Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Science fun- going buggy!

It's been a busy week and let's face it - the last several posts verge on the rather deep.  So, because I'm a scientist, an educator, and a Mom to a food allergic child, I've decided to start a new little series on the blog aimed at fun, simple science experiments you can do with your food allergic child to inspire all the little future Einsteins and Curies out there!  Oh, and if you're an adult who does not happen to have a child, by all means, let your inner curiosity that is itching to get out (I hope not literally) and share with the little scientists in your life, whether it is niece, nephew, or family friend!

Have I mentioned that I love science?!  Have I mentioned that I love fostering the science in all of us?!  My poor children are probably doomed to all things geek-dom and I couldn't be any prouder.  Science rocks!  As humans, we are constantly striving to understand the world around us, and I strongly believe we are all born with an innate scientific ability that gets squashed for way too many of us as we get more "educated." 
Image source:

Alright, I'll get off my little soapbox, and get to the first fun science project for kiddos, inspired by none other than JR's fascination with all things "bug." 

I admit it. I am a life scientist with a very narrow focus on all things vertebrate (those animals with a backbone), and I have neglected a large swath of the animal kingdom for far too long.  One major animal division (phylum) are the arthropods - those animals with an exoskeleton (hard outer shell) in lieu of an internal skeleton like us humans.  Included in this phylum are classes of animals, which include insects, spiders (arachnids - FYI - did you know the highly allergenic dust mite is similar to a spider?  Now you do!), and the highly allergenic shell fish (crustaceans), among others.  By the way, a great way to ruffle the feathers of an entomologist...oh wait, "bugs" don't have feathers, is to lump spiders together with insects.  Faux pas - don't ever do that.  Here is a nice side-by-side comparison of these two classes of arthropod. 

Now that you know what insects are - on to the fun part - the science!  When it comes to insects, I'm a bit inept.  Therefore, I will refer you to an awesome, easy-to-do experiment  on a fantastic blog by The Bug Chicks!  In this experiment (link to experiment), you can leave a bug trap outside in your back yard (different brightly colored bowls filled with soapy water) and determine which color bowl is the "better" trap.  Be sure to define what "better" means - one possible example is a higher number of bugs landing in the trap.  And, like all good scientists do, form a hypothesis and think of what your experimental control will be - your baseline for comparison against the brightly colored bowls, your treatment.  Don't forget to encourage your kids to form a hypothesis (what do they think is going to happen and why).   Even if you, the parent, have an idea of what the outcome of the experiment will be, shh... do not tell your kids!  Let them discover it all on their own - this is doing science!  Once you have your results, look online to see if you can find an explanation for why your experiment turned out the way it did :).  Have fun and be sure to comment below with your findings if you end up doing the experiment!
Tools for your buggy experiment. Image source:  The Bug Chicks

 Oh, and if you or you or your child has a potential allergy or are appalled by the creepy crawlies, you can always turn to anatomically correct lego bug collections for all the insect fun without the creepy crawly :).  

I am in no way endorsing this product, other than to say this looks really cool!  Image source:

Fun sources:

1.  Explore the animal kingdom with beautiful pictures and sound explanations from the Dept. of Zoology at the University of Michigan.
2.  The Bug Chicks blog
3.  JR's favorite book on bugs:  On Beyond Bugs!  All About Insects  by Tish Rabe.

PS - I'm so excited to find out the Bug Chicks are Portland, Oregon gals!  I definitely will be on the look-out for upcoming events for JR! 


  1. I'm excited about this addition to your blog - thanks!

  2. Oh, I hope you do keep up this series, especially with summer coming soon! We raise and release monarchs (just for fun and to help the population), so we're big bug fans around here. Not sure if we can cram another single lego kit into the house, but I may have to try, because those look really cool.

    1. Thanks, Libby! I'm hoping to come up with some more fun things - outside, but possibly in the kitchen, too. I hear you on the lego collections - we're trying to figure out where all of our recently acquired lego kits will go as well!