At-Home Science Activities

Here are videos of research-inspired science activities that can be safely done at home. These hands-on activities are designed to be engaging and accessible for learners. The activities on this page require supplies that you might already have at home or that can easily be acquired. The videos also include examples of how the activities are connected to the learners’ real world experience.

Creating Art using Polarized Light

Join University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student Aedan Gardill as he shows you how to use polarized light and cellophane to create art that’s only visible using polarizers!

Learn more about Aedan Gardill and his art.

Grade Level: 1st and above

Approximate budget: $5.00 – $10.00

Written Instructions for Creating Art with Polarized Light

Freezing Fun

Join the Ediger Group as they show you several activities around the freezing behavior of water. These activities explore how rapidly water freezes in different conditions and how we can prevent water from freezing altogether.

Learn more about the Ediger Group and their research

Grade Level: 4th and above

Approximate budget: <$5.00

Machine Learning Predictions

Ben Afflerbach guides you through a quick, inexpensive activity that will help you understand how “machine learning” can enable computers to make predictions, in this case, whether a material is transparent or not.

Grade Level: 4th and above

Approximate budget: $0

Thin Film Fun

Join Mark Ediger’s group and create your own thin films using household supplies! The Ediger Group will show you how to do the activities and explain how they use and characterize thin films in their research.

Learn more about the Ediger Group and their research.

Learn more about measuring the thickness of your nail polish thin films at home.

Grade level: 4th and above (and fun for all ages!)

Approximate budget: $5

Harvesting Energy From Motion

Build a tapping triboelectric nanogenerator. In this activity, you can build a device that converts the kinetic energy of tapping into electricity to light a small LED bulb.

Grade level: 5th and above

Approximate budget: <$5.00

Written instructions for tapping triboelectric nanogenerators.

Harvesting Energy from Motion

Build a shaking triboelectric nanogenerator. In this activity, you can build a device that converts the kinetic energy of shaking into electricity to light a small LED bulb.

Grade level: 5th and above

Approximate budget: $5.00

Written instructions for shaking triboelectric nanogenerators.

Do-It-Yourself Electroscope

Electroscopes are instruments to detect the presence of electric charge on an object. This electroscope enables the user to compare the charges on different objects through the use of the paper protractor. This instrument is low-cost and great for all ages to explore static electricity.

Grade Level: 4th and above

Approximate Budget: <$5

Written instructions for the DIY Electroscope

Playing with Paper

Join John Considine, Angela Johnson, and Paul Voyles on an exploration of paper, a material that has had profound impact on society! John provides some background on paper, Angela demonstrates the activities, and Paul explains how these activities relate to real-world materials science and engineering.

Grade level: 1st and above

Approximate budget: <$5 (you may already have all the supplies!)

Written instructions for Playing with Paper

Tie Dyeing with Alginate Worms

Create alginate worms with magnets embedded inside! Then submerge the worms in water, add food coloring to the water, and then use magnets to “tie dye” the worms.

Grade Level: 7th and above

Approximate Budget: $10-20

Explore Magnetism with Jello

Embed magnets in gelatin and explore magnetism in a new way!

Grade Level: 2nd and above (with adult supervision)

Approximate Budget: $5-10

Serial Dilutions at Home

How do scientists measure really small amounts of things? Join Anne Lynn as she shows you how to create “serial dilutions” to dilute a substance to less than one part per billion!

Grade level: 2nd and above

Approximate budget: <$5

The Mitten Challenge

Mitten Challenge is an activity to learn about how scientists have to use the right tool for the job.

Grade level: pre-K through 5th

Approximate budget: $0

Written instructions for the mitten challenge.

Cutting It Down to Nano

Learn about size and scale by trying to cut a piece of paper until it’s only a few nanometers long.

Grade level: 1st and above

Approximate budget: $1.00

Written instructions and a pdf of the worksheet for cutting it down to nano.

Carbon Nanotube Finger Puppets

Build three kinds of Carbon Nanotube Finger Puppets to learn about this amazing, super strong material.

Grade level: 4th – 9th

Approximate budget: $1.00

Learn more about carbon nanotubes!

Atomic Force Microscope Model

Use toy bricks to build a model of an Atomic Force Microscope that researchers use to “feel” the atoms in a material.

Grade level: 7th and above

Approximate budget: $10.00 – $20.00

Written instructions for an Atomic Force Microscope model.

Determining Distances with Diffraction

Measure the width of your dog’s hair, or any thin fiber, using a cat toy laser pointer and a makeshift ring stand to hold the hair.

Grade level: 7th and above

Approximate budget: $5

A Look at the Polymer Engineering Center

Join Gerardo and Camila as they show you how the Polymer Engineering Center processes the materials needed for their advanced 3D printing.

Gopalan Lab Tour

The Padma Gopalan Lab takes you on a tour of their lab.

Studying Single Molecules

Join the Goldsmith Group as they show you how and why they study single molecules!

Lost at the Forever Mine

Lost at the Forever Mine, our newest addition takes you on an adventure as a materials scientist who crash-lands on an abandoned mining planet. Using mathematical models, you must determine if you have enough fuel to make it off the planet before your oxygen runs out! This fun, interactive game allows young scientists to practice relating equations and graphs and working with scientific models.

For ages: 10+

Average playing time: less than 30 minutes

Cost: FREE

Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave is an interactive, online game that teaches young scientists about one of the main forms of solid materials, crystals! Through nine levels, players will be challenged to grow a variety of crystals and learn about the properties and importance of their unique structures.

For ages: 10+

Average playing time: less than 15 minutes

Cost: FREE

AtomTouch

Atom Touch takes a look at the extremely small building blocks of life–atoms! Young scientists are able to choose from a variety of activities or partake in free play, which allows you to more deeply explore how atoms really behave.

For ages: 10+

Average playing time: less than 30 minutes

Cost: FREE

Interview with a Scientist - Camille Bishop

This is an interview with materials scientist Camille Bishop. Camille talks about her research, what she likes about science, and her path to becoming a scientist.

Grade level: 3rd and above

Liquid Crystal Sensors

Learn about liquid crystals, a fourth state of matter that is found in displays for electronic devices like cell phones and laptop screens.

For ages: 4th grade and above