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GoStudent Expert Chloe’s Guide to Science Through Nature: Exploring Nature with Children
How do rivers form? Why are plants green? Why do things float? Your little ones are filled with questions but do you have the answers? Encourage your children to keep learning by doing it with them. There’s never been a better time to take education outside the classroom. A simple walk in nature is all you need to experience these phenomena for yourself.
Science is all around us, from the way plants grow, to how rivers flow; keep reading to get a glimpse at science’s most frequently asked questions. No more nervous googling next time they ask you why the sky is blue!
Exploring nature with children can help them develop a love for learning and a curiosity that will benefit them in their future studies. Online tutoring is also a great way to get your kids excited about science! Why not book a free trial session with one of our passionate GoStudent tutors today?
How do rivers form?
What’s interesting about rivers is that it’s the water that forms the river, not the other way around! Rivers start off as tiny streams running down a mountain slope. The beginning of the river is known as the source. Fed by melting snow and rainfall, and joined by other little streams, the water gradually grows into the body of a river. But this in itself isn’t enough to form a river. The running water is what shapes the landscape by wearing away rock; a process known as erosion.
When walking along a river, you can notice that it gets gradually wider, with increasing velocity (speed at which the river flows), accommodating for the increasing body of water.
One fun experiment you can do with your kids is to drop an orange in the water and let it travel, recording how long it takes to travel from point A to point B. Try to grab it before you lose it in the water, but since oranges are biodegradable, it’s less of an issue than a lost plastic ball!
Why are plants green?
Plants contain a green substance called chlorophyll, a chemical which absorbs sunlight and uses it for photosynthesis. (More on this later, but in short, it’s the process by which plants make their own energy). But why does it have to be green?
In order to understand, we need to know how light works. There are three primary colors of light: red, green and blue. Mixed together, they make white light. Objects reflect and absorb different light waves in order to allow us to see different colours. A red jumper is red because it reflects all red light and absorbs the rest, whilst a green jumper reflects green light and absorbs the rest.
This colour theory helps plants absorb the wavelength which is most beneficial to them; red! Their green leaves reflect all of the green light and some of the blue light, allowing them to absorb the red light most effectively. Red light is highly effective at regulating plant growth and development for plants because it supports and prolongs the flowering of the plant.
The next part involves more physics and can get slightly more mathsy, but it’s an example of how we can even come across a nature based maths curriculum! Have your kids ever asked you:
Why do things float?
This is a topic that students might be more familiar with, simply because they are frequently faced by objects sinking and floating, whether it is in their bath or at the swimming pool.
One of the most common conceptions that children have is that heavy objects sink and light objects float regardless of their size, shape or type of material used to make them. Although this holds some truth, it is not the full picture, otherwise we’d be in trouble every time we entered a ship!
One of the most important aspects of understanding floating is density. If you remember this from school, you might know this as mass per unit, meaning how heavy it is compared to its volume. A heavy object with a small volume, such as a pebble, will have a higher density than a beach ball, which is lighter and has a bigger volume.
It’s not all about how heavy it is. You might even remember that you can work out the density of an object by dividing its mass by its volume. What determines whether an object floats or sinks is determined by how its density compares to the density of water, meaning that if an object is more dense than water it will sink, whilst if it's less dense than water it will float. Hollow things tend to float because they are filled with air, which is less dense than water.
And contrary to what your kiddos might think, a larger shape actually helps the object float. The way floating works is that the object pushes down on the body of water, whilst the water pushes up. The force which wins determines whether the object will float or sink. A larger surface area means that more of the water is pushing up on the object, meaning that more of the upwards force is exerted, allowing it to float.
A fun game you can play with your kids is fill a tank of water and pick up a variety of objects. Have them guess whether the object will float or sink before testing it out. Get them to play with their siblings or friends for a friendly competition.
This could go on forever, and perhaps we need another post about science’s frequently asked questions, but the last part of the natural curriculum we will uncover today is:
Why is the sky blue?
Looking at the section on photosynthesis, we already know quite a bit about how light waves work and how we perceive colour. We know that when all colours of light are mixed, we get white light; but this means that white light can scatter into coloured light, which is exactly what happens with rainbows. Tiny air molecules cause the white light to scatter into individual wavelengths. Blue and violet light have the shortest wavelengths, whilst red has the longest. This means that blue light is scattered more than red light, causing the sky to appear blue.
But why isn’t it violet? Well, it technically is. If you remember from the question on plants, we talked about how we perceive colours based on which wavelengths are absorbed and reflected. The violet light is still there, it’s just that our eyes are more sensitive to detecting blue light, and more of the sunlight coming into the earth’s atmosphere is blue rather than violet.
When looking at science through nature, we can appreciate the intricate beauty of the world we live in, from colour, to shape, to size, everything in this world is so carefully designed for its purpose. Learning through nature can make science tangible and real, rather than an abstract thing talked about in the classroom, and the more excited you are about learning new things, the more encouraged your kids will be to view education, not as a chore, but as an activity which is enjoyable and fun.