On this Saturday in spring, our class theme was eggs. (We do egg science around Easter time, because that’s when you can get plastic eggs in stores, and real eggs are on sale cheap. Plus, of course, it’s a natural spring time topic.)
Question of the Week: What kind of creatures lay eggs? (We want kids to really get that it’s not just birds!)
Challenge: Can you drop a hard-boiled egg from a height without cracking the shell?
Hands-On STEM Activities for Kids
Egg drop challenge. The ultimate goal is for kids to create a container that they can put a raw egg in and drop it from several feet and not have the egg break.
Do we start by giving the kids a raw egg? Of course not! We go through three stages of testing. First, they use a tester egg. (I’ve discovered that if you put a rubber bouncy ball inside of a plastic Easter egg, it has about the same degree of toughness / fragility as a raw egg. If you drop it from a few inches, it does fine. If you drop it from a few feet with no padding, it’s guaranteed to break open. But then it’s easily re-assembled for more tests.) Once they’ve successfully tested that several times, they can graduate up to a hard boiled egg – if it fails, it cracks and can’t be re-used, but at least it doesn’t make a big mess of their container. Once that’s proven, they can get a raw egg. They start each level of testing very cautiously… drop from a few inches up, then a couple feet, then more feet… in the end, you might be dropping off a balcony or throwing against a wall. (Or adult teams have been known to drop from a 6th story window…) The ending is pretty much always a container full of squashed egg goo. (Unless, of course, you pack your egg inside a plastic baggy.)
You can use a very wide variety of materials to make your container. (See below for more tips). In our class, for 3 – 7 year olds, we put out tester eggs (plastic eggs with a bouncy ball inside), quart size Ziplocs and gallon size and a variety of packing materials – Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, cloth, air, water, and so on. The kids would pack the bag with soft materials, nest the egg inside them, then drop the egg, then check it – is it still intact? If not, they put it back together (that’s why we’re using tester eggs!), re-engineer their container and try again. If it is still intact, they can re-seal it and drop it from a greater height. We also had a worksheet to encourage our older kids to make a prediction about what would happen, and track what they’ve tested. (here’s an even simpler worksheet: www.iheartcraftythings.com/2012/08/humpty-dumpty-science.html)
This is a GREAT activity for teaching the Tinkering mindset. Come up with an idea. Build it. Test it. Refine it to make it better. Once you have a success, challenge yourself to take it to the next level.
This activity scales to a lot of different age groups. The preschool kids – three and four year olds – enjoy doing it for a while. They’ll do tester eggs and a few engineering revisions… maybe three or four tests, then they move on. Older kids (early elementary) will try more iterations, and want to earn the right to graduate up to a hard-boiled egg. A really committed kid could spend hours on this project, testing lots of different container options. It’s even fun for middle schoolers, high schoolers, or adults.
If you want LOTS more ideas for this, just do a google search or YouTube search for “egg drop challenge.” I like this video, by a former NASA engineer http://gizmodo.com/how-to-win-your-physics-class-egg-drop-competition-1707125282. He talks about these major design ideas, and explains the science of them:
- “Popcorn ball” – really, any container filled with any type of soft packing materials – egg nestled in the middle.
- Parachute. Tie on a plastic grocery bag or other item to slow the fall. This isn’t going to do much good when testing from a few feet up, but may work well at a height.
- A crash cage from straws, cardboard, or other materials.
- Martian airbags (balloons surrounding the egg).
- Helium balloons to float the egg slowly to the ground. (Note: some egg drop competitions don’t allow helium balloons, so be sure to check your rules!)
What have you tried? Was it successful?
Science Display / Imaginative Play: We had a no-touch display of real eggs and real nests for kids to explore with magnifying glasses. Next to that, we had baskets shaped like nests, hardboiled eggs (chicken and quail) and bird toys. We set the book An Egg Is Quiet with them, and hung a poster comparing how big the eggs are for various species. We encouraged kids to make up a story or “puppet show” with the toy birds.
Science Learning: We made a collection of photos (all taken from the ZooBorns website) and printed them so on the back of each picture, there was either an egg, or an egg with a circle/slash through it. Then we made two signs – “Hatched from an Egg” and “Live Born (did not hatch from an egg)”. I’ve attached the file PDF so you can get a better look at it – but I don’t have copyright on these images, so I encourage you to make your own set of cards rather than printing this one.
Science Exploration: We made naked eggs in advance (see links at bottom of the post). The first year, we did it as a display: we had one out in a bowl for kids to *carefully* explore. Next to that, we had a jar with an egg in vinegar so they could see the process that led to the naked egg. This year we did it as a closing circle demo, and that was better.
Discovery Activity: We filled plastic eggs with plastic animals – a wide variety of animals that hatch from eggs, including insects, amphibians, fish, and reptiles.
Animal Observation: Observe animals that come from eggs – we had a display area with a leopard gecko and crickets. This is a NO TOUCH display. (We had these hidden at the beginning of class and brought them out during opening circle.)
Arts and Crafts
Make a Hatching Animal. Here is a free printable activity. Kids choose an animal, cut it out and color it. Then they cut out a paper egg, cut it in half, join the halves together with a brad (paper fastener). They glue down the edge of the bottom half of the egg onto card stock, making a “pocket” to tuck the animal into. The top half opens and closes to reveal or hide the animal. (Idea sources: 1, 2, 3)
Egg shaker instruments. Put out plastic eggs. Dried beans to fill with, Sharpies to decorate with, and tape to seal them closed. (Or a hot glue gun to seal them closed.)
Plastic egg animals. Put out plastic eggs, felt, glue, feathers, and googly eyes. They make whatever animal they want, ideally one that hatches from an egg, for science learning, but really, we let them do whatever they want. Option 1: they could make an egg shaker first, then turn it into an egg animal. Option 2: make a nest for the egg animal by taking a paper lunch bag, tearing off the top of the bag, and rolling it down. Fill it with “easter grass” or with shredded paper to nest the egg into.
Art Process: Gelatin eggs. Make clear gelatin in egg-shaped molds. Put out with pipettes, liquid water color. Kids insert the pipette to make a hole, pull it out a little, then squirt in color. Ideas from: www.two-daloo.com/sensory-art-play-colorful-gelatin-castles/ and http://myiearlychildhoodreflections.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-is-there-gelatin-in-sensory-table.html
Last year, we did this in the sensory tub on a white tray. This year, we did it in a clear pie pan on the light table. Note: this year our eggs stuck to the molds… next time, I’ll try spraying molds with non-stick spray before pouring in the gelatin mix.
Coloring Eggs – We don’t do this in class, because we’re a secular class with people from a wide variety of backgrounds, and this activity is very closely associated with Easter. However, there’s LOTS of great ways to color eggs: marble them with shaving cream, melted crayon Easter eggs, tissue paper dyed eggs, wax resist eggs, and many more. At home this year, we used pipettes to drip liquid watercolor onto eggs. Put the eggs on a metal drying rack so the paint will drip through and not pool underneath (and set the drying rack on a cookie sheet or tray to catch the excess paint!) Mix 3 parts watercolor with one part vinegar (to increase the color-fastness of the paint). Use pipettes to drip it on. Note: liquid watercolor isn’t designed for food. If the egg shell is intact and no color reaches the egg, I think it’s fine, but if the egg was cracked and the egg was stained with color, I’m not sure I would eat it. These take 15 – 30 minutes to dry.
Big motor play: Egg Roll Race. http://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/plastic-easter-egg-races-exploring-ramps-gravity-motion-saturday-science/ Using cardboard “gutters”, roll a ball down the gutter, or roll an egg down, roll “wobbly eggs” down. Which rolls furthest? Which rolls smoothest? We only had three foot long gutters… I wished we’d had longer.
We made wobbly eggs for this: open a plastic Easter egg, glue one small rock inside, glue closed. Older kids and adults found these interesting, because they rolled in unexpected ways. For example, with one, no matter what position you set it down in, it would pop up on one end. Little kids didn’t find this intriguing at all – they don’t have any sense of how eggs “should” roll, so didn’t notice that they were behaving oddly. We also learned that when people see Easter eggs, the first thing they do is open them up to look inside – not just the kids but the adults would too, and then realize they’d broken the glue seal. Last year, by the end of class, kids had removed all the rocks from all the eggs. This year, we wrote on the eggs “Don’t open me!”
This was a great “busy boy” activity. Every class has some kids (boys or girls) who just love the big motor do it over and over activity. This group had four boys who played there together for easily 15 minutes saying “OK, let’s test this big one now”, “hey, what happens if we…” and so on, testing out all the ideas, and jumping up and down with excitement.
In the big motor area, we also put out spoons for a “carry the egg in a spoon” game, and a wooden egg for “toss the egg” practice.
Math Foundations: Pattern matching: Put out 6 plastic eggs, broken into their halves. Put up this printable poster of mix and match eggs (or make your own to match the eggs that you have!) – they need to match the patterns (blue on top, pink on bottom, etc.)
Literacy skills: We made word family plastic eggs – http://mamateaches.com/word-family-eggs/. We put out a tray of salt or flour for writing letters in so they could practice copying the words that they saw (www.playdoughtoplato.com/word-family-eggs/).
Emotional Intelligence – Sorting activity: Pair up halves of toy eggs so that their facial expressions match. (It’s not a terribly exciting activity for this age group, but if you happen to have a set of these eggs, it’s easy to set them out for kids to explore.)
Water table: You could put red water beads in the tub to simulate fish eggs floating in water. Or, put in water and detergent, and let them use egg beaters and whisks to stir up some bubbles. (We use a wide variety of tools in this class, to teach tool skills and build fine motor development.)
Snack idea: Speaking of egg beaters, I think meringue cookies would be a great snack project. Learn more: www.livescience.com/44419-egg-science-experiments.html
Gathering the Students. We used this idea from: Storytime Planners. Say: Make a noise like a rooster. (Crow) Make a noise like a hen. (Cluck) Make a noise like a chick. (Peep) Make a noise like an unhatched egg. (Silence) Good! And now you’re ready to listen!
Song: I’m a little chick – tune of I’m a Little Teapot.
Inspired by 3 songs on http://jeninthelibrary.com/tag/eggs/
I’m a little chickie, (crouch down inside your egg) Ready to hatch,
Pecking at my shell, (Pecking motion) Peck, peck, scratch! (scratching motion)
When I crack it open, Out I’ll leap. (Pop Up)
I’ll spread my wings (hands in armpits and flap) And cheep, cheep, cheep.
Intro to Theme: Ask them what kinds of creatures hatch out of eggs. Point to animal classification signs to remind them.
Book: Choose one about all the different animals that lay eggs. Some to choose from, in order from my favorite to less preferred. (The first three are “guessing games” which is always fun in circle time. They cover several creatures with two page-spreads each: there’s a “teaser” page that shows a nice illustration and gives some clues, then it asks listeners to guess what is growing inside the egg. The next page reveals the answer.)
- Guess What Is Growing Inside This Egg – “Their mother crawled from sea to land to bury these soft eggs in the sand. Can you guess what is growing inside these eggs? Sea turtles!” The reveal pages also have a paragraph of detailed info about that creature which 5 – 7 year olds might enjoy reading after circle. Age 4 – 7.
- Eggs, 1, 2, 3: Who Will The Babies Be? This is a beautiful book with unique illustrations. It’s a counting book, which is always nice, and the lift the flap guessing game aspect of “who will the babies be” is great. I’d only give it 4 out of 5 stars because the rhythm of the text just doesn’t flow as nicely as I would wish. “Four eggs, of sky blue, in a nest of grass and mud on a branch in a backyard. Who will the babies be? 4 robin chicks, with beaks open wide.” Age 3 – 6
- What Will Hatch? “Jelly, jiggly. What will hatch? Wiggly, squiggly tadpole.”
- A teacher in my class recommended a lift-the-flap book called Something is Coming. Our library doesn’t have a copy but it sounds great.
- An Egg Is Quiet. Gorgeous naturalistic illustrations! (The Amazon listing has a “look inside” that lets you look at a few of them.) Illustrates at least 100 different eggs, mostly at actual size, including birds, fish, insects and amphibians. Ends with illustrations of many of the creatures that hatch from eggs. “An egg is quiet. It sits there, under its mother’s feathers… on top of its fathers feet… buried beneath the sand. Warm. Cozy. An egg is colorful…” Beautiful and informative. Great to put out on a table to enjoy, but not as engaging an option for circle time as the others. Pictures great for any age – text is best for age 5 – 8.
- Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones. “Chickens aren’t the only ones. Most snakes lay eggs, and lizards too, and crocodiles and turtles do and dinosaurs who are extinct, but they were reptiles too.”
Lift the Flap or Felt Board: I printed out a poster with ten pictures on it, and covered each picture with a post it note, then shared this rhyme, which is adapted from one that Jen in the Library says came from Preschool Favorites by Diane Briggs. I changed a few verses, because I wanted to include more non-bird oviparous animals.
There are ten little eggs / And what do we see / They’re about to crack open / “My goodness me,” said Mother Hen.
The first egg cracks open. And what do we see? It’s a fuzzy, little duckling, looking at me.
The second egg cracks open. And what do we see? It’s a pretty little robin, looking at me.
The third egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a long-necked ostrich Looking at me.
The fourth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a hungry caterpillar Looking at me.
The fifth egg cracks open And what do we see An orange &white clownfish Looking at me.
The sixth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a snappy alligator Looking at me.
The seventh egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a wiggly tadpole Looking at me.
The eighth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a duck-billed platypus Looking at me.
The ninth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a little green dinosaur Looking at me.
The tenth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a little yellow chicken Looking at me.
“My baby!” said the mother hen, as happy as can be.
“Mommy!” said the chick. “Did you meet all my sisters and brothers?” “What!” shrieked Mother Hen, “My goodness me.”
(My poster is here… some of these images are copyrighted, so you should consider making your own poster. This poster is 11 x 17, which is best, because the pictures are very easily covered by a standard size post-it, without them overlapping. This poster is 8.5 x 11, in case that’s all you can print, but you’ll probably have to lay the post-its on in reverse order, from the 10th first, down to #1 so that you uncover them in order.)
20 questions game: I did two brief games where I thought of an animal, and they had to guess what I was thinking of. (Read this post to learn all about what kids learn by playing guessing games, and how to start teaching them to little ones.) We used our animal classification posters to suggest the best questions to ask first: does it hatch from an egg, or is it born live? How many legs does it have? What kind of skin does it have? Can it live in the water? Can it fly?
The first animal was a cricket, and when they guessed what it was, I went in the back room and brought out the container of crickets and we talked about those for a while. The second animal was a leopard gecko, and after they guessed lizard, I brought one out. I told them they could not touch it, but I held the gecko in my hand so they could all get a good look at it. Then I put it back in its cage, and we fed it some crickets.
Hike through the woods to observe spring time changes – buds, blossoms, flowers, new leaves…
You could easily do an egg hunt. Kids LOVE to do egg hunts. They’re usually happy to do them over and over and over, as many times as you want to hide the eggs. Learn more about the joys of egg hunts and all the things kids learn by doing them
End with egg toss game. First, the teachers demo’ed it. Take an egg, carefully pass from one to the other. Take a step back, gently toss and catch. Take another step back, toss and catch, and so on. Then have all the kids pair up and give them each an egg. We played on thick grass, and our eggs were VERY sturdy. Some teams probably dropped their egg 10 times before it broke. We picked up all the shells to compost, but left egg goo there – animals will eat it. If it was summer and there were lots of barefoot kids running in the park, clean up as much goo as you can.
Note: if you have to play on a harder surface, you may want to use hard-boiled eggs. Or, you can start with hard-boiled and once they build up their skills and confidence, switch them to raw eggs.
Optional songs to sing:
I Love Eggs (Tune: Frere Jacques) – (from: Storytime Source Page) I love eggs, I love eggs. Yum, yum, yum ; Yum, yum, yum. Scrambled, boiled or fried, any way I’ve tried. Yum, yum, yum ; Yum, yum, yum
If You Like Your Eggs Scrambled (Tune: Happy & You Know It) (Storytime Source Page) If you like your eggs scrambled, clap your hands If you like your eggs scrambled, clap your hands Yes, they’re yummy and they’re yellow So you’ll be a happy fellow If you like your eggs scrambled, clap your hands
If you like your eggs fried, jump up high… If you want bacon with your eggs, wiggle your legs… If you want toast instead, nod your head (Mmm-hmm)…
Group Activity: Chicken Dance – Play the music and have the children do the classic dance: Make your hands like talking four times, flap arms like wings four times, wiggle bottom four times, clap Four times, do it again faster!!
You can find lots more book recommendations, songs, and story-time felt board activities at https://jeninthelibrary.com/tag/eggs/
Book: One of many great books about someone finding an egg with a mysterious occupant and the process of waiting for it to hatch or other silly stories about eggs – there’s a lot of them! Some options:
- The Odd Egg. All the other birds have laid an egg except Duck. (The observant reader will notice it’s a male duck by its coloring.) Duck finds a very large egg he claims for his own, and waits for it to hatch. This is a very fun read-aloud, and the graphic design is really interesting… see my review on Amazon for a picture.
- The Chick That Wouldn’t Hatch. There are 6 eggs in a nest. 5 chicks hatch. The other egg goes for a long roll through the barnyard, past the pond, over the ditch, with lots of animals chasing it. Then it finally hatches. A silly book that kids age 3 – 6 enjoy. Includes an idea for a craft at the end.
- The Cow That Laid an Egg. Marjorie the cow doesn’t feel special because she can’t ride bicycles and do handstands like all the other cows. The chickens hide a cow-spotted egg near her and say she’s laid an egg. Everyone is astonished. Eventually the egg hatches into a chick…. that says MOO!!
- An Extraordinary Egg. Too long for circle if you have kids under age 5, but it’s a fun story of an adventurous and curious frog who finds an egg. The other frogs declare it to be a chicken egg, and they continue to call it a chicken even after the animal hatches and has four legs and swims very well. They continue to think it’s a chicken even when its real mother refers to it as her “sweet little alligator.” Kids four and under will be confused by this book when they see pictures of an alligator and everyone calls it a chicken. A five or six year old understands the absurdity.
- Egg Drop. This book delights me. Truly. I chuckled while reading it. But I didn’t read it at class. “The egg was young. It didn’t know much. We tried to tell it, but of course if didn’t listen. If only it had waited.” It wants to fly before hatching, and in the end jumps from a great height which doesn’t end well. In the end, our protagonist is a smiling sunny-side up egg next to some bacon waiting to be eaten. Again, I liked it. Many kids (including mine) would like it…. but some might find it disturbing.
Egg drop. We had the kids who had made the best egg drop container demonstrate it to the class.
Naked Egg Demo: I peeled one of the cracked hard-boiled eggs left over from the egg toss and showed that to them – the white and the yolk. Then I held up a raw egg that had survived the egg toss and we talked about how even those these eggs seem pretty fragile, they’re sturdier than you’d think. But then I cracked the egg open on the edge of the bowl to show how if you hit it just right, it’s easy to break. I broke it open and showed them the raw egg white and yolk. Then we brought out our naked egg, still soaking in vinegar. I explained that I had put a raw egg in the vinegar three days ago and that it bubbled and bubbled, and that the vinegar had dissolved away the shell, leaving the raw egg in a rubbery membrane. I poured the egg out in my hand (letting the vinegar pour into a bowl). Then I rinsed the egg in a bowl of water and rubbed off the last of the shell residue. Then I carefully bounced the egg in a bowl a few times. Then I held it up higher and dropped it. It broke, and you could see the membrane, the white and the yolk. We examined them all.
More recommended books for the classroom bookshelf
- A Nest Full of Eggs. For kids age 6 – 7 (or younger if they have a long attention span), this is a nice engaging story of robins building a nest, laying eggs, hatching and flying away. It’s also a great non-fiction book about birds, that covers everything from diagrams showing how the chick develops inside the egg, to illustrations of the feathers of 23 different birds from hummingbird to pheasant, from where in the world birds are found, and the variety of habitats in which they live.
- Where Do Chicks Come From? Even though this is supposedly the same reading level as the previous book, I find the scientific concepts are much more advanced, and more details than most of my kids would want. But if you have a scientifically minded kid who wants to know it all, check it out.
- From Egg to Chicken. A non-fiction review of the chicken’s maturation. A fine reference for a 6-7 year old who wants to learn more of the details.
- Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package by Jenkins and Page. Although the Amazon listing says it’s for preschool to age 7, I agree with the Library Journal review which rates it as second to fourth grade (i.e. 7 – 9 or so). Lots of great details, shown in an engaging, easy to understand way. Covers sizes of eggs, where they are laid, animals that eat eggs, how eggs are packaged, carried, incubated, and how they develop. An excellent book for older kids, I have it in my class for the pictures, but the words are beyond my 3 – 7 year olds.
- Eggs. You might want this for Stevenson’s illustrations – beautiful naturalistic drawings. The words are over the head of this age group. (I teach kids 3 – 7.)
- Hank Finds an Egg by Dudley. Sweet wordless story book about a teddy bear that finds an egg in the woods and tries several different ways to return it to its nest – jumping, standing on a tall stump. building a ladder, and finally wrapping it up in a bundle with a ribbon so the mama bird can pick it up with her beak. Very cute photographs in a fun tale of problem solving a difficult challenge. And the sweetness of the bear’s commitment to getting the bird home. The younger children in our class loved this story.
- How to Make a Bouncing Egg (Hands-On Science Fun). A book that walks you through the process of making a naked egg (see below.) You don’t really learn anything you won’t learn by doing it. But, if you want a book about it, it’s available.
Additional Activities We Didn’t / Couldn’t Do in Class
- Egg Geodes: use rock salt, sea salt, or borax and egg shells to make these pretty science experiments: http://tinkerlab.com/experiment-egg-geodes/
- Naked Eggs – soak an egg in vinegar for days – the shell dissolves, leaving a bouncy, rubbery raw egg. http://imaginationstationtoledo.org/content/2011/04/how-to-make-a-naked-egg/ and www.icanteachmychild.com/the-bouncy-egg/
- For an engineering class, you could use egg shells as domes and stack heavy objects on them to show how strong they are: www.science-sparks.com/2011/09/01/how-strong-is-an-eggshell/
- You could walk on eggshells: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/walking-on-eggshells/
- Could have children build nests of twigs, mud, etc. (or playdough and popsicle sticks)
- Egg Sink or Float: Put a hard-boiled egg in water. It sinks. Add lots of salt to the water – it floats: http://www.planet-science.com/categories/under-11s/chemistry-chaos/2012/01/can-you-make-an-egg-float.aspx
Egg Trivia – Mostly for Grown-Ups: I just learned some fascinating new things about how birds hatch. A common story is that chicks hatch because they run out of food and they run out of room in the egg. Here’s what actually happens (written by Joy Berry): “A chick near to hatching is not starving. It is fuller than it’s ever been. The chick has just absorbed the yolk fully into its abdomen, and that yolk is all the food it needs for 2 – 3 days after it is fully hatched. That fullness increases the chick’s total body mass, but it isn’t ever too big for the egg. In fact, it only develops in about 75 – 80% of the egg’s capacity, because the egg itself has a built in extra portion, a room that doesn’t get opened till the end of incubation. It is the air sac, and the chick’s body gets big enough as it absorbs yolk to piece that membrane with its perfectly evolved egg tooth (a sharp little point on its beak that disappears after hatching) and then it starts breathing the air the egg has absorbed through the shell into that space. This puffs it up even more. As it’s getting “inspired” by breathing air and filling its lungs, it is getting bigger and also having room to kick down, against the bottom of the shell. And that air it is breathing means it can do something else for the first time…. PEEP. The headroom in the air sac means it can begin to peck at the inside of the shell, pipping a tiny air hole (more fresh air!) and then zipping all the way round. When that process happens, mama and it and the other chicks are talking to each other all during the hatch, from inside and outside the shell. Its hard work is often assisted by the mother hens and sometimes hatch mates, pecking at the openings to make it bigger and “talking” to one another and encouraging them.” After I learned that, I also found this great article on how animals breathe inside eggs, and how their chorioallantoic membrane and allantois relates to a mammal umbilical cord and placenta…. check it out: www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/29/how-does-chick-breathe-in-egg-allantois
A video… just for the goofiness of it: Check out this trifle.