Weekly Science at Home

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

Week 30: Phenology

In our last week of Science at Home, explore phenology and the many ways you can continue to engage as a citizen scientist! 

Monday: Science Reading 
Defining phenology
We all have an idea of when spring begins, but what if that timing is changing? Phenology is the study of nature's clock—when certain seasonal changes and events occur throughout the year. Phenology helps us understand plant and animal life cycles, especially how they react to changes in global climate.

Learn more about phenology and why it is important in this week's science reading.

Learn more about autumn phenology in this video.

Oregon is home to the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, where long-term phenology data has been collected since 1948. Find out more about the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest.

Discussion questions: 
- Have you noticed any pheonologic changes over your lifetime? 
- Why is it important to understand how plants and animals react to changes in climate? 
- How can phenology help farmers? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Phenology Flipbook
You can be a phenologist in your own outdoor space! Record your daily observations in a flipbook to make your science come alive in animation. 

Activity worksheet >
 

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Studying decades of phenology data
Determining how seasons and climates shift takes a lot of time! Check in with Oregon State University graduate student Sarah Ward about the phenology study she is conducting at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest.

Want to help climate researchers at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest? Join Oregon Season Tracker and observe plant phenology and precipitation from your home or neighborhood natural area.

Learn more about Oregon Season Tracker from Jody Einerson, who works for Oregon State University's Extension Service.

Questions to think about: 
- Is phenology data helpful in understanding changes in climate if it is only collected one time?  
- What are three ways that you would record phenology data (such as numbers)? 
- Why is long-term data important? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observe Seasonal Changes
You can be a season tracker! All you need is an obervation location and the ability to return to it several times.

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Select an observation station in your backyard or local park.
- Make observations of the plants, animals, and weather that you can see from your observation station.
- Observations can include words, descriptions, dates, numbers, maps, and/or drawings.
- Return to your observation station location several times and repeat your observations.

You can even report your observations through Nature's Notebook as a citizen scientist.
 

Questions to think about: 
- How could you tell when seasons changed? 
- What observations surprised you? 
- How would your observations be helpful for phenologists and climate researchers? 
- Are there observations you wish you would have made? 

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a summer of citizen science
Scientists studying phenology often ask for citizen scientists like you to help them collect data. By noting when a flower blooms in your neighborhood and reporting your observation, you could be helping a scientist understand climate change!

Citizen science doesn't only exist in the field of phenology. There are many ways to collect real data to help research projects across many fields. If you want to get involved in a citizen science project, now is a great time to design a plan.

Make sure to consider:
- What background knowledge do you need to be successful?
- Have you learned the appropriate data collection protocols?
- How much time do you need to collect data?
- Do you need any special tools?

Need a citizen science project suggestion? Here are some great places to start!
Nature's Notebook
Budburst
CoCoRaHS
Oregon Season Tracker
Portland Urban Coyote Project
SciStarter 

Discussion questions: 
- What citizen science projects are you most excited about? 
- Why is citizen science important? 
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of using citizen science data in scientific research? 

Week 29: Sports Science

Sports science isn't just for athletes! This week, explore how you can apply sports science to the movements you do every day.

Monday: Science Reading 
The Science of Exercise
Sports science combines many fields of study to help us understand and perfect the performance of the human body.

Not an althlete? No problem! The principals of sports science can also be applied to the movements involved in dancing, excercise, gardening, playing outside, and other day-to-day activities. Learn more about sports science in this week's science reading.

And did you know that performing on Broadway is a serious sport! Check out the biomechanics of three Lion King cast members during their performances.

Discussion questions: 
- What subjects should a sports scientists study in school?
- How would you describe sports science to a friend?
- Where might you meet a sports scientist?
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Test your Reaction Time!
How fast can you catch an object? Find a partner to help you test your reaction time. 

Activity worksheet > 

Wednesday: Career Connection 
A Day in the Life of a Physical Therapist
Part coach and part doctor, physical therapists help people overcome various challenges with their bodies. Physical therapists apply sports science to find fun and successful ways to help their patients recover, gain strength, and live fuller lives. Interested in a physical therapy career?

Step into a day in the life of several physical therapists working in hospitals, schools, and more in this video.

Questions to think about: 
- What types of research questions do physical therapics wonder about?
- What do you think motivates a physical therapist to do the work that they do?
- What does a successful day look like for these sports scientists?

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Balance
Good balance is important when playing sports, exercising, and engaging in everyday movements. In order to keep your balance in control, your brain uses signals from your eyes, ears, and other body parts —like your muscles. 

Test your own abilities and make observations about what impacts your balance: 
- Grab paper, a timer, and something to write with. 
- Time how long you can balance (up to 60 seconds) on one foot.
- Record your time and make observations about your balancing experience. 
- Next, time how long you can balance on one foot (up to 60 seconds) with the following constraints: 
     - While wearing earmuffs or earplugs 
     - While wearing a blindfold
     - While wearing earmuffs and a blindfold
     - While listening to music with headphones  
     - After doing 20 jumping jacks 
- Record your time and observations about each balancing experience. 
 

Questions to think about: 
- During which activity were you able to balance the longest? 
- Why might changing your hearing or your eyesight affect your ability to balance? 
- Do you think humans can learn to improve their balance? How?

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design an Exercise Routine
Regular exercise is an important element of a healthy lifestyle. Too much exercise or unbalanced activities, however, can cause injury or stress on your body. Designing an exercise routine, setting personal goals, and taking notes on your body's performance are all ways to stay in shape while avoiding injury.

This week, design a week-long exercise routine that is based on your own goals and current fitness levels. Remember to consider:
- What muscles are you using each day?
- When and for how long are you planing to exercise each day? Is it realistic?
- How are you making exercising fun for yourself?
- Are you building in rest and recovery days to your exercise schedule?

Stick with your weekly exercise routine for one month. Make changes depending on how your body reacts and recovers each day.

Here are some ideas for exercises to build into your weekly routine:
- Jumping jacks
- Stretches
- 30 second plank
- Push-ups
- Balance
- Yoga

Discussion questions:
- Did your body change over time? If so, how?
- How long did you exercise each day? How long did you allow for recovery?
- Did you ever feel challenged, bored, fatigued, or proud?
- How can you adjust your routine to produce better personal performance?

Week 28: Coding

Computers are everywhere in our modern world. Learn more about the code that controls these machines in this week’s science at home. 

Monday: Science Reading 
Learn code, play games!
Computer programmers write code that instructs a computer to execute a specific task. But learning to be a programmer doesn't have to be dull!

In fact, you can learn to write code by playing games. In this week's science reading, learn how Samaira Mehta found a way to make coding fun with board games.

Discussion questions: 
- Why is it important to learn the basic concepts of computer coding first?
- How could coding help students succeed at solving problems?
- How would you make one of your school subjects more fun to learn about? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Think Like a Computer
Can a computer really think? Step into the brain of a computer and experience how they process information. 

Activity worksheet > 

 

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Send Mars to Earth with Code
Computer programming shows up everywhere in our modern world—as well as on Mars! Melody Ho is a computer programer for NASA. Learn how she uses computer code to develop systems that transmit images taken on Mars to Earth where we can see them.

Questions to think about: 
- Do you remember your first experience with a computer? What about it do you remember? 
- How does Melody's computer programming work help make NASA data more available to the general public? 
- How would you apply computer programming to your favorite science topic? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Computers are Everywhere!
What objects come to mind when you think about a computer? Do you think of a tablet? A laptop? In reality, computers are all around us and come in endless forms. Gaming consoles, smart phones, and many modern appliances also connect to the internet and contain computers!

Can you observe all the computers inside your space?

- Grab paper and something to write with.
Watch this video and start thinking about what exactly a computer is.
- Look around your space and identify everything with a computer.
- Make observations about each object. Think about:
     - Where is the computer located?
     - What is the computer capable of? 
     - How does the computer change your daily life?  
     - Your observations can be written notes, stories, pictures, or maps.
 

Questions to think about: 
- Where you surprised by the number of computers that exist in your space? 
- Are there objects in your space that don't have a computer, but should? What are they? What would the computers do?   
- Is it good or bad that humans rely so heavily on computers? 

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Code Using Code
Computer programmers have found many ways to make coding easier. For example, if you need to repeat an algorithm over and over again, a programmer might write something called a function.

A function is usually one or two words that—when written in the code—actually executes a much longer algorithm. The function ‘make_toast’ could contain a longer list of instructions like 'cut bread, put bread in toaster, turn on toaster,' etc.

Using all of the computer programming knowledge you have learned this week, your challenge is to write a function that your friends could use to decode a secret message!

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Write a function that contains instructions to encode a secret message.
     - For example, your ‘encode_message’ function could contain the algorithm: 'shift each letter back one in the alphabet.'
- Write a secret message and translate it using your ‘encode_message’ function.
- Now, write a function that will decode your secret message.
     - For example, your ‘decode_message’ function has to contain the algorithm: 'shift each letter forward one in the alphabet' (the opposite of your 'encode_message' function).
- In our example here, the encoded message GDKKN would be translated to HELLO by our ‘decode_message’ function.
- Give your encoded message and your 'decode_message' function to a friend so they can read the message.

Discussion questions:
- Was your friend able to decode your message? If not, what can you change about your function to make it work?
- Could you make your function harder to crack?
- What else do you think computer programmers do to make code easier to write?

Week 27: Volcanoes

Looking for an explosive way to spend your week? Join us in learning all about the science of volcanoes!

Monday: Science Reading 
Introduction to Volcanoes
Volcanoes are openings in the Earth’s crust. When active volcanoes erupt, they release lava (molten rock), gas, and/or ash into their surrounding environment. Read through this fact sheet from the Geological Society of London to learn more about volcanoes.

Do you live near any volcanoes? Find out with this map of U.S. volcanoes and their activity status.

Discussion questions: 
- Do you live near any volcanoes? Are they shield, composite (a.k.a. stratovolcano), or another type of volcano?
- What are the positive side effects of volcanic eruptions?
- Are there volcanoes on other planets and moons in our solar system? Which ones? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Testing Lava Flows
Different types of volcanoes are formed from different types of lava. Test multiple lava substitutes to determine how viscosity (stickiness) could affect the flow of a volcanic eruption. 

Activity worksheet >

 

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Studying Volcanoes
A volcanologist is a scientist who studies volcanoes. This short video from National Geographic gives you a peek into the lives of volcanologists studying the Santa Maria and Santiaguito Volcano complex near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Questions to think about: 
- If you were a volcanologist, what questions would you want to explore about volcanoes?
- Volcanologists wear clothes and shoes that designers create for mountain climbing. What are some other careers that support volcanologists?
- How can volcanologists help us stay safe?
- What science careers are you interested in?

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Volcano Locations
Where in the world are all the volcanoes? Is their placement random, or do they correlate to other geologic formations? Observe volcanoes using the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program interactive map, which shows volcanic activity and earthquakes between 1960 and 2017.

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Visit the Smithsonian's interactive volcano map.
- Make observations about where volcanos exist. Your observations can be made in words or pictures.
- Now, view this map of Earth's plates, which are the large pieces of crust that slowly move and slide in different directions
- Compare your volcano observations to the locations of Earth's plates. What do you notice?
 

Questions to think about: 

- Did you observe any patterns to where the world's volcanoes are located?
- Are volcanoes and earthquakes occuring in the same or different places?
- How do the location of the volcanoes match with the location of Earth's plates?
 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Volcano Monitoring Tool
Volcanoes can be hard to study! Many observations must be made at a mountain summit, from the air, or in dangerous locations. Monitoring tools help volcanologists make constant observations of volcanoes without being there in person.

Your challenge is to design a monitoring tool for a real volcano that would help volcanologists gather data.

Visit the Smithsonian's Volcanoes of the World database and choose a volcano you want to study.
- Decide what scientific variable you would want to observe at that volcano (such as air temperature, gas levels, earthquakes, or lava flow) .
- Design a tool that could be left on the volcano to measure that scientific variable. Remember to consider:
     - How will your tool operate in the volcano's climate conditions?
     - Would your tool survive if the volcano erupted?
     - How and where would you install your monitoring tool?
     - How will volcanologists get the data that your tool collects?
- Draw or build a model of your tool and share it with someone in your household.

Discussion questions:
- Would you tool be useful on other volcanoes? Why or why not? 
- Could you change your design to blend seamlessly into the natural environment?
- Are there some scientific observations that must be made in person on the volcano? If so, which ones?

Week 26: Soil Science

Get your hands dirty exploring the science of soil! 

Monday: Science Reading 
What is Soil?
Did you know that soil is teaming with billions of living organisms? Learn about what soil is made of, where it comes from, and the important role it plays in our food system in this week's science reading.

Discussion questions: 
- What makes soil different from dirt? 
- Do you think plants can survive in any type of soil? 
- What are the different layers of soil and how do they make up a whole soil profile? 
- Is soil always the same consistency? Why or why not? 

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Make a Seed Ball
Protect your seeds from prey and other external dangers by creating fun and simple soil balls.

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Meet a Soil Scientist
Women belong in science. One of those women is soil scientist and professor Dr. Karen Vaughan.

Hear about how she was drawn to a science field that allowed her to be outdoors and get her hands dirty, and why it is so important to have women working in STEM fields.

Questions to think about: 
- In what ways did Dr. Vaughan expand her background in soil science to encourage other women to pursue science? 
- Was it a surprise to see a scientist using a video as a way to deliver information? 
- Soil science incorporates three core scientific disciplines—what are they? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observe Your Soil
Soil is composed of three main ingredients: sand, silt, and clay. Oregon is home to many different types of soil: The coast has dense clay soil, the Willamette Valley has porous loamy soil, and the eastern deserts contain sandy soil.

In this journal exercise, you'll gather soil samples from around your neighborhood to observe what they are composed of.

You'll need a few things to get started:
1. Paper
2. Something to write with
3. Tape
4. Three clear jars with lids
5. Soil from three different locations (do not use potting soil)
6. Water

- With the paper and tape, label your jars with #1, #2, and #3
- Fill jar #1 ⅓ full with soil from the first location 
- Fill jar #2 ⅓ full with soil from the second location
- Fill jar #3 ⅓ full with soil from the third location
- Add water to just under the top of your jar and close it tight
- Shake the jar thoroughly for 60 seconds 
- Let your soil samples settle into layers overnight before conducting observations 
- Look at each jar and make an observation! This can include drawings, descriptions, and/or numbers
 

Questions to think about: 
- Soil should separate into layers including gravel, sand, silt, clay, or organic material (like leaves and sticks). Can you identify the different ingredients that make up your soils? 
- Where did you collect your soil samples from? Why did you choose those areas? 
- Did you find any living organisms in your soil, like worms, insects, or fungi? 
- If you had a microscope, what would you expect to see?

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Root System
Plants are more than what you see from above! In fact, there is a whole system of plant root activity going on in the soil.

Different plants need different roots structures depending on their needs and growing requirements. How would you design a root system for a plant in your neighborhood?

View this resource to learn about different kinds of root systems.
- Find an unwanted plant in your yard or neighborhood.
- Make observations about the plant and think about what kind of roots it would need to thrive—consider how that plant would absorb water, store nutrients, and anchor the plant in the soil.
- Design a root system for your plant! Draw and describe it to someone in your household.
- Carefully remove the plant from the soil, and make sure to check in with an adult before removing that plant.
- Compare the root system you designed to the actual roots of the plant.

Interested in continuing to explore roots? Watch a time-lapse video of a bean seed growing and learn more about the types and parts of a root system.

Discussion questions:
- How was your design similar or different to the actual roots?
- What was most surprising to you about the root system you observed?
- If you could improve the root system to gather more nutrients and water from the soil, what would you change? Why?

Week 25: Eyes

Put things in perspective! Explore the science behind eyesight and make observations about how you see the world.

Monday: Science Reading 
Cameras and The Eye
Cameras and the human eye have a lot in common! Our eyes use a cornea, lens, iris, and retina to collect and direct light. Photoreceptor cells then turn light into electrical signals, which are sent via optic nerves to the brain where an image is perceived. Similarly, cameras have an opening for light, a lens to refract the light, as well as a surface where an image is formed.

Explore how the very first camera, the Camera Obscura, works like a human eye in this week's science reading.

Discussion questions: 
- How are cameras similar to the human eye? 
- How are cameras different than the human eye? 
- Which is better, the camera or the eye? Why do you think so? 

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Find Your Blind Spot
Can you find your blind spot? The retina in your eye senses light and transmits visual signals to the brain through the optic nerve. Your blind spot is the one area on your retina where the optic nerve connects—and where your retina cannot sense light or see! 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Becoming an Ophthalmologist
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their level of training, as well as in what they can diagnose and treat. Learn more about becoming an ophthalmologist in this video.

Questions to think about: 
- How do ophthalmologists help keep human eyes healthy? 
- What procedures might an ophthalmologist perform?
- What science topics would be important to study before becoming an ophthalmologist? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Perspective Observations
Humans are capable of seeing certain distances and colors, as well as in different amounts of light and at certain angles. The vision abilities of animals can differ significantly, making their visual perspective of Earth very different from our own.

Today, make observations about how you see the world compared to other beings.

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Find an environment where you can sit comfortably.
- Draw the space based on how you see it.
- Next, draw the same space through the eyes of another, for example:
     - A dog that cannot see color
     - A horse that sees with monocular vision
     - A fly that has several lenses on its eyes
     - A bird that is seeing the space from above

Get a greater understanding of the ways animals see the world and explore how dogs, geckos, and see things differently from humans.
 

Questions to think about: 
- Did your perception of the world change after "seeing" it from the perspective of another animal? 
- What similarities and differences do you notice between the drawings you made?
- What would you change about your eyesight? 

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Designing Ideal Eyesight
Each animal, including humans, has eyes that suit their needs. Predators, for example, usually have eyes facing forward instead of on each side of their heads.

Your challenge this week is to design ideal eyesight for each imaginary animal described below. Draw each animal's eyes and write or tell someone a description of what you designed.

- An animal that flies and primarily eats fish
- An animal that eats plants and travels in herds
- A marine animal that lives at the bottom of the ocean

When designing eyesight for each animal, remember to consider these questions:
- Where are its eyes located on its head?
- Can it see color? If so, what colors?
- Can it see in the dark? Why or why not?
- How will its eyesight help it find food?

Discussion questions:
- Why did you select certain eye characteristic for certain animals?
- How have eyes evolved to suit certain types of animals?
- What would you add to human eyes to make them more ideal for us, especially in a world dominated by screens?

Week 24: Astronomy

What is Astronomy? Learn about the night sky and more from your own outdoor space! 

Monday: Science Reading 
What is Astronomy?
The way we study other planets, stars, and everything outside of Earth's atmosphere has evolved over time. Learn about what it means to be a modern-day astronomer in this week's science reading. Hint: It's more than just looking through a telescope!

Dive even deeper into the world of modern astronomy with this video

Discussion questions: 
- What does astronomy mean to you?
- Who studies astronomy?
- What are some aspects of astronomy that humans do not fully understand yet? 

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Night Sky Watcher
What do you see when you look at the night sky? Use web resources and phone apps to help you identify what you find.  

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Becoming an Astrophysicist
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a well-known astrophysicist, author, science communicator, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. Hear about how he got into an astrophysics career—and why he thinks developing an early love of science is so important.

Questions to think about: 
- What kind of science are you passionate about? How did you develop that passion? 
- What subjects are important to study if you are interested in astrophysics? 
- How is learning math like learning a new language?  

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observe the Phases of the Moon
Unlike the sun, the moon does not produce light. Instead, we see the moon because sunlight hits the surface and reflects back to Earth. As the moon orbits Earth, the angle between the moon and the sun changes. As a result, the amount of moon surface we can observe also changes.

It takes a little over 27 days for the moon to orbit Earth. During this orbit, we view phases of the moon depending on its position relative to the sun. When the sun is shining on the far side of the moon, we cannot see it at all. This is called a new moon.

A full moon is the opposite, when the sun is shining directly at the near side of the moon. And in between the new and full moon phases, we see only parts of the moon's surface.

Observe the moon above you for one month to see how it changes!

- Grab paper, a flashlight, and something to write with.
- With adult permission, head outside and locate the moon.
- Make observations about how the moon looks.
- Your observations can include words, descriptions, numbers, maps, and/or drawings.
- Repeat your observations several times over the course of a month.

Get an image of the moon's phases right here.

Questions to think about: 
- How does the moon change over time?
- Were there nights you couldn't see the moon? Why do you think that was? 
- Did your observations change depending on what time of day you made them at? 

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Designing to Limit Light Pollution
Bright city lights make it hard to observe the stars. But light pollution effects more than just our view the night sky, it also changes how nocturnal animals and insects behave. Your challenge is to design an outdoor lighting system to reduce light pollution in your neighborhood.

First, learn about the 5 principles for responsible outdoor lighting, then get to designing.

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- With the help of an adult, make observations about outdoor lights in your neighborhood at night.
- Write down the strengths and weaknesses of your current outdoor lights.
- Design a new outdoor lighting system for your neighborhood that would reduce light pollution. Think about:
     - What kind of lights you might install
     - The purpose of each light
     - The timing of your lighting system
     - The types of wildlife you want to benefit

Discussion questions:
- How does your design benefit the environment?
- What are other ways you could help reduce light pollution?
- Is your city or county currently working to reduce light pollution? If so, what techinques are they using?

Week 23: Dinosaurs

Uncover the latest science of some of the most popular prehistoric creatures—dinosaurs! 

Monday: Science Reading 
What is a Dinosaur?
Did you know that a pterodactyl is not actually a dinosaur? Learn more about what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur in this weeks science reading.

Want to test your knowledge? Take this quiz to see whether or not you can spot a true dinosaur!!
 
Discussion questions: 
- What makes a dinosaur a dinosaur? 
- Were there any dinosaurs that flew? 
- During what geologic time period did dinosaurs first appear? 

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Forming Fossils
Fossils are actually rocks that form when minerals soak into and eventually replace the remains of an organism. Some fossils, like mold and cast fossils, form from imprints of the organism’s body. 

In this week's DIY activity, skip the dig site and make your own unique fossil molds and casts at home! 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Paleoartistry
You don't have to be a paleontologist to work with dinosaurs. Meet Gabriel Ugueto, a paleoartist who uses up-to-date science to draw accurate images of prehistoric creatures.

Questions to think about: 
- What is paleoart? 
- How have the visual depictions of dinosaurs changed over time? 
- Why might an artist study anatomy? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Trace Fossils
Body fossils are the remains of an actual organism, like bones or teeth. Trace fossils are evidence of how animals moved and lived. A dinosaur footprint and an animal burrow are both examples of trace fossils. Unless a body fossil is found nearby, it can be easy to miss a trace fossil.

Make your own observations of trace fossils in this activity: 
- Grab paper and something to write with
Visit the University of Wisconsin website and view their trace fossil gallery
- Make observations about the trace fossils 
- Your observations can include words, descriptions, numbers, maps, and/or drawings

Questions to think about: 
- Do you think you could recognize a trace fossil in nature? 
- What can scientists learn from trace fossils? 
- If you found a body fossil near a trace fossil, what assumptions might you make about the trace fossil? Why might your assumptions be wrong? 

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Dinosaur
When a new prehistoric species is discovered, it must be given a scientific name. Often, scientists use Greek or Latin words to build descriptive names of prehistoric dinoasurs.

For example, Ichthyosaur is a prehistoric genus of fish lizards. The name Ichthyosaur comes from "ichthy", which means fish and "saur," which means lizard. Can you design a dinosaur knowing only its name?

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Visit this National Geographic list of Greek and Latin word parts.
- Randomly select 2 or 3 word parts from the list, or have someone else choose for you.
- Combine the selected word parts into a single name.
- Design and draw a dinosaur that matches the meaning of this new name.
- Write or tell someone a description of your dinosaur and what elements you designed to match the name.

Discussion questions: 
- How does your dinosaur design match its name? 
- What are other methods scientists might use to name a prehistoric creature? 
- If someone in your household was given the same dinosaur name, would they design something different than you? 

Week 22: Vaccines

Curious about vaccines? Explore the science behind your immune system and how vaccines give it a boost!

Monday: Science Reading
How do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines give your body protection against a disease before you get sick! Learn more about your immune system and how vaccines work with this week's science reading.

For a good visual explanation, take a look at this video and see how the immune system works, as well as how vaccines enable your body to create antibodies and fight disease.

Questions to think about: 
- How does our body react to viruses and bacteria? 
- What is an antibody? 
- How does a vaccine help our body make antibodies? 
 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Make a Microbe

Microbes are everywhere—and invisible to the naked eye. Find out what these tiny and diverse organisms look like by building a model microbe out of Play-Doh. 
 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Studying Vaccines

Public health requires more than just doctors and nurses! Communities also need people to study virology and immunology to help us understand diseases and how to fight them with vaccines and other treatments. Learn more about Hanneke Schuitemaker, Ph.D, who is currently working on the development of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. 

Interested in a career in vaccines and immunology? Check out this video profile of a Kedar Narayan, Ph.D, a research scientist studying how HIV moves from cell to cell—and how a vaccine might help block that movement.

Questions to think about:
- Would you want to study viruses or develop vaccines?
- Why is it important to study potentially harmful viruses before a lot of people get sick?
- How can new technology help us study viruses?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Contact Tracing Observations

Keeping track of the people you've been in contact with is important during a pandmic. That way, if you get sick, you can let everyone know to take extra safety precautions. Remember, being "in contact" with someone means you were within 6 feet of them for more than 15 minutes. Become a contact tracer for your household with this activity!

- Get a piece of paper and something to write with.
- Interview each person in your household about every other person they've come in contact with during the past 5 days.
- Record names, places, and times for each contact.
- Your notes can include words, descriptions, numbers, maps, and/or drawings.

Questions to think about:
- Who has been in contact with the most people?
- Are there certain places that are visited more often than others?
- Are there any contacts or places that you think are risky or should be avoided?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design an Antibody
Each human cell has antigens on its outside surface. Our body uses antigens to determine which cells are good and which cells are bad. If a cell is bad, our body produces antibodies specific to that bad cell, binding to the antigen and stopping the cell from making us sick.

Some vaccines work by displaying viral antigens on the outside of our cells. That way, our body will react by making antibodies to bind to and inactivate those cells. Later, if we are infected with the actual virus, our immune system will already know how to create the antibodies to fight it!

In this activity, you will design an antibody for a number of infectious cells. Your goal is to make the antibody perfectly bind to the bad cell's antigen.

Print this activity sheet
- Cut out each cell and blank antibody
- Design an antibody that can bind to each antigen

Questions to think about:
- Can any of your antibodies connect to more than one antigen?
- What would happen if an infectious cell mutated to display a new antigen?
- What are the similarities and differences between the antibody shapes?
- Do you think your body could be fooled by similar looking antigens? Why or why not?

Week 21: Earthquake Safety

Learn about earthquakes and how scientists, engineers, and community organizers are designing systems to help us stay safe both before and after the shaking occurs.

Monday: Science Reading 
What is a Megathrust Earthquake?
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is where the Juan de Fuca and North America tectonic plates meet in the Pacific Ocean. The movement of the tectonic plates makes the Cascadia Subduction Zone very prone to earthquakes—and not just any earthquakes, but megathrust earthquakes! Learn more about the Cascadia Subduction Zone and megathrust earthquakes in this week's science reading.

What if you could be warned about an earthquake before you feel shaking? ShakeAlert is an earthquake early warning system that uses a network of seismic sensors across Oregon, Washington, and California to detect earthquakes the moment they begin. Then alerts can be sent out, potentially giving people extra seconds to prepare.

Starting in spring 2021, residents of Oregon, Washington, and California will be able to receive earthquake alerts on their phones and other wireless devices! Learn more about #ShakeAlert in this video.
 
Discussion questions: 
- Where is the Cascadia Subduction Zone? 
- How have megathrust earthquakes shaped the landscape of western North America? 
- If you had seconds to prepare for an earthquake before shaking started, what would you do? 

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Build A Bridge
Can you build a bridge that would survive an earthquake? Put on the hat of an engineer and test your bridge design skills at home.

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Study Earthquakes as a Geophysicist
Geophysicists are scientists who examine and ask questions about the physical properties of the earth, from oceans to volcanoes! They can take on many roles in a variety of industries. A geophysicist might work outside collecting data, use a computer to create models, or both!

Maggi Glasscoe, PhD, is a geophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Learn about how she got into science and the work she does collecting data about earthquakes after they happen.

Does geophysicist sound like the job for you? See all the different types of jobs geophysicist can do—including being an earthquake scientist!

Questions to think about: 

- What kind of geophysicist would you want to become? 
- How can geophysicists help first responders after an earthquake? 
- What is helpful to study in school before becoming a geophysicist? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Past Earthquakes
Predicting future earthquakes is important, but so is studying earthquakes that have already happened! Make observations about past earthquakes that have happened around the world in this observation activity.

- Get some paper and something to write with.
View past earthquake data
- Make observations about past earthquakes. Consider exploring these questions for each earthquake you observe:
     - When did the earthquake happen?
     - Where did the earthquake happen?  
     - What was the earthquake's magnitude?
     - How deep was the earthquake? 
- Observations can be recorded as sketches, descriptions, numbers, tables, and/or graphs.

 

Questions to think about: 
- What earthquake patterns do you notice? 
- Turn on the "Show Plate Boundaries" filter. What do you notice about the areas near plates? 
- Where do the highest magnitude earthquakes usually happen? 
- Where was the most recent earthquake in Oregon? 
- What was the largest recorded earthquake in Oregon? 

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design an Emergency Go-Bag
If an earthquake hit tomorrow, do you have the right supplies ready? What do you think would be most helpful? Are there items you shouldn't pack? Design your own emergency go-bag to make sure you are as prepared as possible before the next big earthquake.

- Find an unused bag to use as a go-bag. Make sure it is easy to carry!
- Fill your bag with the items you think would be most important for you and your family.
- Find a spot in your house to safely store the bag.

Put your go-bag building skills to the test with this interactive game.
See how the professionals pack a go-bag.

Week 20: Pollination

Visit and flower! Build a nest! Discover the buzz about pollination and the animals that make it happen.

Monday: Science Reading 
Pollinators—more than just the bee!
Most plants reproduce via a process known as pollination. While bees are well-known pollinators, there are actually hundreds of thousands of animals that serve as plant pollinators. Learn more about pollination and the diversity of pollinators in this week's science reading.
 
Discussion questions: 
- What kind of animals can be pollinators? 
- What do many pollinators have in common?
- How do plants attract different pollinators?
- Why are pollinators important to human populations?

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Make a Bee Hotel
Help pollinators find a home in your yard by creating an inviting hotel for cavity-nesting bees. 

Activity worksheet >

 

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Documenting Bee Species
Exactly how many species of bees live in Oregon? Check in with the dedicated entomologists and volunteer citizen scientists contributing to the Oregon Bee Atlas, an initiative to document every native bee species across the state.

Working with pollinators can take many forms. See how the owners of Detroit Hives have transformed abandoned lots into a thriving honey community.  

Questions to think about: 
- How many different kinds of bees can you find in your yard or local park?
- Why do you think some bees are so bright and showy while others are dull and plain? 
- Why is it important to know what bee species live in Oregon? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Pollinator Diversity
What kinds of pollinators live near you? With adult permission, head outside and make observations about bees and other common pollinators, as well as the plants they like to visit.

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Find and sit near a group of flowers outside.
- Make observations about the flowers including their size, color, number, variety, and more. 
- Watch your flowers for 10 minutes and record any pollinators that visit the flowers, taking note of:
     - How long each pollinator stays at each flower
     - How many flowers the pollinator visits before leaving the area
     - How pollinators move through the patch of flowers—does their movement seem random or not?
- Observations can be recorded as sketches, descriptions, numbers, tables, and/or graphs.

Questions to think about: 
- How many different pollinators did you observe? 
- Do certain pollinators visit only one kind of flower?
- Why do you think different plants attract different pollinators?
- Do you think your presence affected whether or not some pollinators wanted to visit the flowers?

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Bee Waggle Maze
Bees communicate through a waggle dance—and you can too!

After exploring thier surroundings, honeybees return to their hive and tell other bees where all the good flowers are. They communicate this information by doing a waggle dance. Bees will face in the direction of the flowers and wag their abdomen back and forth. The longer they wag, the further away the destination is. Bees may move throughout their dance to indicate changes in direction. 

Design a waggle dance to send a partner through a set of "flower patches" until they reach the best one. You will need a piece of paper, a pencil, and at least one other person to complete this challenge. Here's how to get started: 

- Draw or write down 5 objects around the room—these will be your flower patches. Don't tell your partner what they are!
- Design a dance that will send your partner to the correct objects.
- Have your partner watch you as you face a direction and then waggle your hips. 
- You partner must decide how far and in what direction to head to reach the first flower patch. 
- Keep directing them until they have reached it and let them know they have arrived. 
- Then continue to send them onto the next patch until they have made it to all 5 flower patches.  

*For younger participants, you may reduce the number of "flower patches" or objects.

 

Questions to think about: 
- How long did it take to communicate your path?
- Was it hard for your partner to determine how far to go?
- How do you think bees interpret obstacles like buildings when they communicate with other bees?
- Do you think any part of the dance might correspond to how high to fly?
 

Week 19: Forensic Science

Ready to solve a mystery? Join us for this week's Science at Home as we grab our magnifying glasses and investigate Forensic Science.

Monday: Science Reading 
The Real Forensic Science
How accurate are the labs and tests we see on TV crime shows? Learn more about forensics and the scientific disciplines that make it possible.

See the real science that goes into solving a crime on this episode of SciShow

Questions to think about: 

- How do computers help forensic scientists do their work more accurately? 
- What science topics do you think forensic scientists need to study in school? 
- How is being a forensic scientist in real life different compared to forensic scientists on TV? 

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Dusting for Fingerprints
Don't touch anything! Use chemistry to locate fingerprints like a crime scene investigator.

Activity worksheet >


Interested in learning more about forensic science? Check out OMSI's Virtual Crime Lab program for small groups or classes. Students will use analytical thinking to piece together the evidence of a crime scene and see how fingerprints, footprints, and fibers can help catch a criminal.

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Detecting Forgery
Bessie Blount Griffin had an impressive career as an inventor, writer, and forensic scientist. She was an accomplished document examiner and handwriting expert, working for police departments in the U.S. and U.K. to detect forgeries and authenticate records. Learn more about Griffin's work

Fun fact: After 1950, manufacturers started adding fluorescent chemicals to white paper to make it look brighter. If you suspect a historical document might be fake, your first test should be to examine it under a black light. If it glows, the document is from 1950 or later! 

Questions to think about: 
- If you were examining a document, how would you test it to make sure it wasn't a fake?
- Forensics includes many career paths, including document examination, DNA analysis, chemistry, and more. If you could be a forensic scientist, what kind of work would you want to do? 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observe a (Fake) Crime Scene
Take note! Put your observation skills to the test by looking for clues and evidence in this fake crime scene: Burned Cabin.

- Grab paper and something to write with.
- Make at least 10 observations about this crime scene. Your observations could be about:
     - Light
     - Objects
     - People
     - Cleanliness
     - Anything else you think is important!
- Record your observations as numbers, descriptions, and/or drawings

This miniature crime scene was developed by Frances Glessner Lee, a pioneering female police captain and the “mother of forensic science." Learn more about Lee and how she taught investigators to scientifically approach a crime scenePlease ask for adult permission before viewing the pictures on this site, as many depict lifelike crime scenes.

Want to test your observation skills even more? Watch this video and see what you notice

Questions to think about: 

- What stood out to you about the crime scene? 
- What do you think happened in the room? 
- What kinds of observations aren't possible when looking at a picture? 
- Have someone else make observations about the crime scene. Did they choose to note the same things as you? 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design an Evidence Bag
Forensic scientists may need to analyze evidence found at the scene of a crime. That evidence must be collected, stored, and transported to a lab for testing in a bag. Your challenge is to design a bag that will keep evidence safe and unaltered before it can be tested. 

Consider these questions as you design your evidence bag:
- Does it have to be a bag? What other holding devices could you consider?
- What kind of materials will you use? 
- How will you keep dust and other contaminants out? 
- How will you keep the evidence from being tampered with? 
- Does your bag hold moisture? Should it? 

First, draw a sketch of your bag design. Then—using materials you have in your space—build a model of your design.  

Discussion questions:  
- Would the type of evidence being collected effect the kind of bag it was stored in? 
- What kind of information should be included with the evidence (e.g., date, time, collector)?
- Does your design use environmentally-friendly materials? If not, could you rethink your design to include them? 

Week 18: Antarctica

Antarctica is home to a wealth of scientific study and opportunity. Take a virtual trip to the South Pole this week as we explore the world's 5th-largest continent. 

Monday: Science Reading 
Discovering Antarctica
Did you know that Antarctica has no permanent human settlements, but 12 million penguins? Find out more about the southern pole of our planet in this National Geographic article.

Learn more about the differences between Antarctica and The Arctic in this TED-Ed video.

Questions to think about: 

- What kinds of plants grow in Antarctica? 
- How many people live in Antarctica? How does this number change throughout the year? 
- How does tourism in Antarctica impact the environment? 

Tuesday: DIY Activity 
Ice Cream Glacier
Glaciers are constantly on the move! Make an edible model to illustrate how glaciers shape and change the land around them. 

Activity worksheet >

 

Wednesday: Career Connection 
Photographing Melting Glaciers
Glacial ice naturally moves and changes over time. However, climate change has caused glaciers to melt at an alarming rate. Learn how scientists are using photography to study glaciers over many decades

Questions to think about: 
- Will melting glaciers change the kinds of plants and animals that can live in Antarctica? 
- How can something artistic, like photography, contribute to science? 
- Are there glaciers in the United States? Are they experiencing similar warming conditions? 

 

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Ice Sounds
98% of Antarctica is covered in ice sheets—usually at least a mile thick! Scientists sometimes sample long ice cores to measure ancient air trapped in the oldest ice, then compare them to current air quality to observe changes over time.

Ice cores also leave behind very deep holes! Scientists in Antarctica recently dropped a chunk of ice down one of these holes and recorded the unique sound it produced—and you can listen to it in this video!

What other sounds can ice produce? Make some of your own observations about ice with your ears: 

- Grab paper and something to write with. 
- Experiment with ice and listen to the sounds it makes. Here are some ideas:
     - Drop an ice cube into cold or hot water
     - Drop an ice cube into a carbonated drink
     - Freeze a layer of ice in a baking sheet. 
     - Crack the ice
     - Shake an ice cube in a cup, then add more ice cubes and shake it again
- Record your observations as numbers, drawings, and/or descriptions.

Questions to think about: 
- What sounds did the ice make? 
- Does ice react differently to hot and cold water? 
- What other ice sounds could you observe in nature? 

 

Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Sub-Zero Hat
Seasons in Antarctica are divided into Summer (October–March) and Winter (April–September). Temperatures during the winter months can reach lows of -76°F! 

Scientists working in Antarctica need extremely warm clothing to stay safe while they work. Your challenge is to design a hat that will keep scientists warm while they work outside in the Antarctic winter. While you are designing, keep these considerations in mind: 

- What parts of the head will the hat cover?
- What materials would you use? 
- How do animals in Antarctica stay warm? Can your design incorporate similar strategies? 
- How will the hat stay put in extreme winds? 

Start by making a sketch of your design. Then, build a model of your hat using materials from around your home. Remember to try it on! 

Questions to think about: 
- How will your hat keep people warm? 
- Could your design be adapted for other items, like gloves or socks? 
- Could you make your hat more environmentally friendly? How? 

Week 17: Planting a Veggie Garden

It's never too early to start planning your summer garden. Grab some seeds and get planting with this week's Science at Home! 

Monday: Science Reading
Read a Seed Packet

A seed is packed with enough engery to grow a plant, but improper conditions can cause seeds to fail. Learn how to explore the information on a typical seed packet and how to use this understanding to grow a successful garden.

Questions to think about: 
- Why do you think planting depth matters? What about plant spacing? 
- When would you need to plant the seeds to have mature parsley ready for harvest in July?  
- What are the risks of planting your seeds too early in the season?  

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
What a Seed Needs

Can a seed germinate in the dark? Find out what a seed needs with this activity!

Activity worksheet >



Wednesday: Career Connection
Meet a Local Farmer

Mudbone Grown is a black-owned farm enterprise in Portland, Oregon. See how Shantae Johnson and Arthur Shavers built a small-scale, community-based farm that has far-reaching benefits for their local community.


Questions to think about:
- What does it take to start a farm? What challenges would you have to overcome?
- If you started a farm, what would you grow?
- What are the rewards of growing your own food?


Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observing Seed Differences

Not all seeds are created equal. Take a closer look at the anatomy of your favorite fruits by comparing their seeds.

- Pick 3 different fruits with apparent seeds (e.g., apple, lemon, fennel, tomato, avocado, squash, green beans).
- Open each fruit and set the seed(s) apart.
- Make observations about the different seeds. Be sure to think about:
     - Size
     - Number of seeds
     - Shape
     - Texture
     - Color
     - Is the seed edible?
- Record your observations as descriptions, drawings, and/or numbers.

Questions to think about:
- What is similiar about the seeds you chose? What is different?
- How does the size of the seed compare to the size of the fruit?
- Can the number of seeds tell you anything about the fruit?
- Did you open a fruit that didn't have any seeds? How do you think a seedless fruit can grow into a new plant?


Friday: Design Challenge
Design a Veggie Garden Map

Each species grows at different rates and requires different amounts of space, water, and structure. Therefore, a successful and productive veggie garden requires careful planning and design!

Think about what you might want to grow this summer and design your own garden map. If you live in near Portland, check out Portland Nursery's helpful calendar showing when to plant vegetable seedlings and how much space they need.

- Measure your garden space
- Draw the garden’s dimensions on a piece of graph paper
- Divide the garden area into 1-foot squares
- Make a list of plants you want to grow and eat
- Consider how much space, water, and structure each plant needs to survive
- Draw on your map where you plan to plant each species

Once your garden map is designed, it might be time to start growing your seeds! You can start seeds in egg cartons or other recycled materials inside before transplanting them into an outside garden—and if you have them, share extra seedlings with friends and neighbors!

Need help deciding what to grow? Some plants grow better together! Consider companion planting as a way to help design productive gardens, especially in small spaces.

Questions to think about:
- What is similiar about the seeds you chose? What is different?
- How does the size of the seed compare to the size of the fruit?
- Can the number of seeds tell you anything about the fruit?
- Did you open a fruit that didn't have any seeds? How do you think a seedless fruit can grow into a new plant?

Week 16: Baking

Your kitchen is home to many chemical reactions! Practice your science skills on your favorite baked goods. 

Monday: Science Reading
The Science of Baking

When you bake, the type and amount of each ingredient you add really matters! Learn about some common ingredients, the ways they interact with other ingredients, and how they can change the outcome of your recipe.

And check out this great TED Talk about the chemical reactions that happen when we bake cookies.

Questions to think about: 
- What kinds of ingredients have you used when baking?
- What might change if you use a different flour than a recipe calls for?
- How do you know chemical reactions are happening in your baking project?

 

Tuesday: DIY Activity
Rising Reactions

Have you ever wondered about baking powder and baking soda? Perform a few simple tests to discover the difference between these seemingly identical substances. 

Activity worksheet >

Wednesday: Career Connection
Recipe Developers

Recipe developers are scientists that create delicious recipes by knowing how different ingredients taste on their own, how they react with one another, and what combinations just don't work. Some developers come up with recipes for people with health or dietary concerns. Others might create specific recipes for restaurants or food manufacturers.

Interested in how a recipe developer tests ingredients? Learn from America's Test Kitchen in this episode of Mystery Recipe: 'Tis the Seasoning.

Questions to think about:
- Have you ever changed a recipe? What was the outcome?
- What is a "control" test and why is it important?
- If you could invent a recipe, what would it be for?

Thursday: Observation Journaling
Observe a Microwave Cake

Baking isn't all about the ingredients—you also need heat to set off some of the chemical reactions! Observe your own mini microwave cake to see how heat changes everything.

- Get some paper and something to write with.
- Measure these ingredients into a microwave-safe mug:
     - 1/4 cup all purpose flour
     - 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
     - 1/4 tsp baking powder
     - 2 Tbsp sugar
     - 1/8 tsp salt
     - 5 Tbsp milk of choice
     - 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
     - Any toppings you like (chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, etc.)
- Mix ingredients with a fork until batter is smooth.
- Microwave for 1 minute, 50 seconds.
- Make observations about your cake as it bakes.

Questions to think about:
- What did your cake look like before it went in the microwave?
- What does your cake look at the end?
- How do you know your cake is done baking?
- Why might different microwaves produce different results?

Friday: Design Challenge
Design the Perfect Recipe
Some people like soft chewy cookies, while others like them thin and crispy. The key to the "perfect" cookie is science! Build on what you have learned about the science of baking this week and design a recipe that is perfect just for you.  

- Choose you or your family's favorite cookie, brownie, or muffin recipe.
- Make one batch according to the original recipe.
- Now, choose one thing to change about the recipe and make a second batch. Here are some ideas:
     - Use brown sugar instead of white sugar.
     - Add an extra egg.
     - Use baking powder instead of baking soda, or vice versa.
     - Change the oven temperature or baking time.
     - Make observations about how the baked good changed.

Questions to think about: 
- What is different about the two recipes? Is one better or worse? 
- What is something else you could change about the recipe?
- How might you change the recipe to make it perfect for someone else? 

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?

OMSI Science At Home Weekly programs are made possible by our generous members and supporters. Please join them in making OMSI programming available to all curious minds.

Support These Programs

There's More to Explore!

Keep the curiosity going with OMSI science videos, activities, or events and programs.

More Science at Home