Weekly Science at Home

OMSI is here to help support your students' distance learning. We’ve expanded our Science at Home content to include new curated STEAM activities and resources each week! 

Week 15: Fear and Phobias

Would you face your fears? This week we explore the science behind your fear and phobias. 

Monday: Science Reading
What is a Phobia?

Everyone experiences fear sometimes, but a really strong fear, or phobia (FO-bee-uh), is far less common. Learn more about different types of phobias, why people might get them, and how they can be treated in this week's science reading.

Questions to think about: 
- How is a phobia different from a fear?
- What are some ways that a person might act if they have a phobia?
- What kind of doctor helps people with phobias?
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Spooky Science

What happens when you get scared? Explore biological responses to fear by measuring your own reaction!

Activity worksheet >


Please complete this activity at your own risk and ask for adult permission before viewing or doing anything scary! Be sure to select safe situations instead of creating fright in real life.
 

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Studying New Phobia Treatments

Virtual reality systems can be used for much more than gaming. See how psychologists in the United Kingdom are using virtual reality to safely expose their patients to situations they fear

Questions to think about:
- What are the benefits of using virtual reality to manage a phobia?
- Do you think facing a fear using virtual reality would be less scary than the real situation?
- Would you use virtual reality to treat a phobia or anxiety?
- Is a machine as effective as a human doctor when treating a phobia?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Fear Reactions

How do humans act when they are scared of something? Observe and find out!

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- View a few of these photos, which show people reacting to something scary in a haunted house.
- Make observations about how people are reacting, noting the looks on people's faces, their mouths, and their posture.

Questions to think about:
- How are these people reacting to the haunted house experience?
- Do you think you would react in a similar way?
- Do you think their reactions are a result of a fear or a phobia?
- How might a phobia reaction look similar or different?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design Your Own Virtual Reality (VR) Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy slowly exposes someone to what they are afraid of, eventually allowing them to overcome or improve their phobia. Learn more about the exposure therapy process in this video.

Facing a phobia can be a nerve wrecking experience, making virtual reality an appealing way to expose people to something scary without the risk of the real situation. Your challenge is to design a virtual reality exposure therapy experience for you or someone you know. 

Consider these items when designing your experience: 
- What will the VR headset be made of?
- Will the hand grips be easy to hold, even if hands are shaking or sweaty?
- How will you keep the person feeling safe? 
- What will your VR space look like? 
- What kind of challenges will you suggest the person complete? 

Questions to think about: 
- How does your VR exposure therapy experience help people without making them more scared? 
- Would you participate in VR exposure therapy to overcome a fear? 
- Are there fears or phobias that couldn't be addressed with VR? 

Week 14: Black Holes

Get sucked in to this week's science topic: black holes! 

Monday: Science Reading
Introduction to Black Holes
What exactly is a black hole and how do scientists study them? Learn more about black holes in this week’s science article from NASA.

Questions to think about: 
- Can humans see black holes? Why or why not? 
- How do scientists find black holes? 
- How do back holes form? 
- Are there any black holes close to Earth?
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Gravity Bowl

The gravity of a black hole is so strong that anything that enters cannot escape! Build your own space model to see gravity and black holes in action. 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Researching Black Holes

Are you interested in studying black holes one day? Perhaps you would work alongside Dr. Andrea Ghez, one of the world's leading astrophysicists and
winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics. Ghez and her team are responsible for discovering a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way and confirming Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Learn more about Ghez and her work in this video.

Questions to think about:
- What kind of equipment do you think you would need to observe the stars surrounding black holes?
- Gravity is one force scientists use to describe the way the universe works. What are the other three forces?
- Why do you think it is important to study black holes?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observe a Supernova in Waiting

A supernova is the explosion of a giant star. Supernovas occur when nuclear fusion cannot hold the star's core against its own gravity, causing the core to collapse and explode!

January is a great time of year to get outside and observe the Super Massive star Betelgeuse, which is a "supernova in waiting." Over the last several years, scientists have noticed Betelgeuse acting strange—dimming, shrinking AND expanding. Could this behavior signal the last moments of this star's life?

Although scientists are unsure if the supernova produced by Betelgeuse will result in a black hole, it is large stars like Betelgeuse that present the opportunity for black hole formation. The more we can observe about such a star, the more we can understand about the formation about black holes!

Observation:
- Grab some paper and something to write with.
- Find Betelgeuse by facing south and locating the Constellation of Orion (you can use this picture for reference).
- Make observations of Betelgeuse and record your observations as numbers, descriptions, and/or drawings.
- Over the next month, take some time to observe Betelgeuse at the same time every night.

Questions to think about:
- Do you notice any changes in color?
- Do you notice any changes in the way the star is giving off light? Does it appear to be flashing light quickly or slowly?
- Do you notice any changes in the star's brightness? What about the space around the star?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Black Hole Probe
Imagine scientists had the ability to send a probe—an unmanned craft used to research space—to the edge of a black hole. What kind of equipment would it need to study the black hole effectively? How would it travel to this area? How would it keep from being pulled into the hole? Would a camera be useful? What about an audio recorder? How would collected information be sent back to Earth?

With these questions in mind, take some time to think about what you think would be most useful in studying a black hole up close. When you’re ready, use materials from your environment to design and build a model of your very own black hole probe.

Possible Materials:
- Paper Clips
- Cardboard
- Tape
- Scissors
- Aluminum Foil
- Paper towel or toilet paper tubes
- Wooden skewers
- Anything recycled

Questions to think about:
- How would your probe survive the extreme environment of space?
- What costs would be associated with building a probe like this?
- How would this probe get to the black hole?
- Is anything like this probe currently in development?

Week 13: Dogs

Have a tail-wagging good time exploring the science behind one of humankind's favorite companions: the dog! 

Monday: Science Reading
The Evolution of The Dog
It may be hard to believe, but every dog breed (Canis familiaris) evolved from the grey wolf (Canis lupus)! Learn more about how the wild wolf became the domesticated dog on your couch in this week's science reading article by PBS.

Still curious about dogs? Check out this video.

Questions to think about: 
- How are wolves and dogs similar? How are they different? 
- Why are there so many different dog breeds? 
- Why do you think wolves were domesticated by humans? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
The Dog Speed Test

Not even Usain Bolt can run as fast a greyhound. But do you think you can run faster than a basset hound? Put on your running shoes and find out!

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Training Guide Dogs for the Blind

Humans and dogs live and work together in many different ways. In some cases, dogs help humans live more independent and rewarding lives. Did you know that Boring, Oregon, is home to one of the largest guide dog training facilities in the country? Learn more about their puppy raisers, trainers, and participants in this video.

Questions to think about:
- How do guide dogs help people with vision impairments live more independent lives?
- What goes into training a guide dog?
- What other jobs can dogs be trained to do?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observe Dog Behavior

Has your dog ever done something weird or surprising? Do they react to certain things in a particular way? Observing behavior is an important method for scientists to understand how animals interact with eachother and with their environment. Take a moment today to make observations about your dog*.

Observation:
- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Observe your dog in various situations and take notes, record data, and/or draw pictures about their behavior.
- Some suggestions and ideas for observational moments:
     - Say your dog's name
     - Crinkle a bag of treats
     - Ring the doorbell or knock on a door
     - Yawn in front of them
     - Put on your shoes in front of them
     - Observe them sleeping
     - Make observations at different times of day

* Don't have a dog? No problem! Observe another pet or view this puppy live cam.

Questions to think about:
- Why do you think your dog acted the way they did in each situation?
- Does your dog have a schedule or routine that influences their behavior?
- Do different dogs act differently in the same situation?
- Do you think the owner affects the behavior of the dog?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Smell Competition
Dogs are super-sniffers! A human nose may have about 6 million smell receptors, but a dog's nose has 300 million! Dog noses also have a special olfactory pocket, which holds air and allows the brain to process smells for a longer amount of time. Design a competition to put your dog's nose to the test to find out what kind of smells they find most interesting.

- Collect 4 clean containers.
- Place an interesting smelling item into each container (some ideas include cheese, a toy, or a smelly sock).
- Cover each container with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Punch 3 small holes in the top.
- Place the containers on the floor and let your dog into the room.
- Observe how much time your dog spends at each container.
- Rearrange the containers or add new smells, then observe again.

Questions to think about:
- What smell does your dog spend the most time exploring?
- Does rearranging the containers change what smell your dog spends the most time sniffing?
- If you place a treat inside one of the containers, can your dog find it?
- If you have multiple dogs, do they each have their own favorite smell?

Week 12: Data Science

Explore data science with researchers at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Oregon. 

Monday: Science Reading
Data Science
Kick off the week by learning about data and exploring the long-term data being collected at Oregon's own H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest! Start by reading this article to learn what data is, then check out this story to understand the forest and stream ecosystem research happening in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest.

Questions to think about: 
- Have you ever collected data? What kind of data was it? 
- Why do you think long-term data collection is important? 
- Why do you think long-term data collection is so rare? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Analyzing Long-Term Data
 
Take real-life science data and turn it into graphs about trout populations. 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Science Researchers

The scientists that work in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest collect, analyze, and/or use data as part of their jobs. Curious about their current projects? Explore a long-term log decomposition study then meet some of the research scientists at the Oregon State University College of Forestry and learn about what they're studying.

Questions to think about:
- How will data collected today help people in the future?
- Do non-scientists collect data? How?
- Can art help people connect with science?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Data Observations

There are many kinds of data that you can collect. Practice your data collecting skills on something around your home.

Observation:
- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Head outside and choose a natural object, such a plant or a bug.
- Collect different types of data about the object:
     - Qualitative data (a description or drawing)
     - Discrete quantitative data (a counted number)
     - Continuous quantitative data (a measurement)
     - If you can, return to your object the next day. Has any of the data changed?

Questions to think about:
- What kind of data was easiest for you to collect? What was the hardest?
- Why is it important to collect multiple kinds of data?
- If someone else collected data about the same object, would their data be the same as yours? Why or why not?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Research Question
Data collection is a major part of the scientific process. Design your own field investigation and identify what kind of data you need to collect to answer your research question.

- Choose a topic you want to investigate.
- Decide on a research question. Remember, your research question should be Simple, Practical, Answerable, and Measurable (SPAM!).
- Select something you can easily investigate and collect data on.
- A great research question might be: “How many species of birds can be found in my local park?“ or “do different plant species grow in sunny areas vs. shady areas?”
- Think about what kind of data you need to collect to answer your research question.
- Collect data! Write down all the numbers, descriptions, and measurements you collect.
- Use your data to answer your research question.

Need to make a graph? You can use this easy online tool.   
Need ideas for what to investigate? Find an idea here!

Questions to think about: 
- Are you collecting short or long-term data? 
- Would long-term data change the result of your field investigation? 
- Were you surprised by the results of your investigation? 

Week 11: Food Science

Food science at home has never been so delicious! Digest this week’s science activities from the kitchen.

Monday: Science Reading
Food Science
Food needs a sweetener to make it sweet. Learn more about sugar and other common food sweeteners in this article.

Interested in learning more? This video shows how sugar is made.

Questions to think about: 
- What kind of plants do sweeteners come from? 
- What kind of sweetener is used in your favorite treat? 
- Do Oregon farmers grow sweeteners? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Yeast Balloon
 
Use just sugar and yeast to inflate a balloon in this easy kitchen experiment!

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Something New to Chew On

Food scientists can work in agriculture, research sustainable food sources, and even become a professional taste tester! Learn how scientists at Oregon State University are investigating sustainable protein resources and turning them into products you can find at your local grocery store. 

Questions to think about:
- How do scientists and business people work together to bring us new food products?
- Why is it important to grow sustainable and productive protein sources?
- Would you try dulse? Why or why not?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Find The Sugar

Sugar may be hiding in foods without you knowing it! Search your kitchen to find where sugar exists.

Observation:
- Grab some paper and something to write with.
- Find 3 packaged food items that you think are sugar-free and 3 packaged food items you think have sugar, but don’t peek at the nutrition label while you collect these items!
- Take notes about your food items and why you think they have sugar or don't have sugar.
- When you are done with your notes, look at the nutrition labels.

Need help identifying what is sugar? Take a look at this list of sugary ingredients.

Questions to think about:
- Were your guesses correct?
- Which item had the most sugar? The least?
- How many different sugars were present in each food?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Protein Cookie
While sugars are important for providing energy, protein is an essential nutrient needed for growth of muscles, bones, and tissues. Can you identify what foods are high in protein? Test your knowledge and design a protein-rich cookie of your own.

Take a look at (or print out) this activity sheet from Del Monte Foods
- Identify which foods are high in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. 
- Design a cookie that includes at least two different proteins.
- Try your cookie design and share it with members of your household.

Questions to think about: 
- What ingredients did you use in your protein cookie? 
- Do proteins only come from animal sources? 
- What kinds of foods should vegetarians eat to make sure they get enough protein? 
- What protein-rich foods have you eaten today? 

 

Week 10: Luminescence

Light without heat? Pshaw. It's true! Luminescent mysteries save lives. But how? Get ready to find out!

Monday: Science Reading
Bioluminescence
Animals that produce light are bioluminescent. Unlike a lightbulb that requires electricity, bioluminescent animals produce light from chemical reactions. Learn more about ocean animals that produce light with this article about Living Lights in the Sea.

Still curious? Look at this footage from Dr. Edith Widder's expedition to the bottom of the ocean (available in Spanish and English).

Questions to think about: 
- How do you use light in your life? 
- What are some ways ocean animals use light? 
- What universal ways do all animals use light?
- How is color perceived differently at the bottom of the ocean? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Spark in the Dark

It’s science in your mouth! Produce a luminescent spark using only your teeth and a minty treat. 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Fluorescence

In 2008, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). Read about their work, which all started with a simple question: “How do jellyfish light up?”

Questions to think about:
- What ideas or skills did each scientist bring to the discovery and development of GFP?
- How has GFP revolutionized our ability to understand genetics and biology?
- Have you ever worked on a project with someone whose experience was different from yours? What did you learn from the other person?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Searching for Bioluminescent Scorpions

OMSI's own Hancock Field Station is home to the northern scorpion, Paruroctonus boreus. They are relatively harmless, but because they blend into their surroundings they are hard to find.

However, scorpions are bioluminescent and glow when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Put your observation skills to the test as you help us search for the glow of bioluminescent scorpions!

Observation:
- Get a piece of paper and something to write with.
View this scorpion footage from OMSI's Hancock Field Station and make observations.
- Where is the scorpion located?
- Is there one scorpion? Or multiple scorpions?
- What color is the scorpion? Does it change?
- What is the scorpion doing?
- Record your observations by writing notes, drawing pictures, taking photos, or collecting data.

Questions to think about:
- When is the best time to find scorpions with a UV (black) light?
- Why do you think some animals glow, but others don't?
- How might scorpions benefit from bioluminescence?
- Do you think bioluminescence could hurt a scorpion? If so, how?
- How is bioluminescence different in land vs. ocean ecosystems?
- What else might glow under ultraviolet light?

Friday: Design Challenge
Bioluminescent Technology

Imagine a world where electrical engineers learn from bioluminescent organisms and start designing long-lasting luminescent lights. What would that world look like? 

With luminescence in mind, design new lights for your home, school, neighborhood or city. Use any materials you like to write, sketch, or build a model.  

Here are some ideas to get you started: 
- Street lights
- Bedside table lamp
- Bathroom nightlight
- Dashboard lights in a car
- Stop lights
- Stadium lights
- Classroom ceiling lights

Remember, bioluminescent plants and animals come in all shapes and sizes—so your designs can too!

Questions to think about: 
- How might you turn on or off the lights?
- If the lights were on all the time, how would you recharge them?
- If every light bulb emitted a green glow, do you think you would experience the world differently? Why or why not?
- Would your lights affect light pollution levels? Why or why not?
- What would you need to study to be a luminescent light designer?

Week 9: Sound Waves

Sounds are all around us, but what exactly is a sound? Tune in this week to get the scoop on sound waves!

Monday: Science Reading
Take a minute and think about what sounds have you heard today—people talking in your home? An alarm clock? Perhaps pets? Cars? Read this article from Let's Talk Science to learn more about what sound actually is and how we hear it.

Questions to think about: 
- How do we hear sound waves? 
- What is the difference between a high-pitched sound wave and a low-pitched sound wave? 
- How does the wave change when a sound gets louder?
- Is a sound wave different from a light wave or an ocean wave? How?

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Squawking Soundboards

When an object vibrates, it moves the air around it. Explore sound waves and forced vibrations by building your own musical soundboard!

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Careers in Sound

Have your heard? A number of professionals work with sound, including audio engineers, sonic boom researchers, and foley artists!

Alexandria Perryman: Audio Engineer
Christine Darden: Sonic Boom Researcher
The Magic of Making Sound: Foley Artistery

Questions to think about:
- What do these careers have in common?
- Can you think of other careers that investigate or explore sound?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Sound Maps

Use your ears to observe your surroundings.

Observation:
- Draw a map of the room you are in, then close your eyes and listen.
- What sounds do you hear? Can you identify what the sounds are? Are they from a machine, a living thing, nature, or something else?
- Where are the sounds coming from?
- On your map, draw pictures or icons to represent each of the sounds you hear.

But remember, not everyone uses their ears to hear! If you have a balloon at home, inflate it about as big as your head. Turn on some music and hold the balloon lightly between your hands as you sit in front of the speaker. What do you feel? Can you describe the song based on the vibrations you feel in the balloon?

Questions to think about:
- How many sounds did you hear?
- Were there any sounds you could not identify?
- What was it like to observe your surroundings using only your sense of hearing?

Friday: Design Challenge
Sound Effects Design Challenge

As you saw in the video on Wednesday, Foley artists use sound effects to bring a film to life! Design your own film sounds effects using common materials around your home. 

- Find or film a video for which you can design sound effects.
- Using materials around your home, try making a variety of sounds. Try to create some of these!

- Twang
- Click
- Snap
- Scrape
- Wind
- Rattle
- Tap
- Shake
- Crunch
- Crash 
- Lock

- Practice making the sound effects you need to accompany your film. Pay attention to the amplitude and pitch of the sounds you are producing. 
- Start the film and perform your sound effects as it plays. 
 
Questions to think about: 
- What sound effects were hardest to create? 
- What sounds effects create the tallest sounds waves (large amplitude)? 
- What sounds effects create the shortest sound waves (small amplitude)?
- Are there parts of your film that don't require words or sounds to be understood? 

Week 8: Science Communication

How do you talk about science? Learn and practice science communication skills today and every day. 

Monday: Science Reading
A good science communicator can explain science and scientific research to people with a non-scientific background, and make this information relevant and understandable. Read this article from The Science Basement to learn more about what a science communicator does. 

Questions to think about: 
- How do you talk about science? 
- How do you like learning about science? 
- What are your science strengths? 
- Think of a time when you felt excited about a science topic—what made this experience so memorable?
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Drawing a Common Vision

Have you ever tried to explain something to another person, but they just did not understand? Put your science communication skills to the test with this simple challenge!

Activity worksheet >



Wednesday: Career Connection
Science Communication is happening in books, music, museums, podcasts, and more. Explore the different ways these science communicators speak to the public:

Wow in the World Podcast: So, You've Been Swallowed By a Frog
The Fab Lab with Crazy Aunt Lindsey: The Three States of Matter
Science Friday: Bats Take Flight

Questions to think about:
- Who are these communicators trying to teach?
- What strategies are the communicators using to connect with their audience?
- Which communicator or communication style is your favorite? Why?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Practice Asking Questions

Science communicators can ask questions to find out what their audience already understands about a topic. This week, make observations about common items and ask questions to understand what your friends and family already know about them. 

Observation:
1. Grab paper and something to write with.
2. Find an object around your home that is used a lot (like the fridge or TV).
3. Observe and record how your friends or family members use the object.
4. Ask family or friends about the object. What do they know about it? Where did it come from? How does it work?

Questions to think about:
- What is already known about the object?
- Did other people know different information than you did about the object?
- What additional information would you like to teach your friends and family members about the object?

Friday: Design Challenge

Science communicators can create museum exhibits to tell stories about people, places, and things. 

In this activity, you will design your own home museum exhibit with objects from your home to explore a topic. Exhibits can help others better understand and appreciate our world. 

1. Think about the kind of topic you want to focus on. 
2. Collect objects from inside or outside your home that relate to your topic. 
3. Learn more about each object. Do research, interview friends and family members, write down observations, and make drawings. 
4. Write a brief summary for each object based on what you learned. 
5. Create a sign to place next to the object. Remember to include words and drawings! 
6. Create a museum exhibit with all the collected objects and signs. 
7. Show your museum to friends and family members! 

Want to continue your experience? Make a video of yourself explaining your museum exhibit and all the objects within it. 

Questions to think about: 
- What did you enjoy about creating your own museum? What was difficult? What was fun?
- Ask your friends and family what they learned from your museum. 
- What topics do your exhibit visitors want to learn more about? 

Week 7: Weather

Curious about the weather? OMSI is here with your 5-day forcast of weather-science resources!

Monday: Science Reading
Read What is Weather? and What is Climate? to understand how these things are different, but related. 

Questions to think about: 
- What is weather? What is climate? How are they different?
- What are some weather words that you don't know? Look them up!
- What is the weather today?
- What is the climate of your town? Your county? Your state?

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Make your own weather barometer! Will you be okay with a t-shirt, or will you need a rain jacket for the day? Learn to predict the weather by observing changes in air pressure with your own weather barometer. 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Learn about pioneering meteorologist June Bacon-Bercey, an early science reporter and talented meteorologist who actively supported women and minorities in the sciences.

Questions to think about:
- What does a meteorologist study?
- Why was June Bacon-Bercy's meteorology career so important?
- What kinds of careers are possible with a degree in meteorology?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Ready to observe your weather? Head outside with paper and something to write with! Record what you see by writing notes, drawing pictures, taking photos, or collecting data.

Observation:
- Observe the weather
- Is it windy?
- Is it hot or cold?
- Are there clouds? Rain?
- How does your skin feel?
- Make a prediction about tomorrow's weather (use your barometer if you made one!)
- Repeat your observations tommorow. Was your prediction correct? 

Questions to think about:
- How would you describe wind to another person?
- How do you know that you are hot or cold?
- Ask a friend or family member to think about a weather event they experienced. What was the weather like? What was the season? What was memorable about this weather event?

Friday: Design Challenge

What is the weather like around the world? Choose a random location and design a weather report for that town in this fun challenge!

Visit the World Climate site and enter the name of a town or city located anywhere in the world. Click around to find the climate data you need, then design a weather report for that town or city.

Your report should include: 
- That day's weather
- High and low temperatures
- The next day's weather prediction
- Any interesting weather phenomenon happening that day (e.g., wind, snow, frost)
- Draw a map or pictures to use for your forecast
- Gather your friends or family and deliver the weather report

Need ideas for your weather forecast? Try these tips:
- Watch your local weather forecast and observe how the weather is reported.
- Use these Forecasting Terms to help prepare your script.
- Use props in your forecast such as a rain jacket, a pair of sunglasses, an umbrella, or baseball hat. 

Questions to think about: 
- How accurate are meteorologist's weather forecasts?
- What tools do meteorologist use to help predict the weather?
- Can climate help predict daily weather?
- What are the challenges to delivering a weather forecast?

Week 6: Fungi

Fungi are mysterious and often overlooked, yet these organisms are critical to our past, present, and future.

Monday: Science Reading
Read this article from Grow Wild UK to understand what fungi are, where they are, and why they are so important! For example, did you know some fungi are used to make medicine, cheese, and chocolate?

Questions to think about: 
- Do you eat any food that contains fungi? What kind? 
- Can you find evidence of fungi around your home? Describe what it looks like and what you think it eats to a friend or family member. 
- Does the fruit of a fungus produce spores or seeds? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Mushrooms reproduce using spores instead of seeds. A single mushroom spore is only 4 to 20 microns in size, which means a human could not see it without a microscope. However, there is a simple way to observe the spores of a mushroom—create an art print out of billions of spores! 

Activity worksheet > 

Wednesday: Career Connection
From farms to labs, there are a number of interesting jobs that work with fungi. In these videos, check out the daily life of a mushroom farmer and understand how a research scientist studies mushrooms in a lab!

Questions to think about:
- What is similar about the jobs of the mushroom farmer and the mushroom scientist? What is different? 
- What science skills do farmers use to be successful? 
- What farmer skills do scientists use to be successful?
- What science question would you want to study using mushrooms?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
When we find a mushroom above the ground, we're only seeing a small part of the fungus! Mushrooms consist of massive underground networks of mycelium, and they provide benefits to nearby plants. Learn more about the symbiotic relationships between fungi and plants in this video.

1. Brainstorm areas that could have mushrooms, such as in large fields, under trees, on a dead log. 
2. Grab paper and something to write with.
3. Go outside and search for mushrooms! 
4. Make observations about mushrooms you find with drawings, photos, and notes about location, environment, and weather. 
**You can touch mushrooms, but do not eat them! Some mushrooms are toxic, so only eat wild foods with an expert**
5. After finding several mushrooms, reflect on your notes.

Observation:
- What is similar about the mushrooms you found? What is different?
- What do you think each mushroom is feeding on? How is it getting that food? 
- Talk with someone at home about the mushrooms you found and what partnerships they may have made with other living things.

Friday: Design Challenge

Did you know that flour has both wild yeast (fungi) and bacteria occurring naturally on its surface? You can create a sourdough started by creating an environment that allows the yeast and bacteria on flour to grow. 

Over time, the yeast and bacteria will begin to eat the flour’s sugars and produce gas and acids. The result is a living mixture with growing fungi and bacteria! 

In this fun and edible design challenge, you'll learn the science behind sourdough as you grow a fungi in your home—and maybe even turn that fungi into bread! 

Week 5: Genetics

99.9% of DNA is the same in every human. Find out where your DNA comes from and what makes you unique!

Monday: Science Reading
Read this article from The Genetic Science Learning Center (and watch their fun video!) to get an introduction to inheritance and genetic variation.

Questions to think about: 
- Where do humans get their DNA? 
- Why is genetic variation important? What would happen without it? 
- Do you have more DNA in common with your mom or your grandmother? Why? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Strawberries are octoploid, meaning they have 8 copies of DNA! We can use physical crushing and bromelain (found in pineapple juice) to help break open strawberry cells and actually see the DNA clump together in the alcohol. 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Learn from Portland author and genealogist Stephen Hanks in this Ologies podcast episode about genealogy, where he discusses his passion for learning about his own genetic history.

Questions to think about:
- What is the difference between a geneticist and a genealogist?
- What evidence can you use to discover your family history?
- How has genealogy changed with the popular use of at-home DNA tests?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Your phenotype describes your physical traits. Genes influence our phenotype, but our environment plays a role as well! Listen to this audio and read this paragraph from the National Human Genome Research Institute for more information about phenotypes.

Observation:
- Grab a notebook and something to write with.
- Find a mirror.
- Make observations about your physical traits (e.g., eye color, nose shape, height).
- Record your observations in words, numbers, and/or drawings.
- With their permission, record observations of your family member's traits.

Questions to think about:
- What traits do you share with your family members?
- Is there a trait you have that no one else in your family has? How do you think you got that trait?
- Do you have any physical traits that are influenced by your environment or life choices?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a string of DNA! Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) forms in the shape of a twisted ladder known as a double helix. Chemical bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine) pair together to form the center of the helix. The order of these base pairs translates into genetic information.

In this design challenge, you'll create your own DNA sequence using beads and string. You can even choose to research real human genetic data to inform your design! 

Questions to think about: 
- Did you ever make a mistake when pairing your beads? Do you think there are unexpected differences in our DNA? 
- What happens when there is a difference in our DNA? 

Week 4: Chemistry

It's National Chemistry Week! Get stuck on science as we explore adhesives for this year's theme: Sticking with Chemistry!

Monday: Science Reading
Humans have been using sticky things since ancient times, and we all have sticky things in our home today, from the glue that seals our boxes of cereal or crackers to the adhesives holding our shoes together! Read this American Chemical Society article to learn about about the sticky chemistry behind glues and adhesives. 
 
Questions to think about: 
- Don't move! How many things can you find near you that stick to other things? 
- Besides adhesives, in what ways is chemistry useful to you?
- Explain the difference between adhesion and cohesion to a friend or family member.
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
What surface is the best for sticking and unsticking an adhesive note? Post-it® Notes have a unique adhesive made up of a single layer of small spheres connected to paper—but that adhesive is designed not to stick very strongly. In this experiment, you'll learn how this unique material allows an adhesive note to be stuck, unstuck, and re-stuck on different surfaces! Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
In honor of this year’s National Chemistry Week theme, “Sticking with Chemistry,” meet polymer chemist Dr. Chelsea Davis! She works on understanding why some surfaces are stickier than others, and even builds her own machines to measure adhesion!

Questions to think about:
- Why do you think some sticky substances don't work as well on cold or wet things?
- What kind of machine would you build to test an adhesive?
- What's something that excites you about chemistry?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
What does it stick to? Take a look at the things around you that stick to other things.

Observation:
- Look around your home for sticky items, like tape, glue, Velcro, bandages, magnets, water, mud, syrup, and more. 
- Test each item on various things to see what it sticks to. Make sure to check wtih an adult before doing any tests!
- Write or draw your observations.
- Based on your observations, sort items into groups of similar adhesives. 

Questions to think about:
- What do you think makes each item sticky?
- Did you find any items you thought would be sticky, but were not?
- Of the sticky things you tested, which items stick with adhesion? Which stick with cohesion? Which things do both?
- What makes items in your groups similar?

Friday: Design Challenge
October 23 is a holiday for chemists: Mole Day! Celebrate Mole Day by designing your ideal "mole"asses cookie.

In this design challenge you will bake three batches of cookies: one with fresh dough, one with refrigerated dough, and one batch of your own design. Can science produce the perfect cookie?

Questions to think about:
- How do the three batches of cookies compare to each other? What was similar? What was different?
- What did you change about the last batch of cookies? How were the cookies affected?

Week 3: Astrobiology

It's not science fiction—learn how real scientists search for alien life in our solar system and beyond!

Monday: Science Reading
Let's explore Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Younger students can read about Europa: Jupiter's Ocean World while older students can read about what might make life possible on Europa: Ingredients for Life?

And closer to home, in September 2020, a potential biosignature gas was found in the upper atmosphere of Venus—a possible sign of microbial life in the hazy clouds above our neighboring planet.

Questions to think about: 
- What ingredients are necessary for life to exist on a planet or moon?
- How is Europa different than Earth? 
- What is special about Europa's oceans that makes us want to search for life there?
- Are there other planets or moons that could support life? Do some research!

Want to learn more about NASA's ocean research? This Ocean Worlds: The Search for Life video examines evidence of oceans across the galaxy and shares how we can better understand worlds beyond Earth if we know about our own ocean.

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
How do astrobiologists tell the difference between something that is alive, and something that is simply acting alive? Observe these bubbling biological and chemical reactions and find out for yourself! Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Listen to this What is Astrobiology? NASA Gravity Assist podcast episode with Mary Voytek, head of NASA's astrobiology program. 

Questions to think about: 
- What is astrobiology? Explain it to a friend or family member.
- Why is it important to look for life on other planets and moons?
- What can we learn from astrobiology, even if we haven't found alien life yet?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
What is life? If astrobiologists need to be able to identify life on other planets, they should also be able to identify life on Earth!

Observation: 
- Bring your science journal and a pen or pencil outside to observe your environment. 
- Find something that is not alive and record it in your journal. 
- How do you know it isn't alive?
- Now find something that is alive and record it in your journal. 
- How can you tell it's alive?  

Questions to think about: 
- What do living things have in common? 
- Is a tree alive? A rock? A mushroom? A car? A cloud?
- Scientists don't always agree on how to define life. Based on what you've observed, how would you define life?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design an alien organism! Life forms develop and evolve in response to their environment. For example, Europa has a deep ocean covered in ice, no air, and no dry land, so what might a Europan plant or animal look like? How would it live and eat? 

And remember: We often think of aliens as animals. However, remember that aliens could be mold, bacteria, or plants too! 

- Research any planet or moon to learn about its environment.
- Design an alien life form that could live there.
- Create a model. Design your alien on paper, sculpt it out of clay, or build it with other materials!

Questions to think about: 
- What would your alien eat? 
- Where would your alien live, exactly? 
- How would your alien get its energy? 

Week 2: Oregon High Desert Ecology

Oregon's not all forests and moss! Explore the flora, fauna and geology of Central and Eastern Oregon.

Monday: Science Reading

Oregon is home to many ecological communities, including high deserts! Learn more about Oregon's high desert with this virtual field trip.

Questions to think about:

- What is a high desert?
- What animals live in the high desert?
- Why is the climate on the west side of Oregon so wet and the east side so dry? Form a hypothesis and tell a friend of family member.

Read more:

National Geographic: Explore Desert Habitats (great for younger kids!) 

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity

The Cascade Range interrupts wet air blowing east from the Pacific Ocean, causing the water vapor to get cold and condense. Discover how mountains can change the air and cause rain to fall! Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection

Take a virtual road trip and explore Oregon's geology with Oregon Field Guide! Go through a slot canyon, discover the story behind black basalt cliffs, and find out what "cave bacon" is.

Questions to think about:

- Have you ever taken a picture of nature? What did you understand about the rocks, plants, and animals in the picture? What do you still need to learn about? 
- How can nature photos help us study geology or other sciences?

Thursday: Observation

Central and Eastern Oregon ecosystems are important habitats for sage-grouse. First,  read about sage-grouse from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, then do the observation.

Observation:
- Grab a notebook and something to write with.
Watch sage-grouse in Bend, Oregon, on this wildlife camera.
- Make observations about the Oregon sage-grouse! Record your observations in words, numbers, and drawings.

Questions to think about:
- How many sage-grouse do you observe? What are they doing?
- How are the sage-grouse similar? How are they different?
- Are the sage-grouse making any sounds?
- Did you observe the sage-grouse eating? What did they eat?

Friday: Design Challenge

Oregon is full of unique ecosystems, but we challenge you to design your own state! 
Use a shoebox and materials from around your home to create a diorama of your state's ecosystems. 

Be sure to include: 
- At least one mountain range
- Habitat in which sage-grouse can live
- Water sources for humans, animals, and plants

Questions to think about: 
- What kinds of plants and animals live in your state? 
- What areas of your state get the most rainfall? Why? 
- Are there forest or high desert regions in your state? 

 

Week 1: Oceans

Oceans cover more than 70% of Earth’s surface. Dive in for a week of engaging ocean activities!

Monday: Science Reading

Read this article from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to learn fun facts about plankton, then teach a friend or family member about the difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Questions to think about:
- Are there vocabulary worlds in the article you don't understand? Look them up!
- What questions do you have about Plankton? See if you can find the answers!

Tuesday: DIY Activity

Plankton is what we call the diverse organisms that live in large bodies of water. Can you construct a neutrally-buoyant "plankton" that will just barely float or sink as slowly as possible? Activity Worksheet > 

 

Wednesday: Career Connection

Listen to Meet the Ocean podcasts about The Penguin Wrangler and Killer Whale Scatter

Questions to think about:
- What is the benefit of studying whale poop?
- What are some of the challenges of researching wild animals? What kind of modern technologies can we use to make research easier?
- What would you study if you were an oceanographer (an ocean scientist)? Why?

Thursday: Observation Journaling

Grab a notebook and something to write with, then head outside (with an adult) and locate a stormwater drain in your neighborhood. Make observations about what you see, hear, smell, and feel, and record your observations in words, numbers, and drawings.

Questions to think about:
- Where does the water come from that enters the drain?
- Is water the only thing that ends up going down the drain?
- Where do you think the water eventually ends up?
- How could we improve stormwater drainage systems?

Friday: Design Challenge

Plastic is a problem for ocean ecosystems—in fact, plastic is the most common kind of ocean debris. To understand how plastics impact the ocean, read this article from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) then design a tool that could help people in your community remove plastic waste from the ocean. Build a model or describe your tool to a friend or family member! 

Questions to think about:
- Is your tool safe to use around ocean creatures?
- What size of plastic is your tool designed for? How could you change your tool to capture bigger or smaller pieces of plastic?

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