IN THIS POST: For a full school year we collected temperatures, recorded them in Celsius, compiled the data, and made observations. This year-long, science project is simple to implement, maintain, and appreciate.
Our simple, year-long, homeschool, science project started for three wildly unrelated reasons. One, I wanted my girls to become familiar with the Celsius system. Two, I had started knitting but was not advanced enough to start my ultimate project. Three, we had A LOT of construction paper left.
Reason two isn’t necessary for this project other than background information.
If you have an interest in either numbers one or two, it could work for you. You might want to become familiar with Celsius but not have enough construction paper (school supply shopping!). You might want to stick to Fahrenheit if you’re U.S.-based but also find yourself buried under colorful construction paper.
Or, if you have interest in hands-on learning about making observations, recording data, or creating information graphs, then this might be a good project.
In any case, here’s how it all came together.
In the beginning I started knitting and set the final goal of learning enough to make a temperature scarf or blanket. I had and still have a long way to go.
A temperature blanket is a project whereby the knitter assigns a color of yarn to a small range of temperatures. Knitters then choose to either monitor the daily high temperatures or the temperature at noon or some other variation of temperature at a consistent time. When they note the temperature, they choose the corresponding yarn color, and then knit a line or two in their project. When you do this for a full year, then you have a beautiful, finished project that could also serve as a temperature reference for whatever year you followed.
Commence our own temperature recording.
Setting Up the Project
- I cut a piece of poster board into three, even sections length-wise.
- I assigned a Celsius-based temperature range to different construction paper colors. If you are interested in using Celsius, here’s the breakdown that we used.
- I cut construction paper into 2”-wide slips that matched the width of the cut poster boards.
- I chose one website to be our source of information. We used timeanddate.com, and I kept it on my phone.
- Each day (or every few days because #reality) we checked the high temperature of the date.
- We then selected the slip of colored construction paper that corresponded with the temperature.
- At the top of the paper we wrote the date and the temperature.
- Then, we used double-sided tape to attach it to the poster board.
Each poster board was reserved for one month. I decided to track our temperatures for a full school year (September-May) so we missed the hotter months, but nine months was more than enough to make the project worthwhile.
And repeat the last four steps for however long (I’d recommend at least a month) you decide the project will work.
Unbeknownst to us when we started, we moved cities this year. Our simple, year-long, homeschool, science project got an upgrade.
To be fair, my girls would have been fine leaving it as finished in October, but I was enjoying the project and starting to see longer-term potential. I persevered.
Sidenote: By this point it was clear to me that the data-recording was going to fall mostly to me. I couldn’t figure out how to get it in our rhythm and then moving threw everything out of whack. The girls were still engaged with watching patterns and talking about the temperatures, but the hands-on part faltered.
I could see this project being a family or class project with clearly defined roles that becomes an easy five-minute addition to a routine somewhere. Please also know that it could wobble like ours did and you would need to decide how you want to proceed. I was interested enough personally to keep it going even though my girls did not share my enthusiasm.
Some alterations that might be helpful: making it shorter, changing roles, picking one day to record the temperatures and update the monthly chart or abandoning the project.
Rather than abandon our project when we learned we would no longer be living in the same city in which we started the project, I decided to upgrade it. We would now record the temperatures for two cities.
What started as a temperature-recording project was now going to broach comparative analysis. Also, it would use more construction paper. Win-win!
Moving states creates a fair amount of anxiety, upheaval, and all sorts of other uncomfortable realities. Nevertheless, all our poster boards and construction paper slips traveled with us.
Our new house had a basement (so fun!), and we claimed a corner of it for homeschool purposes.
At this point we had rainbow-colored, poster board records of high temperatures in two cities for September-December. Conversations encouraged observation, pattern observation, and some “aren’t we glad we don’t live there anymore”/”wish we still lived with their weather” moments.
By now our simple, year-long, science project had potential for a lot of STEM learning. I briefly considered continuing through the summer so that we could have record of a full year, but just like the girls, I was ready for a school break.
Still, we had an enormous amount of data, and it was time to do something about it.
You may remember one of my initial objectives was to introduce my girls to the Celsius temperature system. This one project was not enough to accomplish that, but it was a strong contribution.
I decided to do two projects at the end and add one instructional segment to wrap up our simple, year-long, homeschool, science project.
First, I emphasized the role of observation in science (something it also shares with art). We talked about how observing then allowed and inspired scientists to ask good questions which could then lead to good experiments.
To give the girls practice with making observations, I created a short worksheet for each of them to complete. In it I asked them to make two observations that involved two or more months. In other words, I wanted them to notice a pattern or connection between an aspect of the data that spanned two or more months.
The second question I asked was for them to make two observations about the temperatures that occurred within one month. Each observation needed to look at the data of one month. The answers could each use a different month, but this exercise was to focus on a smaller amount of data.
To be honest, and in hindsight, I probably should have reversed the order of those. In any case, it required both girls to look closely at our data and pull information from it.
Second, I had the girls help me compile the data. We also talked about mean, median, and mode. Mostly they were excited to use a calculator.
For each month we compiled the highest high temperature and the lowest high temperature. Then, we computed the average high temperature of each month for each city. I read the temperatures out loud and the girls entered them in the calculator.
We didn’t do a formal activity with this one, but we again had a chance to look at the data differently and make some quick observations.
Finally, for the instructional segment I asked my husband to spend a few minutes with us showing the girls how our data could be represented visually in Excel. We looked at line graphs and bar graphs. He talked to the girls about data terminology and introduced them to formulas at a very basic, introductory level.
Our Simple, Year-Long, Homeschool, Science Project
What started as an effort to become more familiar with Celsius grew into a comparative project with a good-sized chunk of data and a graphing segment at the end.
I enjoyed the simplicity of the project, the colorful visual on our walls, and the opportunity to create informal STEM conversations around the temperatures that we experienced throughout the year.
This project could be adjusted to accommodate different ages and attention-spans. It would also pair well with a weather unit study. Come to think of it….it could be fun to do with cities in different hemispheres…
Have fun with it. Use that construction paper!
If you want to increase your understanding of the natural world, check out these Books for Adults Who Love the Outdoors.