121 Ways to Teach Yourself About Science

If you’re like me, you might have hated science in school. Or just didn’t understand the value. Or didn’t retain a single thing. Maybe all of the above.

My freshman honors biology class was like torture, sitting in a lab that we never touched. My college anatomy class was hours of note taking that never got applied to anything but test taking. Conversely, my physical science class was so basic that I hardly ever went.

When I look back at my science education, the word boring comes to mind in big neon lights. But now, STEM is evolving. It’s engaging and humorous and really, really exciting. The truth is that STEM has always been this way, but we were just more disconnected from it. Now, we have more information at our fingertips. I mean, Elon Musk just launched a Tesla Roadster into space and we get to see pictures!

If you find yourself wishing that you’d paid more attention in science class, especially as your kids learn, there are tons of resources out there. Here’s my ultimate list of resources to teach yourself about science!

Some of the links included in my posts are affiliate links. That means that if you follow the link and purchase something, I earn a small commission for my recommendation. This support helps keep my site free and is much appreciated!

Books

Biology

Chemistry

Mathematics

Physics and the Cosmos

Religion & the Afterlife

Technology & Engineering

Women in Science

Miscellaneous Reads


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Streaming Series and Documentaries

I have limited time and brainpower these days (see: two toddlers), so I do a lot of science consumption by video. Here are some of my favorites on popular streaming services!

Netflix

Bill Nye Saves the World – Bill Nye the Science Guy for grownups
Brain Games – entertaining series exploring the tricks our brains can play on us
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – an incredible series about our universe
Dinotasia –
CGI storytelling of prehistoric creatures
Edge of the Universe – latest cosmic discoveries
Einstein’s Biggest Blunder – scientists explore Einstein’s theory of relativity
The Farthest Voyager in Space –
all about NASA’s 1977 launch of space probes
Great Human Odyssey –
scientists map humans’ journey from Africa
Horizon: Secrets of the Solar System – 
advances in astronomy
The Inexplicable Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson – Neil talks technology and wonders of the Universe
Into the Inferno – amazing footage of volcanoes
Life – explore the variety of life on Earth
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World – the history of the internet
The Mars Generation – teenagers at Space Camp
Mega Builders – engineering of awe-inspiring structures
Nature’s Greatest Events – how seasonal changes affect wildlife
Orbit: Earth’s Extraordinary Journey –
this series gets bonus points for female hosts
Planet Earth –
 travel the Earth from your couch (Note: all of the BBC Earth documentaries are worth a watch, like The Blue Planet, Planet Earth II, Frozen Planet, etc)
Race of Life – how wild animals continue to survive
The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms –
how they work and where we can find them
The Story of Maths – the history of math, from ancient Egypt to today
Tesla: Master of Lightning – awesome biodoc about Nikola Tesla
White Rabbit Project – from the producers of “MythBusters”, history’s greatest hits

Hulu

Destination Wild – travel around the world to see wildlife in their natural habitats
Hello World – a global look at the inventors and scientists of the future
How It’s Made – how everyday objects are engineered and manufactured
Mojo’s The Circuit – latest tech and gadget news
MythBusters – 
the classic show that busts urban legends and myths
NASA 360 – a look at NASA developed technology that’s changed our lives
NASA X – new innovations by NASA scientists
Secrets of Your Mind – an inside look at case studies about the human brain
StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson – all things space with Neil

Amazon Prime

The Amazing World of Gravity – all about the physics of gravity
Bacterial World: Microbes that Rule Our World – all about bacteria
Birth of the Earth – the story of our planet
Clouds Are Not Spheres – a look at fractal geometry
Edison: The Father of Invention – a biodoc about the inventor
Einstein and the Theory of Relativity – learn about the theory and the scientists still conducting experiments about it
Everything and Nothing: the Science of Empty Space – 
a unique look at empty space
The Fabric of the Cosmos – a look at what makes up the Cosmos
The Fantastical World of Hormones – a look at the chemicals that control our bodies
Hawking – a biopic about Stephen Hawking and his incredible contributions
Henry Ford –
a biopic about Henry Ford and his innovations
How the Grand Canyon Was Made – new evidence of how the Grand Canyon was carved
Life on Us: A Microscopic Safari –
 a microscopic look at the creatures that live on our bodies
Mapping the Future: The Wonder of Algorithms – how algorithms can predict our lives
The Mystery of Dark Matter – explore what we know about dark matter
Nikola Tesla: The Genius Who Lit the World – a look a the father of our modern technological age
Order and Disorder: The Forces that Drive the Universe – a look at the laws of the Universe
The Poisoner’s Handbook – a screen adaption in the spirit of the book
Ring of Fire – explore the geological wonders of the Pacific
Sahara: Altering the Course of History – a look at the great Saharan Desert and the life that used to live there
Sight: The Story of Vision – how our eyes and brains help us see
Sonic Magic: The Wonder of Science and Sound – how sound has shaped our history
Virus Empire: From Sars to Ebola – how viruses have evolved and affect our world

Other Ways to Learn

There is a ton of information out there on the internet. Not all of it is good information, but there are piles of awesome YouTube videos, blogs (like mine, right?), and websites just waiting to answer your most burning science questions. If you’re ever wondering about something, look it up! Add terms like “101” or “introduction” to the subject matter and see what you can find.

One of my favorite ways to learn is to visit local museums and science centers. Some communities have more resources than others, but most of us find ourselves within driving distance of something! Also, check out your local museums, community centers, libraries’ adult programming departments, and universities for opportunities. You never know who might be coming to speak!

And as always, you can send me a message with a topic you’d like to see covered!

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Did I miss any awesome resources? Leave a comment or send me a message to update the list!

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Infinity Science Center

We are fortunate enough to live within road trip distance of one of NASA’s 14 visitor centers. Not sure if you are? Visit http://www.visitnasa.com to find out!

 

About the Infinity Science Center

17155167_10155264791099610_460796396391183316_nThe Infinity Science Center is truly a paradise for a nerdy family like mine. They regularly offer special events for kids and adults that you can read more about below. There’s so much to see and do – it’s truly an all day trip!

There are so many ways to explore, from the bus tour to the electric trams, the butterfly gardens and the simulators, the exhibits and galleries. It’s not just space, despite being at Stennis Space Center, which is a great reminder for little minds that everything is connected. I also love that the “Earth Gallery” is downstairs, while the “Space Gallery” is upstairs, creating a real “heavens and earth” feel to the layout.

Outside of the Science Center

 

Before you even step inside, you’ll find all kinds of amazing things on display, like a NOMAD buoy, Navy boats, and F-1 and H-1 rocket engines. But truly, nothing can compare to the Saturn V S-1C Booster! It’s an incredible and humbling experience to stand next to this behemoth!

Science Express Gallery

Learn everything you could ever possibly want to know about hundreds of carnivorous plants! Little minds can also practice their engineering skills with the Big Blue Blocks (one of my girls’ favorites).

21077271_10155863005154610_832487682150120831_nThe Earth Gallery

Here, you’ll find all kinds of incredible earth science exhibits, including the Hurricane Prediction Lab and information about Hurricane Katrina, as well as a Hurricane Simulator (an extra $3). The “Swamps to Space” exhibit is a really fascinating walk through Stennis’s start in Mississippi and the Apollo Program.

This is also where you’ll find the Omega Flight Simulator, available for an extra $5. This simulator is a really fun ride, with six degrees of motion and six different ride options.

The Space Gallery

This is where my girls’ (and my!) imaginations run wild, pretending to be astronauts in the space shuttle flight deck, Orion space capsule, and Destiny module from the International Space Station. It still blows my toddler’s mind that they strap themselves down to sleep!

There are also a ton of cool artifacts to explore, like moon rocks, space suits, and shuttle parts! You can also discover more about the SLS program, which could take humans to Mars!

21032511_10155863004934610_4735538120697903415_nStennis Space Center Bus Tour

The bus tour is free with admission! You do have to sign up though – be sure to stop by the front to reserve your spot 20-30 minutes before the tour departs. Tours run from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Adults will need to present a Photo ID or passport to take the tour and children must be accompanied by an adult. Be aware that they may restrict you from taking any large bags or backpacks with you and any personal items are subject to search, because of the nature of the tour!

You’ll spend 40 minutes inside restricted areas that can only be accessed by the public through this tour. It’s jam packed with information and awe-inspiring views of the country’s biggest rocket engine test facility (14,000 acres of it!) and the homes of several government agencies (including the world’s largest concentration of oceanographers) and private companies like Rolls Royce.

Other Things to Explore

Seen from I-10, the 1400 foot Biome Boardwalk will take you through four different habitats, right there outside of the Science Center! Signs along the boardwalk are full of information about the plants and animals all around you. Don’t miss the Butterfly Gardens too, for another chance to catch some of the plants and animals that call Pearlington home.

The Possum Walk Trail is a 6 mile, 45 minute tram tour along part of Heritage Trail. You’ll learn about the history of Possum Walk, Logtown, and the plants and animals in the area. The tram tour runs from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm and is an additional $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children. You can also take the trail by foot, from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Note that the trail is closed October-February.

Infinity Science Center always has other fun learning opportunities and exhibits, that sometimes change daily. We’ve drawn, built, and touched all kinds of things!

Our Favorite Parts of the Infinity Science Center

For my family, the big hits were the Omega Flight Simulator, the Orion space capsule, and the reading area (what can I say, the kids love books!). The bus tour through Stennis is the real showstopper though – sure to delight space needs young and old!

 

Planning Your Visit to the Infinity Science Center

Location

Infinity Science Center is just over the Mississippi/Louisiana border in Pearlington, MS. Take Exit 2 off I-10 and follow the signs! The address is 1 Discovery Circle, Pearlington, MS 39572.

Hours, Parking, & Admission Cost

Infinity Science Center is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. They have a fantastically large and free parking lot, making parking extremely easy.

Admission costs are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors or military, $8 for children 4-13, and free for children 3 and under.

Special Pricing and Events

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If you’ll be visiting in a large group (of 20 or more guests), the price is reduced to only $7 per person!

Wednesdays are “Senior Wednesdays”, where senior admission is discounted to $6 (half price!). Seniors also get discounts at the gift shop, cafe, and Possum Walk.

Infinity also offers “Home School Mondays” on the third Monday of September, October, November, January, February, and March from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. Admission is discounted to $7. Each month features a new STEM topic and hands-on learning opportunities for home schooled students. They’re geared for kids 6-12 years old, but anyone is welcome!

If you’re a parent or grandparent of toddlers (3 and under), this pricing structure is awesome! I love that for $6-7, my girls can have a fun day out, exploring science with me or a grandparent. That wouldn’t even buy tickets to a movie!

Some Saturdays also feature special classes for “Science Saturdays”. You can read more about them here!

Eating at the Infinity Science Center

The CaFe is open from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, serving up food like burgers, poboys, sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads. There’s also a vending machine serving Dippin’ Dots, one of my girls’ favorite treats! You can also pack a lunch and enjoy the view outside!

Souvenirs

Infinity’s Gift Shop is open the same hours as the Science Center. It’s packed full of fun space and science souvenirs, from experiment kits to plush toys to coffee mugs to apparel. My girls love their plush space shuttle and NASA teddy bear, while I love my astronaut keychain and NASA coffee mug! We also love to pick up astronaut ice cream – it makes a fun themed snack or gift for friends.

Visiting the Infinity Science Center with Toddlers

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Occasionally, I have friends ask about exactly what we do when we visit somewhere like Infinity or another museum with little ones. It can be intimidating to consider a trip when so many things seem like they may go over their heads or not really be accessible.

My answer is simple. Acceptance! Accept that it may be some mild form of chaos, that you may not get to do or see everything, or that their attention spans may not hold out for the entirety of a gallery. Just let them explore and follow their imaginations! Even if they’re just running in circles, they’re still running in circles around science, right?

Where are your favorite places to visit? Are you close to a NASA visitor center? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

 

Making It Rain {Learning About the Water Cycle}

IMG_0127Another day, another project as we experiment our way through the summer! We hope you’re joining us – or at least getting tempted to.

You can, of course, follow our experiments here, but also on the Science Mom Facebook page! You can also find other fun experiments on the Science Mom Pinterest boards or scrolling through this summer series here on the blog!

FullSizeRender 2Today, I decided to use Mother Nature for inspiration. After all, the radar was looking like this. Bah! The forecast kept getting pushed back further and further, but we skipped our trip to the splash pad anyway. Who needs a splash pad when you’re getting wet in your own kitchen and backyard, right?

I decided on not one, not two, but three projects today, as a splash pad apology to my toddler. I’m still not sure she forgave me for missing out on the fun with her best friend, Jax, but we had fun anyway!

 

Making It Rain, Part One

Materials:

  • A shallow dish (or any kind of pan, tray, bowl, or water-holding vessel)
  • Cotton balls
  • Water

Procedure:

  1. IMG_0310Fill your water-holding vessel with water. An inch or so should do it.
  2. Take a cotton ball “cloud” to explore. Note that the cotton ball is fluffy and doesn’t weigh much. It’s also very dry.
  3. Slowly, dip the cotton ball “cloud” into the water, allowing the water to slowly soak the cotton ball. Now your cloud is filled with rain-to-be. Note that it feels heavy and may have even changed shapes.
  4. Lift the cotton ball out of the water. The cotton ball is so saturated that water droplets will begin to fall back into the water-holding vessel. The more saturated, the faster the rain drops fall.
  5. Explain that this is [roughly] how the water cycle works. Not sure how the water cycle works exactly? No worries. Read on!

 

Making It Rain, Part Two

Materials:

  • Clear cup or jar (plastic or glass is fine)
  • Shaving cream
  • Water
  • Food coloring

Procedure:

  1. IMG_0315Fill your cup with water, leaving a small space at the top for your shaving cream.
  2. On top of the water, squirt shaving cream to create a nice, fluffy “cloud”.
  3. Carefully add drops of food coloring to the top of your shaving cream cloud.
  4. As the cloud gets heavier with the added food coloring, it will slowly begin to “rain” food coloring down into the cup. (Make sure you’re adding the food coloring slowly. Once it makes its way through the shaving cream, it will spread through the water quickly. If you’ve added too much, the water will rapidly change color and the experiment gets decidedly boring instantly!)

 

Making It Rain, Part Three

Materials:

  • Large glass jar (or bowl or measuring cup)
  • Paper plate or bowl large enough to cover the opening of the glass container
  • Water
  • Ice cubes

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Procedure:

  1. Heat water, either in the microwave or bring to a boil on the stovetop. (I recommend that a parent take care of this step and warn little hands that the glass jar will be hot hot hot!
  2. Transfer the water to your glass jar.
  3. Quickly, top the jar with a paper plate. Cover the plate with a pile of ice cubes.
  4. Watch as a mini water cycle emerges inside your glass jar!

 

The Science:

Rain is just one small part of the water cycle, the really awesome loop that Earth’s water has been traveling through from the ground to the sky and round and round again for billions of years. Water is never really “still”, even when it’s not actively going through the water cycle. Most of Earth’s water is stored in our oceans (roughly 96.5% of it, or 321,000,000 cubic miles) and we know the ocean is never still!

Water-Cycle-Art2A_mediumTo explain the water cycle to kids, it’s easiest to break it down into four stages: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection.

Let’s start with evaporation. That’s when the sun heats up collected water, which turns it into water vapor (a gas that we usually can’t see). This is how water begins its journey from the ground back up into the atmosphere. There are a couple of other ways that water can leave the ground. One of those ways is sublimation, which is when solid water (ice or snow) is heated and turns directly into water vapor. This is the process you see when dry ice turns into a big cloud of water vapor, or directly from a solid into a gas, without making a pitstop and becoming a liquid. (To be clear, this is not like when ice melts and turns into water and then eventually would evaporate into water vapor!) Another way that water evaporates is through transpiration, which is basically plant sweat! Water travels from the soil, through the plant roots, and transpires (sweats) through the plants’ leaves to become water vapor and head up into the atmosphere. It’s estimated that about 10% of the water in Earth’s atmosphere is from plant transpiration.

The next stop for all of that water vapor is condensation. As water vapor moves higher and higher into the atmosphere, it finds colder air. That colder air turns the water vapor back into a liquid. Those cooling water molecules find tiny particles in the air (like dust, smoke, or dirt) to cling to and form cloud droplets (very, very tiny drops of condensed water), which collect and grow to form clouds (this part of the process can be called coalescence). You see condensation all the time. When you pour a cold drink into a glass, you may see condensation form on the outside. That’s warm water vapor from the air around your glass being cooled by your drink and turning into water droplets. Your glass is kind of your own personal cloud!

As the cloud grows and gets heavier, we prepare for precipitation. The condensed water falls back to the ground in the form of rain, hail, snow, or sleet. This is no small task, as it takes millions of those little cloud droplets to collide and form a single rain drop. Once a rain drop is formed, it then has to have enough velocity to make it out of the cloud and fall as precipitation! In a really heavy rainstorm, the drops are falling at a speed of 24 feet per second – that’s a little over 16 miles per hour. There are some parts of the world where hardly any rain at all falls (less than 0.1 inches per year) and some where tons and tons of rain falls (900 inches per year). There’s a place in Chile where no rain (none!) fell for 14 years! 14! Rain is a pretty incredible thing when you stop and think about it all, right?

After the rain falls, the next stage is collection. That’s where the water settles here on Earth. Like I said before, about 96.5% of Earth’s water is stored in the oceans. The rest of that water (3.5%) is what we have in the atmosphere, lakes, ice caps and glaciers, rivers, streams, puddles, and everywhere else in the world! That really gives you an idea of the huge volume of water in the ocean.

And just like that, we are looping our way back through the water cycle. There are tons of other fun experiments and projects to learn more about it… and we will definitely revisit all of this again soon! For now, it’s time to check our rain gauge one last time and call it a [rainy] night!

I’ll leave you with one last thought. The water that you’re taking a bath in tonight could be the very same water that a dinosaur bathed in too. RAWR!

 

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