Summer Reading Club Activities: Mysteries of Space

The theme for Summer Reading Club this week is Into the Great Unknown! So mysterious, right? Our activities this weekend are about exciting mysteries of space, like the science of light and yummy little aliens.

Activity 1: The Super Cool Science of Light

This activity has multiple parts so you and your children can experiment with science and art to learn about light. Each activity is stand-alone so you can choose to do one or all three.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Small toys
  • A flashlight
  • Coloured pencils or crayons
  • A cup of water
  • Blank pieces of white paper

Here’s What to Do:

Option 1 –

This first activity is about shadows and art. Start by setting your toys on a blank piece of paper like so. We started with just Mr. Cheetah.

Then shine a flashlight on them and trace their shadows! This can be done all at once or individually. It’s best to have one person hold the flashlight and another person do the drawing. You’ll see that Miss Triceratops’ shadow was fuzzy and doesn’t match her traced line exactly. It’s very tough to get the correct shadow back if you move the object, so try and do your tracing all in one go.

Once your shadows are sketched, you can colour them in! We coloured ours shadow-colour, but yours can look however you want them to. They might even be entirely different from what you traced.

This activity can be super-sized on a hot day by having somebody pose and then tracing their shadow with chalk. Encourage your child to use different props to make cool shadows.

Option 2 –

This activity is about light science. It’s super simple, but also seems magical – your kids will never see it coming. If you really want to trick them, tell them it’s “magic liquid” (it’s water), before you do the experiment.

All you have to do is set a glass jar about 6 inches in front of a paper with a design on it, preferably a repeated symbol that is slightly different. This can be different colours or opposite facing arrows. Your symbols should be approximately an inch apart. We drew two different coloured bars with pencil crayons (anyone can do this, even if you don’t feel artistic).

Then, have your children keep their eyes on the bars as you slowly pour water into the jar until it is full and the bars are covered. You should see the bars switch positions! The distance between them might even change.

You can perform this experiment yourself, or simply view our video below. Whatever you choose, talk about it with your children. Why do they think this happens?

Scientifically, this is called optics. When light changes mediums (a medium is whatever the light is going through. Air is a medium. Water is a medium. Jello is a medium.) it refracts, or bends. The light has to go through 3 different mediums in this experiment and it refracts 4 times! In addition, the glass of water acts kind of like a magnifying glass.  When light goes through a magnifying glass, the light bends towards the centre. Where all the light that bends to the centre meets is called the focal point. But beyond the focal point images appear to be reversed (or switched!) because the light rays have bent so far that the rays that were on the left are now on the right and vice versa. Because the light rays are in opposite places so too are the pictures!

Light science is so cool! For more cool science, check out ScienceFlix!

Option 3 –

If your child is little, they might like playing around with shadow puppets! Try shining the flashlight on different toys. Notice and talk about how the toy looks different from its shadow. What details are missing? Colours? Can you change the size of the shadows? This is a great opportunity for play!

Activity 2: Alien Strawberries

Our second activity is an opportunity to play with your food! Once all the supplies are prepared your children can have fun putting together (and eating!) their little aliens. This is also a good opportunity to have your children help prepare the snack by washing berries or placing them in bowls. Send us a picture of your cool creation to summerreading@tnrd.ca once you’re finished!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Strawberries
  • Cream cheese (whipped is best!)
  • Chocolate chips or sesame seeds (to use as eyes)
  • Toothpicks
  • Knife 
  • Fruit or edible flowers to decorate! Think: 
    • blueberries 
    • raspberries 
    • blackberries 
    • pineapple cut into shapes 
    • violets 
    • mint 
    • sunflower or pumpkin seeds
    • If you have a garden, explore it for yummy things!

Here’s What to Do:

First, slice off the top or bottom of each strawberry to make a flat surface, so the berry will stand on its own.

You can make the alien faces by putting the cream cheese in a piping bag, or in a plastic bag and snipping the corner. A messier way to do it is to use a better knife and wipe the cream cheese on in broad strokes. (We chose the messy option.)

Our messy creation station featuring alien bodies, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, blueberries, and mint leaves.

Spread cream cheese near the top of the strawberry. Press 2 mini-chocolate chips into the cream cheese to create eyes.

Then, provide your children with the decoration items and tooth picks. They can make different kinds of antenna, tails, arms, spikes, or feet! Get creative with your aliens, then eat your snack! We did most of our attaching by using cream cheese instead of toothpicks, just to see if we could.

Here is our gallery of strawberry aliens! They were soooooo cute. Our Summer Programs Assistant, Julye-Anne, made them with her family. Mom, Dad, and sister were all in the kitchen making aliens. They were very creative!