Outdoor Science Lab for Kids

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids
Liz Lee Heinecke
Quarry Books (Quarto Knows)

Just right for the summer break especially, but for any time you can get outside, is this resource book of 52 ‘family-friendly’ experiments you can do with children in the garden or yard, the playground and the park.

The dozen units (each with 3-5 ‘labs’) are wide ranging and include exciting-sounding activities such as making ‘driveway frescoes’ on cornstarch (cornflour in the UK) and water using food colourings and tiny paint brushes or toothpicks to create the designs; that’s in the Picnic Table Chemistry unit. There’s a list of materials needed, ideas for extending the activity and an explanation of the science involved, as there is for each of the other ‘labs’.

I’m sure children will relish the prospect of engaging in some ‘Garden Hose Science’, trying such fun things as the ‘siphon roller coaster’ that starts with a water balloon fight.

Author and mother Liz Lee Heinecke covers ecology, earth science, botany, physics and zoology in her inspiring book. One hopes that doing some of the activities will show children that real hands-on science is fun and well worth spending their time on, just like those in the photographs included for each of the projects. (As she hails from the US, some of the names the author used will be unfamiliar to UK readers, for instance in the ‘Invertebrate Inspection’ unit,‘ pill bugs’ and ‘sow bugs’ are what we commonly call ‘woodlice’, though I think only the former can curl themselves up into a ball).

Art Workshop for Children / Play Make Create

Ideal for the long summer break as well as for Foundation Stage / KS1 staff during term time are these two terrific titles from Quarry Books that encourage and develop creativity in children:

Art Workshop for Children
Barbara Rucci and Betsy McKenna

Process, not product is what matters most in this bumper book of creative art projects for young children written by an author who runs art workshops for youngsters.

Nobody who has taught or worked in other capacities with foundation stage learners and those even younger could possibly disagree with the closing paragraph in Barbara Rucci’s introduction: “Let’s raise creative thinkers who explore their world, express their dreams, embrace differences, and never lose touch with their inner artist.’

Her premise is that art should be open-ended and child-led, ‘open-ended creativity … empowers our children to mess about, take risks and discover that they have good, original ideas.’
The first chapter is about setting up an art space after which come a series of workshops that are set out following a similar basic structure: Gather your materials – a bullet point list of what’s needed; a paragraph on how to Prepare your space;
then comes The process – again with bullet points; Observations; and finally Variations for next time – additional ideas for repeating the experience with some different materials or adding a degree of complexity for those with more experience.

Each of the 25 workshops has photographs of materials and children using them; and interspersed between workshops there are essays by Reggio Emilia-inspired educator, Betsy McKenna that will help those working with young children to reflect on what they are doing and saying if they want them to develop as confident, creative, problem-solving learners.

The materials required don’t need a great outlay – most projects can be done with paints, crayons, paper and card, plus the basic tools you’d find in a nursery setting and nothing is difficult to get hold of – maybe just a little effort as in the collaborative Branch Painting

that I particularly liked on account of its social nature.

What a boon for parents/carers of young children this will prove during long holidays especially.

The same is true of

Play – Make – Create
Meri Cherry

Subtitled ‘A Process-Art Handbook’ this one is based on a similar philosophical approach and has 40 ‘invitations’ to be creative and have fun in so doing.

The opening chapter sets the scene for good practice discussing the way to talk with children and how to store and present materials and then come the sequence of creative ‘Art Invitations’.

Whether it’s taking up an Invitation to Explore, such as experimenting with cotton swab oil painting; making and discovering the joys of ‘oobleck’ (cornstarch and water)

– it’s brilliant fun and one of the ten ‘Sensory-Based’ activities; or introducing the delights of the hammer as a creative tool used in the process of making a ‘Crazy Contraption’

included in the ‘On-going process-art activities Big Projects’ chapter, each project will surely spark the imagination. There are also collaborative activities that can be done with friends or family members.

Throughout the emphasis is on encouraging children to experiment and discover the potential of the materials, to make their own choices, employ critical thinking and problem solving to what they’re doing, thus helping to build self-confidence in their own creative potential; and of course, to enjoy what they’re doing.

Strongly recommended for parents, carers, teachers (the author has 20+ years of teaching experience) and anyone else who wants to provide enriching process art for children. (There’s a fair bit of science learning potential in there too though it’s never spelt out.) What are you waiting for? …

Everybody Counts


Everybody Counts
Kristin Roskifte (translated by Siän Mackie)
Wide Eyed Editions

This immersive book subtitled ‘A counting story from 0 to 7.5 billion’ is the 2019 winner of the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize. It’s easy to see why. It’s like no other counting book, that’s for sure and what is counted is people, people from 0 (no one) to 7.5 billion – the entire world.

The people are members of groups and many belong to two or more groups and so stories evolve around the characters, starting with a boy and his family making a total of 5.

You can follow these characters through the book, seeing how their various life stories intersect and diverge.

The narrator makes brief comments about people in their settings, for example in the classroom scene, of the 20 children ‘One of them is thinking about all the people who’ve lived before us. One of them has lost the class teddy bear. One of them is dreading football training. One of them will become prime minister.’

However, much is left unsaid so there are sufficient gaps for readers to fill and likely fill differently, on each reading.

Dive in, get lost in the pages, stop; study each one thoughtfully, and move on; eventually you’ll have met 2768 people. Then perhaps move back; the ‘spotting section’ at the end will certainly encourage you to do that.

Most importantly though, whatever other interpretations readers make, the indisputable messages that emerge are, that we are all part of one enormous, interconnected world group – the human race – and that each one of us has our own unique story, for as the title says, Everybody Counts.

Just imagine how many philosophy for children sessions might evolve if you start exploring this ingenious, visual festival of a book in the classroom.