You know what makes for the best first week of school… back to school science activities!
When it comes to your first week activities, you can use the traditional get to know you games. But, by the time students get to upper elementary, they’ve already done those games several times. Using back to school science activities is not only one of the best first day of school activities, but it is also a great way to start teaching your students processes and introduce them to the science skills they will learn throughout the school year.
Here are four science experiments and games that you can use during the first weeks of school.
First Day of School Science Experiment
Even before COVID, I was THAT teacher. You know, that one that is always making students wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.
Now, after a year and a half of social distancing, teachers are more concerned than ever about slowing the spread of germs. This is where my favorite science experiment comes in!
Using bread, a Ziploc bag, and a spray bottle of water, you can show students how germs spread and why it is important for them to wash their hands.
- Begin by having students rub a slice of bread on their hands or high-touch classroom surfaces.
- Next, students should put their slice of bread into a Ziploc bag and spray the bread with one squirt of water.
- Last, students should seal the bag. I recommend also labeling the bags with students’ names and what they rubbed their bread on.
- Store the bags in a closet or dark corner of the room for about three days.
When you remove the bags a few days later, you will likely find some interesting things growing on the bread. 🤮 Explain that the things growing are caused by bacteria and germs that were on their hands and classroom surfaces. Usually, my students are so shocked that it is easy to get them to practice good hygiene for the first weeks of school.
In addition to teaching your students about good classroom hygiene, this is also a great back to school science experiment because you can use it to introduce your students to the scientific method and processes for conducting science experiments in your classroom.
Back to School Science Escape Rooms
Classroom escape rooms are a popular activity for any time of the school year. So, students are sure to be excited if you incorporate these into your back to school science activities!
I like to use escape rooms related to science skills and concepts that I will be teaching throughout the school year. This is a fun way to introduce students to science skills that they will learn about and get them excited to learn even more.
I offer a variety of science escape rooms in my store. Each of my escape room activities includes a PDF version that works best as classroom centers. As students rotate through these centers at the beginning of the year, make sure to review the ways that centers operate in your classroom and center rules.
All of my science escape rooms also include a digital version that can be accessed through Google Forms. If using the digital version at the beginning of the year, be sure to review rules for using technology in the classroom and what good digital citizenship looks like.
If you are looking for even more digital back to school activities, be sure to check out my 10 Virtual Back to School Activities video. This video includes 10 original games and activities that you can use to engage students remotely or in a hybrid setting.
There are lots of great reasons to use STEM activities during the first weeks of school. STEM challenges-
- teach students classroom processes,
- introduce students to the engineering design process, and
- help build community as students work together.
There is an endless number of back to school STEM activities that you can find across the Internet. But, for the first weeks of school, I like using STEM challenges that incorporate pencils (because at what other time in the year will you have lots of pencils available!?).
Pencil STEM challenges include-
- Building a bridge with pencils and testing it to see how much weight it can hold.
- Creating a catapult with pencils and testing it to see how far it can launch a piece of paper.
- Developing a strategy for picking up as many pencils as possible in one minute using only chopsticks.
Whatever STEM activities you decide to use, I am sure they will be some of your students’ favorite back to school science activities!
Fun Science Games
Speaking of STEM, some of the best first day of school games are Minute to Win It games. In these games, students compete as a team to complete challenges in one minute or less. Some challenges require the team to work together, while other challenges require one or two students to act as representatives for their teams.
A team receives a point for winning a challenge. After all the challenges are completed, the team with the most points wins.
Interestingly, many Minute It to Win It games are actually STEM challenges in disguise. Some of my favorite games include-
- Stacking Cups: Teams stack a given number of cups into a pyramid in one minute or less. The team that completes their pyramid first, gets the point.
- Flying Balloons: Each team is given a certain number of balloons and must keep all their balloons in the air for one minute. Any team that successfully completes the challenge, gets one point.
- Bottle to Bottle: Each team is given two two-liter bottles. One bottle is full of small objects such as rice or cereal. The other bottle is empty. Teams must move the contents of one bottle to the empty bottle without spilling anything. The team that successfully completes the challenge first, wins the point.
- Iron Man Challenge: One member of each team uses chopsticks to stack as many iron nuts as possible in one minute. The team that builds the tallest tower in one minute, wins the point.
Minute to Win It games are another great way to build community and encourage teamwork at the start of the school year.
More Fun Back to School Activities
These are just a few of my favorite back to school science activities. If you’re looking for even more fun back to school activities, be sure to check out the following video. It includes 10 of my favorite games and activities to use throughout the first week of school.
You can also download my FREE Back to School Ice Breakers Activity Pack for more fun get to know you games and activities.