Free Experiments

  1. Musical Drinking Straws

    Learning Objectives:

    • To understand that the flower is the reproductive centre of the plant.
    • To identify the key parts of the flower involved in reproduction.


    What You Need:

    • Straight drinking straws

    What to do:

    • Press the end of a plastic drinking straw flat and cut two triangular shapes off each side to make a pointy end.
    • Flatten this end some more, then seal your lips around the point, and blow. You will hear a squawky whistle, and the whole straw will vibrate. It's a bit tricky at first, so don't rush or blow too hard.
    Once you have mastered the simple whistle, you can try these variations.
    1. As you are blowing, use scissors to progressively cut the end shorter and shorter, and listen to the change in the pitch of the sound.
    2. Cut tiny holes into one side to make a straw recorder. Place your fingers over different holes to create different notes.
    3. Insert another straw inside the end of the first one. (This is easily done by also flattening one end). Slide the second straw up and down to make a ‘straw trombone’.

    Why is it so?

    The flattened pointy end of the straw works in the same way as the reed on a clarinet or saxophone. When you blow, the particles of air that pass through this narrow space begin to vibrate – this is the buzzing sound that we hear. Changing the length of the straw changes the ‘pitch’ of the sound, that is, how high or low it is. A higher pitched sound means the air particles are vibrating at a higher frequency (faster).


    Musical Drinking Straws

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  2. Buzzing Balloon

    Buzzing Balloon

    Learning Objectives:

    • To understand that the flower is the reproductive centre of the plant.
    • To identify the key parts of the flower involved in reproduction.


    What You Need:

    • A Balloon
    • A Hex Nut or a 50 Cent Piece 

    What to do:

    • Place the hexanut (or 50 cent piece) inside the balloon, inflate it and tie it off.
    • Hold the balloon as shown and move it around in a circular motion by rotating your wrist. The hexanut should spin around the inside of the balloon and create a strange buzzing sound. 

    Why is it so?

    As the hexanut moves around and rubs against the sides of the balloon, it causes the balloon to vibrate, which in turn causes the air both inside and outside the balloon to vibrate. The balloon acts as a ‘resonator’, or natural amplifier, of the sound.


    Buzzing Balloon

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  3. The Anatomy of a Flower

    The Anatomy of a Flower

    Learning Objectives:

    • To understand that the flower is the reproductive centre of the plant.
    • To identify the key parts of the flower involved in reproduction.


    What You Need:

    • A selection of different flowers, particularly those with a ‘classic’ structure, such as hibiscus or lilium.
    • A pair of tweezers
    • A scalpel or another small, sharp blade
    • Any magnification tools, such as a magnifying glass, viewer or microscope will also be helpful.


    What to do:

    Use the tweezers (or very gently, your fingers) to remove the petals on one side of the flower.

    Use the diagram below as a guide to identify the following parts on your flower:

    Anther: The parts that produce pollen grains. Each pollen grain contains a male sex cell. There will be more than one anther on the flower.

    Filament: The long strands that attach the anthers to the base of the flower.

    (The anther and the filament together make up the Stamen, the male part of the flower).

    Style: A long column standing up in the centre of the flower.

    Stigma: The end of the style. It produces a sticky substance for capturing pollen.

    Ovary: Located at the other end of the style from the stigma. The ovary contains female sex cells, or ovules.

    (The Style, Stigma and Ovary together make up the Pistil, the female part of the flower).

    Sepals: Special leaves around the base of the flower. The job is to wrap around and protect the flower bud.

    Receptacle: The base of the flower where all parts are attached.

    Peduncle: The stem of the flower.


    How does fertilisation happen?

    When pollen grains get stuck to the stigma, a ‘pollen tube’ begins to form – a tunnel that goes down the style to the ovary. The male sex cells travel down the pollen tube to the ovary, where they fertilise the ovules (female sex cells). The fertilised ovules then develop into seeds. A fruit forms around the seeds.


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  4. STEM Bouyancy

    STEM Bouyancy:

    Book: WHO SANK THE BOAT? Pamela Allen

    Songs: “ROW, ROW, ROW Your Boat” and “A Sailor went to See See See"

    Key Concepts: Buoyancy, Hydrophobic materials, boat construction and mass.


    When a boat floats, it settles into the water, pushing the water aside to make room for itself. The force that it is pushing the boat into the water is called gravity. It is a two way pushing match, however. Water pushes back onto the bottom of the boat. This force, called buoyancy holds the boat out of the water. The more water a boat pushes aside, the more force there will be pushing back on the boat and supporting it. This is why a boat’s size and shape makes such a difference in how much of a load it can carry without sinking.


    Materials: foil, coins, water in a container.

    • Design a boat out from the tin foil.
    • Predict how many coins it will hold when floating on water.
    • Test you prediction. Make sure you observe what happened when your boat sank.
    • Adjust your design based on what you observed, then repeat steps 2 and 3.

    Rules: Your resources are limited! Be wise in what you use.

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  5. Marshmallow Challenge

    Marshmallow Challenge:

    STEM Challenges

    Build the highest, free-standing structure from 20 sticks of (uncooked) spaghetti, one metre of string and one metre of masking tape, in just 18 minutes. The tower must be able to support a marshmallow at the top.

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  6. Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower

    Spaghetti and Marshmallow tower:

    Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower

    A variation on the Marshmallow Challenge, where this time marshmallows can be used to form part of the structure. Build the highest, free-standing structure possible out of 30 marshmallows and 20 pieces of raw spaghetti. (For extra challenge: The structure must support the weight of a book).

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  7. Bridge Challenge

    Bridge Challenge:

    Bridge Challenge

    Design and build a free-standing bridge that will support as much weight as possible. The bridge must span an opening of 30 cm and must be wide enoguh for a toy car to drive over it. (Materials can vary for this task: Spaghetti could be used again, or plastic straws, balsa wood, string, paddle pop sticks, masking tape, drawing pins, etc.) 

    Extra challenge and extra maths: The bridge must be as light as possible. The bridge with the best ‘strength to weight’ ratio wins.

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  8. Egg Drop Challenge

    Egg Drop Challenge:

    Egg Drop Challenge

    Design a contraption that protects a falling egg (or water balloon) when it is dropped from a set height. Set a limited amount of resources. Resources could be anything recycled.

    Possible contexts could be helmet design, parachutes, landing a rover on Mars.

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    Middle Primary School

    Key Concepts: Geometric Shapes in man made structures or nature.

    Artists have been taking inspiration from their surroundings for centuries and using geometric shapes to represent it. Man made and natural structures also provide excellent examples of geometric shapes.

    Urban Landscape       Bee Hive   Planet Earth
    An urban landscape                               A bee hive                             Planet Earth

    Materials: Tangrams, Scissors, Pencils, Glue, Card Board, Pictures.

    TANGRAMS (Can be themed)

    • Investigate the names of each of the shapes. Can you find examples of them in the library?
    • Use all of the Tangram pieces to create each of the designs.
    • Can you create a square using all of the pieces?
    • Design your own Tangram artwork. 

    For younger kids, lines in the picture to show where the shapes go will help them with the task.

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  10. STEM ACTIVITY: Designing a Wind Powered Car

    STEM ACTIVITY: Designing a Wind Powered Car
    Middle to Upper Primary

    Book: Ollie and the Wind (Ronojoy Ghosh)

    Key Concepts: Energy Transformation, Engineering Design process, Forces, Measurement.

    In Victoria, we generate most of our electricity from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are considered a polluting, non-renewable form of energy. It is the job of future engineers to develop clean and sustainable means of producing energy for both electricity and to power our cars.

    Energy is the ability to do work. Energy comes in many forms: chemical energy, electrical energy, heat energy, light energy, mechanical energy and nuclear energy. Wind energy is a form of renewable energy that comes from wind. Other types of renewable energies include slow but steady tidal power, geothermal power (only possible in some areas, tapping heat from deep in the Earth), and biofuels (fuels derived from plants and algae). These energy types are renewable because the source of the energy is never ending (wind, sun, water etc.). Perhaps wind energy might be the energy source for future cars?


    Design a mast and sail for a car of the future. You have been provided with a car base to attach it to. Plan it using the materials given and the design engineer process. You will need to test and adjust your design so that you obtain the best distance travelled by your car.

    Measure the distance it travels when using a fan (A more specific machine/toy could be provide: car, kit, plane, boat).

    Rules: Your resources are limited! Be wise in what you use.

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