If you have some spare time before Christmas break and want to do something fun, first off- congrats! I always seem to be squeezing everything in before finals and barely have time to review much less throw in some fun activities.
One fun thing you can do with your students is create science-themed holiday ornaments. Even if you have students that don’t celebrate Christmas and have a tree at home, they can still make a keepsake (although it would be polite to check with them first and make sure that is something they are comfortable with).
Here are some inexpensive ideas:
COFFEE FILTER CHROMATOGRAPHY: If you teach chemistry and cover chromatography (or biology and discuss pigments during photosynthesis) this is a fun one. Have students get a piece of filter paper, add some marker ink, and do paper chromatography. Lay the filter paper out to dry. The next day have students come in, grab some scissors, and turn them into snowflakes. Super easy and super fun.
SILVER ORNAMENTS: If you teach chemistry, here are directions on how to make a genuine silver ornament.
DNA MODELS: If you are learning genetics around the holidays, have students create a model of DNA with pipe cleaners and pony beads to hang on their tree.
BIRD SEED PINECONES: This one isn’t for your indoor Christmas tree, but is perfect for birds outside! If you live around conifer trees, go pick up some free pinecones off the ground. Tie a piece of string to the top so you can hang it later. Roll the pinecone in peanut butter, and then roll it through some bird seed. Hang it outside around campus and let the birds enjoy.
BORAX ORNAMENTS: This experiment is easy and fool-proof, which is why it’s often done during elementary school. Have students bend a pipe cleaner into the shape of their choice- a heart, snowflake, snowman, etc. Then give them a beaker and fill it with around 250 mL warm water and roughly 3T borax. Stir the water until the borax is completely dissolved. Tie one end of a string to the pipe cleaner and the other end to a pencil. Lay the pencil across the top of the beaker so the ornament is hanging in the solution. Within 24 hours students will come back to find beautiful crystals on their pipe cleaner.
SHRINKY DINK ORNAMENTS: While you can buy shrinky dink plastic, it’s free if you collect it through the year. Any plastic with a #6 on it will shrink up when baked (often found on take-out containers). Provide students a piece of plastic and some sharpie markers. Allow them to add their design (you can have requirements that it needs to be cell themed, ecology themed, etc.) and cut them out. Use a hole puncher to add a place for string to be inserted later for hanging. Place them on a piece of parchment paper and bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 2-3 minutes. (Note: If you see them start to curl up, don’t panic. They will uncurl). Once they have flattened out and shrunk to about 1/3 their original size, remove them from the oven.
ATOMIC MODELS: A fellow science teacher on Facebook, Heidi Rushing, shared these atomic models she had her students make and they turned out amazing! Provide students with a clear ornament and assign them an element (or you can allow them to choose). Use pony beads to represent protons, neutrons, and electrons. Have students figure out the number of sub-atomic particles for the given element and place them in the correct location. Electron beads can be slid onto pipe cleaners representing the different orbitals.
SALT DOH: You can easily make salt doh using flour, salt, and water. (You can find a recipe here). Again, you can choose to assign a theme or just let them get creative. Once hardened, provide students with glitter or paint to decorate them, and a ribbon for hanging.
I hope you have fun celebrating the holiday season with your students! If you are looking for more non-ornament holiday ideas, check this blog post. Rock on,