Natural objects like pine cones are a fabulous addition to any preschool science center. Students measure the size and shape, watch it sprout, and more – this pine cone science experiment is something students are sure to remember!
Pine Cone Science Experiment
This is such a fantastic and easy science experiment! Why do pine cones open and close? Can we make them open and close? So many questions and interesting observations!
- Pine cones – Collect pine cones outdoors or use the ones available at craft stores – both work for this center!
- Magnifying glasses
- Cups or bowls with water
- Tweezers or forceps
How-To Conduct the Pine Cone Experiment:
First, allow students to investigate different pine cones. Discuss the feel and size of each one. Record student questions and observations on a chart paper, such as “Why is this one so small?” or “Look how big this one is!”
Next, show the students examples of pine cones in various stages of opening. Ask them to predict why some pine cones may be small and tightly formed while others look big and open. Provide magnifying glasses and encourage students to investigate each pinecone.
Finally, submerge pinecones in water. Again, ask students to make predictions as to what will happen. Continue to observe and watch as the pine cones will close and seem to shrink shut in the water. Students may want to stay and observe, but it can take up to an hour for the pinecone to close. This is a great time to do a read-aloud (The Pinecone Walk by Barbara Springfield) or incorporate a circle time activity like the rhyming activity from Day 9 of the Plant Unit.
When an open pine cone is placed in water, the scales swell shut, and it appears to shrink. Conversely, when a wet pine cone is removed from the water, it begins to open and looks to grow. How neat is that?!
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Science in the Preschool Classroom
Introducing science and experimentation early in a child’s education is essential. Many times, teachers overthink when it comes to the idea of science in preschool, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Science can be:
- Observation – Simply looking at items is a great way for beginning scientists to start their scientific journey. Find items of high interest (like worms!) and allow students to use magnifying glasses to observe and investigate.
- Using the 5 Senses – Paired with a unit on apples, junior scientists can see the different colors, feel the shape and smoothness of the skin, smell items made from apples, and do a taste test to determine their favorite colored apple.
- Make and Test Predictions – Children love to guess what will happen. Utilize this inquisitiveness by asking students to make predictions, like in this oil & water experiment. Record the guesses and then experiment to see if they were accurate. Make sure to reinforce that predictions aren’t “right” or “wrong,” they are simply guesses based on what we know right now. It’s okay to take a chance on a prediction. 😊
When creating a science center, remember to keep it age-appropriate, and something students can work at independently. There is no need to be going through the whole scientific process. Simply allow students to investigate and explore, and the learning occurs naturally.
Questions Lead to Learning
The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) states, “Learning science and engineering practices from age 3 through preschool can foster a child’s curiosity in exploring the world and lay the foundation for science learning in K-12 settings.” Allowing students to question how the world around them works is integral for higher-level learning.
- Why is my shadow long? Does its size change throughout the day?
- How do flowers get water? Would colored water or different types of liquid affect the colors of the flowers?
- What liquids mix? What liquids won’t mix together even if stirred?
Check out this Resource from my Shop!
Preschool Science Centers – Our Five Senses Unit 1$12.60
Students will learn about the five senses and how to be good scientists during this unit on scientific investigation. Each of the 7 lessons is carefully planned for you and includes: a supply list, learning objectives, lesson ideas, photos and activities, book suggestions, and a journal page.