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! Upcoming themes include oceans, astrobiology, genetics, fungi, weather, chemistry, and more.

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?

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 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 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 5: Genetics (coming soon)

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

Week 6: Fungi (coming soon)

It's fall! Mushroom season! Fungi are often unseen and mysterious, yet these organisms are critical to our past, present and future.

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