Colorful Coffee Filter Experiment: Defy Gravity with Capillary Action

See water flow upwards with this colorful coffee filter experiment!

Capillary action is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces. With capillary action, water can even flow upward against gravity!  You can observe capillary action all around you, for example, it's what moves the water up through plant roots and your tears through your tear ducts. 

 

It's hard to visualize but when you use our steps for this colorful coffee filter experiment to add an explosion of color, it will come together! Once your coffee filters have dried, you can use the them for other craft projects!

 

For more amazing experiments with water, see how you can freeze time through laminar flow

 

Materials:

  • Coffee filters
  • Markers
  • Water
  • A  small clear cup or glass

Directions:

STEP 1
  • Use the markers to draw all over the coffee filter.

    The more colors you use, the more vibrant your colorful coffee filter experiment will be.

STEP 2
  • Fold the coffee filter in half.  Then in half one more time.
colorful markers patterns drawn on coffee filters
STEP 3
  • Add enough water to the cup to just barely cover the bottom and set your coffee filter in the cup.

This will take a few minutes, so you can use this time to talk about capillary action or ask these questions to expand on the activity:

  1. How do the colors change as they move up the coffee filter?
  2. Do you see any colors mix? What new colors do you see?
  3. Did any colors disappear?
  4. Why do you think this is happening?
     
soak colorful coffee filters in water to see capillary action
STEP 4
  • Once the water has reached the top of the coffee filter or has stopped moving, remove your coffee filter from the cup and open it up!

 

STEP 5
  • Let your colorful coffee filter experiment dry and then upcycle it for your next maker project!
Wet colorful capillary coffee filters drying

Expand on the Activity:

  • What happens if you only use one color, like green or black? How does the color of the ink change as it spreads out? Why do you think this happens?
  • Once they’ve dried, the coffee filters can be used as colorful tissue paper in craft projects. Try making flowers, snowflakes, monsters, butterflies, or any other creation you can think of!

 

If you had fun learning about capillary action and snapped some photos, be sure to submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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How to Make Marbleized Paper to Create Custom Cards and Artwork

Create a stunning masterpiece when you follow these step-by-step instruction for how to make marbleized paper – a sensory STEAM project for kids and adults alike!


It’s always fun to use materials in new ways, and this is likely one way you’ve never used shaving cream before! Use our directions for how make marbleized paper and follow along with the questions included to help you make observations as you create! Not only will you have a wall-worthy finished project, you'll also learn some neat STEM skills along the way. 

Materials:

  • Shaving cream 
  • Paper (start with a heavier weight paper, like cardstock or construction paper) 
  • Food coloring* or washable paint such as liquid watercolor or tempera paint
  • Popsicle sticks 
    (If you don’t have popsicle sticks, read the directions
    carefulland substitute in a different tool. Tooth picks are great for creating the marble effect and a ruler or spatula work well to remove the shaving cream from your paper at the end!)

 

*Warning: Food coloring can stain! If you're worried about mess, substitute washable paint. Either way, mess-friendly play clothes are recommended for this activity!

Material for how to make marbleized paper

Directions:

STEP 1
  • Spray some shaving cream onto protected work surface.
STEP 2 
  • Spread the shaving cream out so it’s about ½ an inch thick.  

    How does the shaving cream feel? Is it a liquid or a solid? Do your best to describe it. 
Spread shaving cream onto protected work surface
STEP 3
  • Add a few drops of food coloring on top of the shaving cream. Make sure you leave some space between each drop. 

    What do you observe as you drip the food coloring onto the shaving cream? Does it mix in? Does it sit on top? Sink to the bottom? Spread out flat? What do you see happening? 
Add dye to shaving cream make marbleized paper
STEP 4
  • Use a popsicle stick to drag the food coloring around on the top of the shaving cream, creating a marbled effect. 

    Do the colors mix with the shaving cream? Do they stay separate? Do they mix with each other? 
Swirl shaving cream colors together to make marbleized effect
STEP 5
  • When you’re happy with the marble you’ve created, place your paper on top of the shaving cream and food coloring and gently press down. Depending on how thick your paper is, you may see the marble start to show through the other side. Let it sit for about 5-10 seconds.  
STEP 6
  • Carefully remove your paper and place it shaving cream side up on a protected work surface. 
Place paper on shaving cream to create marbleized paper effect
STEP 7
  • Use a popsicle stick to very gently scrape the shaving cream off your paper. This will likely take a few passes and it may help to remove the shaving cream from your popsicle stick between each pass.

    The food coloring has soaked into your paper, leaving behind a marbled pattern! How is the design on your paper similar to the design you saw on your shaving cream? How is it different? 

STEP 8
  • Let your paper dry for a few minutes. Once dry, use a tissue or paper towel to brush off any leftover little bits of shaving cream.
Swirl shaving cream colors together to create marbleization

Display your marbleized paper with pride, or add it to a larger project! Be sure to share your mess-terpieces with us by submitting them to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

 

NOTE: It’s best to let the paper dry completely before cutting it or writing on it.

Expand on the Activity!

  • Try this again and try using more or less food coloring. How do your results change? 
  • Test out different kinds of paper. What happens when you try this with printer paper, newspaper, tissue paper, cardboard, or colored construction paper? What kind of paper works best? 
  • Experiment with making different shapes and patterns with the food coloring in the foam. How many different patterns can you make? 

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DIY Lava Lamp Experiment • Explore Density and Fizzy Reactions

Learn about density with this simple DIY Lava Lamp Experiment!

Density has to do with how much space something takes up in relation to what its mass is. While density can be a tricky concept for younger scientists to understand right away, this DIY lava lamp experiment is a great opportunity to observe density in action and make some initial observations while enjoying some fizzing good fun!

Materials:

  • Canola oil 
  • Measuring cup 
  • Water 
  • Tall, clear container (we used a clean salsa jar) 
  • Alka-Seltzer tablets (or any other effervescent tablets) 
  • Food coloring
    *Warning: Food coloring can stain! Feel free to substitute in washable paint such as liquid watercolor or tempera paint if you’re worried about mess. Either way, mess-friendly play clothes are recommended for this DIY lava lamp experiment!
Collection of experiment materials including a bottle of canola oil, a measuring cup of water, a tall clear container, Alka-Seltzer tablets, and a box of food coloring

Directions:

STEP 1
  • Fill your measuring cup with 1 cup water.
     
STEP 2
  • Add 10-15 drops of food coloring to your water then stir.

    Observe the food coloring drops as they enter the water. What do you notice? Do they float? Do they sink? Does the food coloring mix well into the water? What do you see?
Add drops of food coloring to cup of water
STEP 3
  • Fill a clear container ¾ of the way with canola oil.

STEP 4
  • Pour the dyed water into your clear container, along with your canola oil.

     
    What do you notice about the water and the canola oil?  Do they mix together?
    Which one sinks to the bottom? Is this the same as what you observed with the food coloring and water?

Mix dyed water with canola oil
STEP 6
  • Break up your effervescent tablets into several small pieces, drop them into your clear container one at a time, and enjoy the show!

     

    What happens when you add the effervescent tablets? Practice your observation skills and describe what you notice!

 

STEP 7
  • You can continue adding effervescent tablets as the bubbles slow.

     

Bubbles rise and fall in DIY lava lamp density experiment

Expand on the Activity:

  • Experiment with your effervescent tablets! What happens when you drop a full tablet in your lava lamp? What happens when you drop in several pieces at once? What happens if you crush your tablet into dust and then add it to your lamp?
  • Make something to remember your experiment! Drop several pieces of effervescent tablet into your lava lamp and cover the top with a piece of paper. As the bubbles pop, the food coloring will leave a surprise behind on the paper for you.
  • Looking for more fun with a fizz? Check out our Ice Chalk DIY Recipe!

 

If you had fun learning about fizz and snapped some photos, be sure to  submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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STEM Slime Activity: Explore Physics with This Oobleck Recipe

If they have fun while they're doing it, does it even count? Make a hypothesis and test it with this STEM slime activity. 

Enjoy messy science with one our favorite activities at the Orlando Science Center! Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it can act like a solid or a liquid depending on what you do to it. With this STEM slime activity, you can learn about the states of matter and viscosity, practice lab skills like measuring and mixing, and have some ooey-gooey fun!

 

Be sure to explore the science behind oobleck toward the bottom of this page and try our other slime recipe so you can compare it to your oobleck! 

 

Recommended age range: Any age; younger scientists may need help measuring but will have fun mixing and playing. Older scientists can explore oobleck’s properties and the topics of polymers and viscosity.

 

Warning: This activity is messy! Mess-friendly play clothes are recommended for this activity! You may also want to set out newspaper or other materials to protect your surfaces, or work in an area you don’t mind getting messy. However, once oobleck dries, it can easily be cleaned up!

Materials:

  • ½ cup cornstarch

  • ¼ cup water

  • Optional: Washable paint or food coloring 

  • Optional: Scent (for example, orange scented oil or peppermint extract)

  • Mixing bowl

  • Craft stick or other stirring utensil

Photo of materials for STEM slime activity

Directions:

Step 1

Measure ½ cup cornstarch and add it to your mixing bowl.

Add cornstarch to mixing bowl

Step 2

Next, measure ¼ cup water and add it to your mixing bowl.

Add water to mixing bowl

Step 3 (optional)

Add a few drops of color or scent to your mixture.

Add coloring or scent to mixing bowl

Step 4

Stir until your mixture looks like glue... That’s it! You’ve made oobleck!

Stir STEM slime activity ingredients together

Step 5

Try some of the ideas below to expand on this activity and learn about oobleck's properties.

Experiment with oobleck STEM slime activity

Step 6

Throw your oobleck in the trash when you are finished. It will mold overnight and clogs drains!

Always dispose of oobleck in the trash can

Experiments:

Once you’ve made your oobleck, it’s time to do some experiments! Before you perform you start this STEM slime activity, make some predictions. Is the oobleck a solid, a liquid, or a gas? What will happen if you poke it? What will happen if you let it sit in your hand?

 

TRY:
  • Poking the oobleck with your craft stick. How does it feel?
  • Gently stepping your craft stick on top of the oobleck. What happens?
  • Holding the oobleck in your hand. What happens when you squeeze it? What happens when you let go?

Expand on the Activity:

  • What happens if you pour oobleck through a container with holes in it, like a colander or a strainer?

  • What happens if you put plastic or LEGO figures in the oobleck? What stories can you tell? Use your imagination!

  • Use highlighter water to make oobleck that glows under a blacklight!

  • Make more! This recipe gives you a small amount of oobleck, but as long as you add twice as much cornstarch as water, you’ll have oobleck!

The Science Behind this STEM Slime Activity: Why Does Oobleck Act Like This?

  • Oobleck is made up of molecules called polymers, which are arranged in long chains. A great example of a polymer is a rubber band. The molecules can be stretched out or bundled up and stuck together like wet spaghetti.
  • When you put pressure on the oobleck, the molecule chains bundle up and stick together, making the oobleck act like a solid.
  • When there is no force on the oobleck, the polymers stretch out, and the oobleck acts like a liquid.
  • Since oobleck can be a solid or a liquid depending on whether you apply force to it, it is called a non-Newtonian fluid.

Learn More: Physics

  • In a solid, the molecules are tightly packed and vibrate in place. In a liquid, the molecules slip past each other, allowing liquids to flow. But have you ever noticed some liquids flow faster than others? Think about water versus honey. What makes them flow differently?
  • You can find out by rubbing your hands together quickly. What do you feel? That heat is from friction, or force that holds back the movement of a sliding object. As the molecules in a liquid slide past each other, they generate friction, too. The more friction they generate, the slower they move. Why is that? The force of the friction is holding back their movement, effectively slowing them down.
  • The friction between molecules in a liquid is called viscosity. The more viscous a liquid, the more energy it takes for it to flow. High visocity liquids, like honey or corn syrup, also tend to be thicker.
  • So what about oobleck? Oobleck is called a non-Newtonian fluid because it breaks the rules of Newtonian viscosity. On Earth, they’ll always be subject to the laws of gravity and the laws of motion Newton described. But the viscosity of oobleck, or the interactions and friction between the molecules, changes based on force you apply to applied to it.

Did you make your own oobleck and perform any experiments with it? We’d love to see how it turned out! Snap a photo of you making, testing, or playing with your oobleck and submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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How to Make Bubble Snakes With Items You Already Have at Home!

Learn how to make bubble snakes with this STEM-sational DIY activity!

Bubbles, bubbles, everywhereWhat are the differences between one bubble and lots of bubbles? We'll show you how to make bubble snakes in the directions below so you can find out! 

 

Our Early Childhood Specialists in KidsTown put together this fun bubble exploration activity so you can practice your observation and critical-thinking skills at home. 

 

There is something magical about experimenting with bubbles, isn't there? For more bubbly goodness, check out our fan-favorite Un-Poppable Bubble recipe.

Materials:

  • Plastic bottle 
  • A sock 
  • Rubber band 
  • Scissors (and adult supervision)
  • Bubble solution*
  • A wide, shallow container 
  • A bubble wand or a pipe cleaner 
  • Optional: Washable paint for extension activity
Materials for how to make a bubble snake

*If you don't have bubble solution on hand, a mixture of dish soap and water will work for this project but you may have to do some tinkering with the amount of dish soap you add if you'd like to blow bubbles with a regular bubble wand. Sounds like another great opportunity to experiment to us!

Directions:

  • Use a bubble wand* to blow one bubble.

    Observe your bubble closely. What shape is the bubble? What colors do you see? How big is the bubble? How does the bubble move? What does it look like when the bubble pops? 


    Write down or draw your observations so you can reference them later!


    *If you don’t have a bubble wand handy, a pipe cleaner twisted to look like one works, too!

    Once you’ve completed your bubble observations, you’re ready to learn how to make bubble snakes!
pink pipecleaner twisted into bubble wand
  • Carefully cut the bottom off your plastic bottle. 

  • Cut your sock into a square that fits over the new opening in your plastic bottle with some room to spare on each side. 

  • Secure the sock to the bottom of the plastic bottle with a rubber band. 

Attach sock to bottle with rubber band
  • Pour your bubble solution into the container. 
  • Dip the plastic bottle into your bubble solution, sock end first. 
Dip water bottle into bubble solution
  • Blow into the plastic bottle from the end you would normally drink through and watch your bubble snake grow! 

  • Observe the bubbles in the bubble snake.

    What shape are these bubbles? What colors do you see? How big are these bubbles? How do they mo
    ve? What does it look like when the bubbles in the bubble snake pop? How is this group of bubbles the same as your first bubble, and how is it different? 
Bubble snake being blown out of a water bottle and sock

Expand on the Activity:

  • Experiment with the design of your bubble snake blower. 
    Try 
    using a plastic bottle with a different size or shape, experiment with different fabrics such as t-shirt or towel material, and give a few different bubble solution recipes a try. Which combination works best? 
  • Mix some washable paint into your bubble solution, or apply it directly to the sock after dipping it in the bubble solution, and then blow your bubble snake onto a piece of paper. Quickly remove the bubbles from the paper to reveal your bubble-painted masterpiece!  
  • Remember to check out our Unpoppable Bubble Recipe for more fun with bubbles! 
Example of art made by mixing paint into bubble snake solution

Did you have a blast with bubble snakes! Snap a photo or video and submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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Forensic Science Painting Project • A Forensics Vocabulary Art Project!

Make a messy masterpiece by creating a forensic science painting!

We love making messes at Orlando Science Center — especially in the name of science! Join us by creating a forensic science painting and learning some vocabulary along the way. We’ll be making some common spatter patterns using bright, beautiful colors to create a forensic puzzle work of art.  

 

For more forensic science fun, see if you can crack the case of The Incredible Cookie Caper

Materials:

  • A canvas, piece of cardboard, or paper (butcher paper, paper bags, or anything you have on hand would work fine!) 
  • Tubes of paint
  • Paint brushes 
  • Your hands 
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting messy!  

Directions:

Passive stains made by dripping paint on canvas

Create some passive stains.

Open your paint tube and hold it upside down. Allow it to drip onto your canvas. Try dripping from higher or lower to see some different stains.  

Transfer stains made by smearing paint on canvas

Create some transfer stains. 

Got some paint on your hand? Wipe it onto your canvas! Notice the pattern that you leave behind – not a smooth line or shape but evidence of your fingerprints! 

Projected stains made by flicking paintbrush onto canvas

Create some projected (or impact) stains. 

Dip your brush into your paint and fling it onto your canvas! What do you see? How do the shapes look different than the passive stains?

What other patterns or stains can be made on your forensic science painting? 

  • Void patterns occur when stains are made with an object in the way – kind of like a stencil. 
  • Spines are what forensic analysts would call the spikes coming out of your passive paint stains.  
  • Satellite stains occur when stains jump off of other stains. If you dripped paint on top of a paint puddle, the splashes the impact would make would be satellites.  
  • Flow patterns occur when gravity impacts the stain – this is how acrylic pour painting works.

Don't forget to hang, frame, or gift your finished forensic science painting! 

 

We'd love to see what you created, even if you made a few mess-takes! Submit your progress or final shots to our OSC Science Showcase or tag Orlando Science Center on social media and use hashtag #OSCatHome to share your creations! 

Final product from forensic science painting held in front of wall

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Nature Portraits: Loose Parts Play Activity for Little Learners

Loose Parts Play with Items Found in Nature!

When we set up opportunities for children to play with interesting materials, they have the chance to explore, invent, and imagine in all kinds of new ways! Loose parts play is a great way to encourage fun and creative learning experiences for children with items found around the house.

 

*This activity involves small parts and is not recommended for children under the age of 3.

Materials:

  • A flat, clean, dry workspace
  • A mirror
  • Found nature items. Our favorites include: leaves, twigs, grass, pebbles, tree bark, mulch, pine cones, acorns, and seashells
  • Depending on the different nature items available to you, you may also want to supplement with loose parts from your home. Our favorites include: buttons, tooth picks, twine, dry beans, and popsicle sticks
Create self portrait with loose play parts

Directions:

  1. Take a walk outside and see what nature items you can find! It’s helpful to bring a small container, like a shoebox, along to help hold your collection as you walk. This is a great opportunity to talk with children about what is and isn’t respectful to take from nature or shared outdoor spaces.

  2. Once you’ve collected all the materials you need, set up your workspace with your mirror and your nature items.

  3. Take a look at your face in the mirror. What shapes do you see? Are some of your features bigger than others? Is your hair long or short, straight or curly?

  4. Take a look at the items you collected. What could make good eyes? Did you collect anything that reminds you of the shape of your nose or the texture of your hair?

  5. Use what you collected to put together the best portrait of yourself that you can! Don’t like something? Don’t worry! The best part about playing with loose parts is that you can create and re-create again and again! Try making portraits of yourself making different faces. What’s different about how you make a happy face compared to how you make a sad face?

  6. Don’t forget to take a picture before you put your loose parts away! Share your photos with us by using #OSCatHome on social media or submitting them to our Science Showcase!

Extend the fun!

One of our favorite things about loose parts play is that you can use almost anything! Don’t have easy access to nature items?

 

Try using some of our other favorite loose parts items which include but are not limited to:

  • Bottle caps
  • LEGO blocks
  • Uncooked pasta in different shapes
  • Yarn or ribbon
  • Beads
  • Pom poms
  • Straws
  • Fabric scraps
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • Q-tips or cotton swabs
  • Tin foil

Just like your materials, your loose parts play prompt can be pretty much anything. Challenge children to make an invention, map out a garden, explore pattern making, design a robot, imagine their own planet, or create scenes based on different seasons!

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10 Ways to Get Creative with Cardboard

If you have been doing a lot of online ordering lately, you might have an abundance of cardboard boxes just waiting to be recycled.

While we definitely want you to dispose of them properly, we encourage you to hone your maker skills by repurposing this common packaging before you recycle them! If you look at it with the right eye, you might find a wealth of possibility in this humble packing material. Cardboard and creativity go hand in hand. Read on for 10 of our favorite cardboard DIY projects.

 

Creative Cardboard Activities You Should Try

  1. How To Work With Cardboard – This page gives a good overview of the types of cardboard you might encounter and ways to create using it.
  2. Magic Transforming Girl from Cardboard – This Instructable demonstrates how you can make a cool transforming image box trick using just cardboard, chopsticks, and a few other household materials!
  3. Make a Playable Cardboard Harp – Create a toy instrument you can play using our favorite packaging material and some rubber bands!
  1. Create Cardboard Chess/Checkers Board – Don’t have these classic board games at your disposal? Check out this tutorial to make a 2-in-1 chess and checkers set at home!
  2. Cardboard Astromech Droid – For the advanced cardboard connoisseur, try your hand at droid-building!
  3. Cardboard Coin-Eating Robot Monster – If you have a spare 9V DC motor lying around, this robot looks to be a cinch!
  4. Cardboard Hex Stool – OSC staff tested and approved! This stool is shockingly sturdy and pretty good looking! Learn about the power of triangles with this cool DIY.
  5. Cardboard Iron Throne for Cats – Sometimes it feels like our pets run our lives. If you want to make that metaphor more literal, you can try to make this iron throne sized for a cat!
  6. Create a Cardboard House with Pool and Garden – Use your cardboard to make a tiny house! You can size it up or down depending on if you want it to fit a particular scale.
  7. Cook with a Cardboard Solar Oven – Use some simple materials to create a surprisingly effective solar oven! You can use this kitchen tool to make solar s’mores, re-molded crayons, and more!

 

This is just the beginning of what you can do if you’re creative with cardboard! There are infinite quantities of infinitely cool things you can do with cardboard if you use your imagination and maybe a little internet searching. Check out artist Pamela Sullivan’s cardboard favelas or Todd Oldham’s Kid Made Modern for more inspiration!

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Indoor Obstacle Course: Make Your Own Superhero Training Camp

OSC challenges you to make an indoor obstacle course Superhero Training Camp in your own home!

Through working together and using the Engineering Design Process to build your obstacle course, you may discover that you have superpowers of your own!

 

  1. Ask: Can you make a training camp that shows you what it takes to be a Superhero? What skills does a superhero need? How can you create challenges that highlight some of those skills?
  2. Imagine: Think about different things you could use around your home to make obstacles. Imagine how those objects can work together to make the best superhero course.
  3. Plan: Draw or write out your materials list so you can plan your course. Create layout of what you want your course to look like.
  4. Create: Assemble your course! Think about the different steps needed to bring your ideas to life. Adjust your diagram as necessary and make sure the course is safe!
  5. Improve: Once you’ve given it a try, think about if there are ways you could improve your training course. Can you make it more challenging? Did everything work the way you planned? If not, you can use the Engineering Design Process to help you improve your course!
Engineering Design Process Circle Diagram: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve

Here are some suggestions to get started:

Item: Couch cushions or pillows

 

Uses:

  • Stand them up and weave around them
  • Climb over them
  • Jump on them
  • Crash through them

Item: Laundry basket

 

Uses:

  • Toss small items into them
  • Duck inside them
  • Use them as large obstacles to maneuver around

 

Item: Clothing

 

Uses:

  • Gear up with different clothing items throughout the course such as hats, jackets, gloves, scarves, etc.

Some of our other favorite prop ideas:

  • Cardboard boxes are great for tunnels!
  • Masking tape on the floor makes for an instant DIY balance beam.
  • Blankets make good tunnels and can separate one challenge from the next.
  • Chairs or stools are great obstacles that you can also drape blankets over.
Child in superhero costume navigating obstacle course at Science Center

More ways to conquer the obstacle course:

 

Spy Mission: Go through the course as quietly as possible! Shhh!

 

Save the Citizen: Grab your favorite stuffed animal and go through the course while keeping your citizen safely by your side.

 

Freeze Blast: Grown-ups can freeze their hero in training during different parts of the course to catch them off-guard.

 

“Superman Says”: Grown-ups can choose what actions their superhero in training does while going through the course.

 

Grown-ups can also act as a cheering section or blow bubbles while little ones conquer the course!

 

Share your design, results, and in-action photos with us!

 

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In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

Sampling – Observing Animal Behavior

When scientists study animals, they observe their behavior through sampling, a special research technique that helps them notate what the animals are doing. They may be looking for information about the amount of time an animal spends doing something, how much space in the habitat an animal uses, what animals like to hang out together, or finding new behaviors. This technique can be used in the wild to learn about natural animal behaviors or in zoos to learn about the animals’ welfare.

 

 

Some different types of behavior sampling include:

 

  • Ad libitum sampling: writing down anything that seems interesting or important about one animal or a group of animals over a period of time.
  • Focal sampling: watching one animal for a set length of time and writing down everything the animal does with the time noted.
  • Scan sampling: watching one animal or a group of animals and writing down what they are doing at a certain interval of time (every 30 seconds, every 5 minutes, etc.)

 


 

Try observing your pet for a day! Here’s how:

 

You will need:

  1. Something to write on.
  2. Something to write with.
  3. An animal (or a few animals) – if you don’t have a pet, try observing an animal live camera feed on www.explore.org!

 

 

What to do:

  • Decide on what type of sampling you are going to try. Think about how much time you want to spend observing. To learn the most about your pet, you could try scan sampling – observe them once an hour all day and note their behavior.
  • Create a behavior key. You won’t have time to write everything down as it is happening! Create your own shorthand for the most common behaviors your pet or pets might do.
  • Start observing! Be sure to watch the clock to notate the time of behaviors.
  • Finished? Analyze the behavior you recorded! Does your dog spend most of their time looking out the window? Maybe you can set up their bed next to a window so they can enjoy it! Does your cat like to hide under tables? Maybe you can set up a sitting area with a canopy to make them feel safe!

 

 

What Next?

You can help animal researchers around the world by sampling behavior or even simply counting or sorting animals! Scientists ask for help by doing community (or citizen) science projects where anyone can help by following simple instructions and entering data.

 

Check out this search engine to find a citizen science project that’s interesting to you: https://scistarter.org/finder

 

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!