Third Grade Science Activities in Biology, Ecology, Physics and Engineering

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Just Beginning to Get It

Third graders are just beginning to formally explore the world of science. These young students are often full of questions about the world around them and anxious to learn the answers. You will introduce students to physics, botany, chemistry, ecology and even engineering with these projects.

Studying Physics Already!

The study of physics includes many aspects from gravity and motion to buoyancy and light. Young students may enjoy working with objects to determine if they float better in salt water or fresh water. Provide two tubs of water, salt and three plastic bottles. The first bottle should be empty; the second should be one-third full of water and the third bottle should be half full of water.

Students should add salt to one of the tubs of water and test to see if the plastic bottles float better in salt or fresh water. They can change the amount of water in a bottle to see how much water can be supported by fresh and how much can be supported by salt water. Explain to them that the salt water is more dense and therefore can support more weight.

Learning About Botany

Botany, or the study of plants, may be something students are already familiar with. If they have helped their parents in a garden, they already have a basic understanding of plants.

Introduce students to the concept of hydroponics by testing what types of liquids are best for growing seeds.

  • Provide 6 plastic cups or jars large enough to hold 8 ounces of liquid.
  • Mark each cup with the liquid that will be used. The following are the recommended test liquids; milk, iced tea, vinegar, orange juice, club soda and tap water.
  • Pour 8 ounces of each liquid into the appropriate cup and add several bean seeds to each cup.
  • Place the cups in an area where the temperature is constant and the seeds are not disturbed.
  • Make daily observations and record the findings.
  • After one week measure the sprouts and record the findings. Repeat for the second week and compare the findings.

Students may also discuss other environmental factors that may have impacted their experiment. Such things as temperature variation or the amount of sunlight each received can be discussed.

Ecology Activity

Ecology includes the science of habitats and how animals survive. Students can perform a fun experiment to better understand the use of camouflage by animals in the wild. Discuss the word camouflage and give several examples of how animals use this method to avoid getting eaten by predators.

  • Prepare 6 baggies of M&Ms with 10 of each color inside each bag.
  • Prepare 6 ‘habitats’ using large pieces of construction paper.
  • Create 6 habitats, one each of the following colors; brown, red, yellow, green, orange and white.
  • Gather 2 or three volunteers to be the hunters.

Each volunteer will have 10 seconds to eat as many M&Ms as they can from each habitat. They must only use two fingers on one hand to ‘capture’ their prey. The other hand must be behind their back. Repeat the experiment for each habitat. Review how many of each color of M&M remains in each habitat. The M&M’s that are the same color as the habitat should outnumber the other colors. Discuss how this mimics what animals do in the wild to hide from predators.

Engineering Activities

Engineering is another area of science that many young children will enjoy learning about. Third graders can be introduced to the idea of aerodynamics by trying to build the best paper airplane. Provide models and directions of a variety of types of airplanes. Allow students to modify their designs and have contests to see which plane flies the farthest or the highest.

Young students can be introduced to the basics of many different sciences and they are often eager to learn. Additional simple experiment ideas are available in the reference section below.

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