For the past four weeks, I have been doing an afternoon science club on Tuesday afternoons. I prepared some lessons based on a product I purchased from TeachersPayTeachers about simple machines. I had snacks for the kids to enjoy. We did a lapbook craftivity together. I let the kids run around the yard.
Overall, despite my initial trepidation, it was a lot of fun. Here are some of the things I learned.
How to Set up a Backyard Science Club
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Before my first class, I was very stressed out that everything would work out. I actually worried about it — the teaching, keeping kids under control, and so forth. I did not need to worry. The kids were happy and eager to be together, so anything I did was a bonus.
2. Follow their lead and be flexible. Kids are not going to spend lots of time on a lapbook craftivity when the sun is shining and the play set is calling on an 80 degree day. We could learn from each other nevertheless. By the end of the program I was not overly worried about how it would turn out: I decided I’d just follow the lead of the kids. That was perfect.
3. Over prepare. While there is no need to stress the small stuff, my lessons on the simple machines went better when I had extra examples to show them.
4. Let the kids be the detectives. When we learned about screws, I let the kids unscrew the juice bottles from snack time to try to figure out how they worked. That was much more effective than just telling. I looked down and everyone was eagerly examining their juice containers. I saw interest! It was a fun moment to be the teacher.
5. Have a backup plan. On one of the days, there was a heat index of 100 degrees. I had an outside game planned, but I planned for an indoor alternative. It was hot, but it turned out okay outside. I felt good knowing we could be inside if necessary.
6. Have a snack. I agree that a snack is not completely necessary for a successful science club, but the point of this summer club was to get kids together and learn something while having summer fun, so the snacks really helped the kids have fun.
7. Have class outside. The first week was rainy, so we took science club inside. Oh my! Kids everywhere upstairs and down! It was hard to keep them in the same room and it was far too crowded for the energy level. The other weeks we went outside. There were more distractions but it was much nicer to let the kids get energy out.
8. Get a sitter. I ran my science club with my 18-month-old toddler underfoot. One week, I sent her to a friend’s house. It was nice not to have to worry about what she was getting in to.
9. Take pictures. After four weeks of kids running around, not to mention creating simple machines and testing them out, I have no pictures to show for it!
10. Just do it! Even at the end of July I was wavering between doing a four-week science club and not. It would have been so much easier to not do it. No planning, no group of kids crashing my house, and so forth. In retrospect, it was very much worth the little effort. It was not as bad as I imagined, the kids had a fun time and got to know each other, and I believe some learning happened.
It was a great experience, and one I hope to do again maybe next summer!
Have you ever done a simple school club (homeschool or not!) for a few weeks? What has been successful for you?
Want to Try to Host a Backyard Science Club?
Here are some of my products and ideas you could adapt into a club.
Backyard Science Club Ideas
- Woodland Animals. Learn what lives in your area, find their prints, measure and compare the animals, learn about basic animal classification.
- Weather. Learn about the water cycle and clouds. Track the cloud movements and identify what different weather looks like. Learn about unique weather patterns near you.
- Ducks. Read and learn about different kinds of ducks. Predict and then experiment with floating and sinking objects.
- Learn about animals on the coral reef. Learn facts but also play water games.