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More than Chemistry: Valentine's Day Science Activities

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More than Chemistry: Valentine's Day Science ActivitiesValentine's Day fits into your science curriculum better than you might think.

As Valentine's Day approaches, it's an easy transition to turn every English class into an excuse to write poetry. But what about connecting Valentine's with science? What does ol' Cupid have to do with chemistry (apart from the obvious)? In this article, we'll give you some fun ideas on how to incorporate this season of love into grade-school science lessons.

Lesson 1: Use the Force

Your kids know all about playdough. It's a fun and easy toy, requires only your imagination, and also doubles as a companion to a wide range of teachable material. For this lesson, you'll need:

  • Enough red and/or pink Playdough for everyone in the class
  • Heart-shaped cookie cutters
  • Pencils

Distribute the playdough evenly among your students. Talk to your students about force and motion, or how an object reacts to different stimuli based on its chemical properties depending on the topics you're covering this week. Using your own playdough, cut out heart shapes and explain how the property of the playdough hasn't changed; rather, the force you exerted against it altered the appearance. You can take this opportunity to talk about mass: The playdough's mass stays the same no matter what you do to it!

Lesson 2: Flying Love Letters

It's a teacher's worst fear: you walk into the room, and paper is flying everywhere. Well fear not! Turn your kids' mischievous energy into a lesson on aerodynamics. You'll need:

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  • Enough red and/or pink construction paper for everyone
  • Stickers and/or embellishments
  • Markers

Pair up everyone in the room (boy/girl or 1/2, your choice). Any odd person out becomes your partner. Pass out the construction paper and the embellishments you choose to use. Have each person (including you) write one nice thing about his or her partner. Then have everyone fold his or her letter into a paper airplane. Next, have each person line up across from his or her partner, making two lines as far apart from each other as the room allows. One pair at a time, everyone will throw their airplanes to their partners. After everyone gets their plane, turn this into a lesson on aerodynamics, explaining why some planes made it all the way across the room and some fell halfway.

Lesson 3: Pump it Up

No one is quite sure where the classic "heart" shape we all know and love came into existence, but one thing's for sure: It looks nothing like a real heart! How do you turn this into a fun valentine science lesson? Here's what you'll need:

  • Two large pieces of poster-board

In preparation for this activity, have the following ready: all the major parts/functions of the human heart ("blood," "life," "rhythm") cut up in individual strips of paper as well as a list of words associated with Valentine's Day (like "love," "flowers," "red"). Before class starts (and kids arrive), set up each large piece of poster board on your blackboard, using tape or easels if you have them. Label one "Cupid's Heart" and one "The Human Heart" and cover up the titles. Once everyone arrives, hand out the strips of paper at random. Once you reveal the two categories on the board, let each kid come up to the board and stick his or her word onto the category he or she thinks fits best. When everyone is done, explain the differences in not only shape but function of a "Cupid's heart" versus a "real heart."

Lesson 4: Genetic Match-Making

For older kids, love is in the air in a real, palpable way. Don't miss an opportunity to teach real science in the midst of all those flying hormones. For this lesson, you'll need:

  • A sheet of paper with a blank human face shape
  • A 6-sided die for each pair of students
  • Colored pencils for everyone
  • A list of features (eyes, skin color, hair color, and any other trait determined genetically)

Prior to the lesson, develop pairs of fictional "parents" with different genetic traits, such as eye color, hair color, skin tone, cleft chin, dimples, etc. When the class arrives, pair up each student, either boy/girl or 1/2. Any odd person out will be your partner. For a lesson on chromosomes and Gregor Mendel's work on traits, give each pair one sheet of paper with a blank human face and a die, as well as a sheet explaining the traits of their fictional "parents". Going down the list of genetic traits, each pair will roll a die to determine their "child's" features--1 or 2 and the mother's trait dominates; 5 or a 6 and the father's traits do; 3 or a 4 and the trait turns out in between. Have them color in the face according to the results. Then explain how traits are passed down genetically through parentage. Have pairs with the same "parents" compare thier results and see how their "siblings" turned out!

Do you have any favorite ways to bring Valentine's Day into your science lessons? Tell us in the comments!