this is a perfect example of God’s creative power!
Winter is a good time to put out a bird feeder – with fewer insects, nuts, and seeds available than in the warmer months, you’ll probably see a lot of action! Be sure to be consistent if you start a winter bird feeder though, since birds may come to rely on your feeder as a source of food. Set yourself and your kids up at the window with binoculars at the busy times of day, and see what you can learn about the types of birds that visit you.
It might seem counterintuitive, but winter is actually a great time to stargaze because it’s a good time to view meteor showers. Meteor showers happen when the earth passes through the orbit of a comet – the dust and dirt left in the trail of a comet are seen by us as meteors, “shooting stars”. A well-known meteor shower called the Ursids happens each year in December, but you can search online for when the next meteor shower is due in your hemisphere! Or just grab some hot chocolate and a stargazing guide, and go out to see what constellations you can find. There is no better way to get an idea of just how big our God is than by spending a little time pondering the night sky.
In taking time to do science experiments with your kids at home, you also create the perfect opportunity to teach kids about both general revelation – the way God reveals to us that He exists through His creation – and special revelation, the knowledge He gives us through the Bible on how to be saved through trusting in Jesus as our Savior.
In today’s world, I think it is so important that we give our kids a good foundation in both of these areas. It’s critical, first of all, to teach our kids what Jesus did in dying on the cross and rising from the dead, in order to save us from our sins. And we do them a great service and give them a solid foundation when they learn from us how to look at the world through a scientific lens and see God’s handiwork in it all. What a beautiful thing that God lets us know more about who He is, every day, just when we open our eyes and look out our windows.