This guy is a middle school teacher. His site has about 40 carefully-selected science toys that can be easily made for cheap or even free. Each one has instructions, images, and most have videos and animations. Everything is explained which makes YOU look like the expert!
The Exploratorium in San Francisco is literally the mother of the modern hands-on inquiry musems (we have five of them here in Oklahoma!).
They have oodles of resources for science teachers and here is one: Over 100 quick demonstrations and activities. Some require advance preparation and some do not. They call them “Snacks”.
This is a wonderful science education site from India. There are literally several hundred easy little toys to make from paper and other scraps. He does not go deeply into the science of each however you, the trained professional, could easily have them modify different variables and you have an instant STEM, STEAM, or EDP activity.
Many of them also have short videos. Don’t overlook the opportunity to teach cultural diversity as the language, etc are slightly different from here in rural USA.
With several hundred activities you could literally have one per day – as if you had THAT kind of time!
Appropriate ages? Use your professional judgement. Most are intended for upper elementary but with the proper presentation I have used some up to grades 9, 10 and even in college! When working with the little ones though be aware of safety hazards.
It’s called the pop-pop boat, the put-put boat or putt-putt boat because that’s the sound it makes, as it putters around the bathtub or pond. That is also how you can search for images, plans and videos on the internet. Put-put boats have been around for generations.
Basically, you build a small boat-shaped model. This can be as complex or as simple as you wish. Then, you put a tea light or votive candle in it with the engine. The engine is simply a piece of soft copper 1/8″ tubing with a single loop or two in it. Above is one made from a soft plastic bottle and here is a fancier one
Let some water run into the tubing, float your boat and light your candle, and wait for it to putt-putt about.
How’s it work? Here are the principles.. Gases expand when heated but liquids do not. Gases contract mightily when cooled but liquids do not. Copper conducts heat. Now, when the candle heats the copper loop (with some water in it already) the water turns to steam, the steam pushes out, the boat makes one “putt”. (Newtons’s 3rd law of motion). When the coil is out of steam, the aft part cools, water is sucked back up, where it is heated, and the process repeats.
These toys are cheap but more fun to build yourself. The most important trick is safety around an open flame (fire extinguisher within arm’s reach?), followed by using copper tubing instead of other materials.
I have used these from 7th grade on up (way up!). You can also have regattas or boat races! The trick here is to have them go in a straight line – that can be a contest in itself. I have even put a small wading pool in the classroom for a week’s worth of put-put boats and small sailboats races and experiments. Do NOT use the inflatable kind! Have a small pump to drain the water into the sink drain when you are finished and you are good to go. Mop up your own mess and have chocolate for the janitorial staff to make up for the stress they quietly nourished while watching your pool for the week.
http://sci-toys.com/scitoys/scitoys/thermo/thermo.html#boat How-to, plus he sells boats and parts.
http://www.sticksite.com/putputboat/ Very nice plans for cutting and building these boats using aluminum pop cans. A little more complex though.
http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/index.htm A complete site for putt-putt aficionados, complete with galleries, etc.
http://www.nmia.com/~vrbass/pop-pop/ A pop-pop boat page.
The 2012 CAST (Texas Science Teachers Association) meeting is now in the history books. I know one booth gave out 6,000 catalogs so there were at least that many teachers present. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this kind of event will be a life-changer for you. Whatever level you teach or hope to teach there is something about being a part of a HUGE group of the best of the best to get a person excited and energized and full of new ideas!
The best part for us Northerners (Oklahomans, as seen by Texas) is that there are several such events coming up near us. The future CAST meetings are:
Nov. 7-9, Houston (OK, so Houston is not so close – but think what kinds of field trips there will be with Galveston and NASA so close)
Nov 20-22, 2014, Dallas
Nov 12-14, Fort Worth
And… drumroll…. the BEST of the best of the best – the NSTA National Science Teachers national conference this spring in Dallas, April 11-14 . If you can only make one day, do it! It will be unimaginably big. http://www.nsta.org/conferences/2013san/