This week’s challenge: 

This week we are challenging children to explore the biodiversity present in their backyards and neighbourhoods. 

This special challenge is part of Brampton Library’s celebration of Science Literacy Week 2020! Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

Watch the quick introductory video for this challenge:

Supplies you will need:

  • Paper
  • Something to write with
  • A phone or digital camera*


The science behind this activity:

  • Biodiversity means the variety of living things in an area
    • We might talk about the biodiversity of the whole planet, a country, an ecosystem or a local area
  • It is important for us to learn about biodiversity and be aware of the plants and animals in our ecosystems
    • An ecosystem is a community of living organisms and their physical environment
    • All species are connected to and rely on one another to survive. If we lose species, the ones that remain will be affected by that change
    • If we add new species to an ecosystem, that will also have a major effect on the other species living there
  • Scientists track the locations of where different species are seen to make sure that their populations are healthy and the diversity of species are supporting one another 
    • A lot of these tracking projects rely on citizen scientists — everyday people who contribute data (information about the species they see) to these tracking projects
    • When a species’ population is too low, scientists and conservationists might identify that species as “at risk,” “vulnerable”  or “endangered.” You can see a list of these species from the World Wildlife Fund here
    • If a species is identified as having too small a population, conservationists will make plans to try and support its growth.
  • In this activity, we’re going to be citizen scientists and track the biodiversity of an area near us — you can stick to your backyard, go to a park near your home, or even just observe from a window while you stay inside!

Tips for today’s activity: 

  • Grab some paper and a pen, pencil or marker! It’s important for scientists to record their observations! 
  • Divide your page into 4 sections: trees, plants, animals, and insects/bugs

      • Under each section, keep track of the different species and how many of each kind you see 
      • For example: under animals you might have 4 squirrels and 1 hawk; under insects you might have 20 ants and 4 bees; under trees you might have 2 pine and 1 maple; under plants you might have grass, 12 tulips, and 5 hydrangea bushes

  • Use your phone or digital camera to take pictures of each of the species you see

    • If you want to contribute to a citizen science project you can upload the photos you take to show your findings
    • If you have a smartphone, you can also download an app to help you identify the species. There are lots of apps that will be able to name a species of plant or tree based on a photo you take of the leaves or bark
    • The app and website iNaturalist is both an identification aid and a citizen science project! 
    • Check out a list of other great apps you can use from Ontario Parks here:
  • Extensions: 
    • Repeat this activity a week, a month, or several months later. Compare your recordings and make note of any differences you observe (make sure you write the dates of your observations on your paper!)
    • Compare two different areas! Observe your yard, then a local park, then go to a conservation area. Do you notice a difference in the biodiversity of each place?
    • Create a food web drawing or diagram including all the species you saw. If you need more information about what a certain species eats, try looking it up in World Book Kids, one of Brampton Library’s digital resources
    • Keep the species in your neighbourhood safe and healthy by cleaning up any litter you see in your backyard or local park. Make sure you wear gloves and wash your hands as soon as you take them off!

If you liked this activity, keep building your science literacy with these free resources from our digital library: 

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals by DK Publishing (non-fiction ebook, available on CloudLibrary, recommended for children 6-12)

The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea by Bryn Barnard (non-fiction ebook available on CloudLibrary, recommended for children 5-10)

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner and Christopher Silass Neal (non-fiction ebook available on CloudLibrary, recommended for children 5-10 years)

Don't Squash That Bug by Natalie Rompella and Margo Burian (non-fiction video available on TumbleBooks, recommended for children 9-12 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every week. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

This week, we will learn about buoyancy and water displacement, by designing, building, and testing our own boats!

Supplies you will need:

  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Tinfoil square- approx 30cm x 30cm
  • Weights (i.e. small rocks)
  • Plastic straws
  • Popsicle sticks
  • A tub, sink, or bucket full of water, to test your boat!

How does a boat float?

There are three key concepts we need to understand, to learn how a boat floats:

  • Water displacement. When something is placed in the water, it will either float or sink. What happens to the water, though? The item in the water will push the water aside; this is called displacement.

  • Buoyancy. How do we know what will float and what will sink? Usually heavy things sink and light things float, but other factors can be at work. For instance, a paperclip is lighter than an apple, but a paperclip will sink while an apple will float, because an apple contains more air. As long as the weight of the object being placed in the water is less that the weight of the water displaced, the object will float.
  • Surface area. The wider surface area an object has, the greater chance it will float and the more weight it will hold.

Building your boat

  • Using a square of tin foil, straws, popsicle sticks and tape, construct a boat that can carry weight in the water!
  • Think about different types of boats you have seen: canoes, kayaks, barges, yachts, etc. What type of boat are you going to build?
  • Make sure your boat has space to carry weight!
  • Remember to consider how water displacement, buoyancy, and surface area work in allowing your boat to float.

Test your boat!

  • Fill a tub/bath/sink with water, and put your boat in the water. Does it float?
    • No: why not? Are there any holes in your boat? Try fixing it, or build another one!
    • Yes: good job! Now, it’s time to add weight.
  • Add weights- magnets, washers, small pebbles- one at a time. How many weights can your boat carry before it sinks?

Need to try again?

  • If you’re not happy with how much weight your boat can carry- try again!
  • Engineers are always working to improve their designs even once their product is on the market, so continuing to tinker and figure out what works best.
  • Build another boat, and remember to consider how water displacement, buoyancy, and your boat’s surface area work together to keep the boat floating. Would a wider base (more surface area) help it float? Would borders around the side make a difference? How can you use popsicle sticks or straws to support the structure?

Want to try something different? Why not see how well your boat floats in salt water, or in vegetable oil? Does the liquid make a difference to displacement and buoyancy? Make sure to ask a grown up for help first!

And don’t forget to share your creations with us, @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL!

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library:

Stem Lab by Jack Challoner and the Smithsonian Institution (non-fiction book/eBook, recommended for 8-12 years)

Crafty Science: More Than 20 Sensational STEAM Projects to Create at Home, by Jane Bull (non-fiction eBook, recommended for 8-12 years)

STEM Village: Introduction to Buoyancy (electronic resource, recommended for 10-12 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every Friday. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

This week we will learn about gravity and elasticity by making a bungee jump for a toy to be safely dropped without hitting the floor


Supplies you will need:

  • Elastic Bands
  • A toy doll, action figure, or something similar
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Paper and pencil or pen to record your results! 

Today’s Challenge:

Design a bungee jump for a toy so that it will come within 10 cm of the floor without touching it!


  1. Measure out a metre from the ground on a wall or another surface. 
  2. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil or pen and create a simple table with the number of elastic bands in one column and the distance of the fall in the next column. 
  3. Attach an elastic band to your toy’s feet or at one end of its body. Hold the other end of the elastic at the top of your metre marking
  4. Drop the toy and see how far the toy falls before bouncing back up. Record your finding
  5. Add another elastic band to your bungee and test again. Record your finding. Keep adding more elastics and recording the drop distance each time you do. 
  6. How many elastic bands was the perfect amount to get closest to the floor without hitting it.

Here’s some of the science behind this activity to help you get started: 

  • Gravity is the force that pulls objects toward each other. Anything which has mass (weight) also has a gravitational pull. The more massive an object is, the stronger its gravitational pull is. 
  • Because the planet is so big & heavy, Earth's gravity is what keeps us on the ground and what causes objects to fall down. 
  • When you drop your toy, it falls toward the ground because of gravity. As it falls, its weight or mass stretches the rubber bands. 
  • The rubber bands stretch because they are elastic. Things that are elastic, like rubber bands and basketballs, return almost to their original shape after they’ve been stretched or squashed by a force. 
  • The rubber bands will slow down the toy until it stops falling. Then, the rubber bands spring back toward their original shape, pulling the toy up and away from the ground. 
  • The amount the rubber bands stretch depends on the weight of the toy and how fast she is falling. If you try this experiment with toys of different weights you’ll get very different results!

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library

Explore Gravity! by Cindy Blobaum and Bryan Stone (non-fiction ebook available on CloudLibrary, recommended for 7-12 years)


The Everything Kids' Science Experiments Book by Tom Robinson (non-fiction ebook available on CloudLibrary, recommended for 6-12 years)

Too Tall Tina by Donna Marie Pitino (ebook available on TumbleMath, recommended for 5-9 years)

Math on the Move by Katie Marsico (non-fiction ebook available on TumbleMath, recommended for 8-12 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every [day, time]. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

This week we are challenging children to design, build and test a balloon powered vehicle.

Supplies you will need:

  • Scissors
  • Clear Tape (like Scotch Tape)
  • Heavy Tape (like Duct Tape)
  • Balloons
  • Straws (regular, jumbo)
  • Wooden Skewers
  • Recyclables: e.g. cardboard, water bottles, paper towel rolls, small boxes, empty tape rolls
  • Measuring Tape (to measure how far your vehicle travels!)

The physics behind this activity:

  • Have you ever blown up a balloon and then let it go? The air rapidly escapes from the balloon, making it zip all over the place! 
  • When you inflate a balloon, it stores potential energy in the stretched rubber and the compressed air inside. Potential energy is energy that is waiting to do something.
  • When you release the balloon, air is expelled out the back, which pushes the car forward. This is an example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
  • As the car moves forward, the potential energy stored in the balloon is converted to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. 

Tips to get started: 

  • Sketch how you will build your vehicle, just like engineers do! Think about what materials you want to use for your car and how you will connect the different pieces together. Part of the engineering design process is deciding what materials to use and then testing them.
  • There is no “right answer” when it comes to building your vehicle. Your car might not work perfectly on the first try - and that’s OK! Engineers don’t get it perfect on the first try, which is why they design and test multiple times. 
    • Test early in your building process, and test often as you make adjustments or add new parts.
  • If you are having trouble with your vehicle, try asking yourself these questions:

    • Are the wheels stuck?
    • Is the car too heavy for the balloon to push?
    • Do you need to use more tape to hold things together?
    • Are the wheels or axles crooked? 
    • What if you inflate your balloon more?

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library: 

Around The World in 80 Ways by DK Publishing (non-fiction, recommended for kids 4-8 years)

Geronimo Stilton #54: Get Into Gear, Stilton! By Geronimo Stilton (fiction, recommended for children 7-10 years)

Are You For Wheel? The Most Amazing Cars Ever by Tony Davis (non-fiction, recommended for kids 8-11 years)

Balloonology by Jeremy Telford (non-fiction, recommended for children 9-12 years)

Classic Goosebumps #30: The Haunted Car by R.L. Stine (fiction, recommended for children 9-12 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every week. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

Unplugged coding activity

This week’s challenge: 

This week we are challenging children to learn simple coding concepts to direct a character through a simple maze square by square. Who said you need a computer to learn to code!

Supplies you will need:

  • A game board: you can download and print our gameboard, or use your own! A chess or checkers board would work well. 
  • A character: this could be a chess piece, small toy, or drawing
  • An end point: a small object to show the end, or goal, of your maze
  • Obstacles: popsicle sticks, blocks, LEGO, or other small objects
  • Blank paper, pencil, and eraser to write down your code

What is computer programming (AKA: coding)?

    • Programming is the art of writing instructions (or algorithms) that tell a computer what to do. 
    • Computers are good at doing things, but bad at understanding things. If you don't give them exact instructions, they become confused and make mistakes. Telling a computer what you want it to do can be hard because you have to explain things very carefully. Because computers don't use English internally, you have to give them instructions in special programming languages that computers can understand. 
  • The code we are going to create today will have three possible instructions:

    • ↑ move forward one space 
    • ← turn to the left 
    • → turn to the right 

Getting started:

  1. Place your character on the game board (we like the bottom-left corner, or A1 if you are using our game board)
  2. Place your goal piece anywhere on the game board to indicate the end point
  3. Place obstacles on the game board so the path between your character and the end point is no longer straight (but make sure there is still a way to get from one to the other!)
  4. Use your pencil and paper to write instructions to get your character to move across the board (avoiding the obstacles!) using only three instructions: 
    • move forward one space 
    • ← turn to the left 
    • → turn to the right 

Remember, you cannot turn and move forward in one command. They are two separate commands.

  1. Once you have written down your instructions, test to see if your character makes it to the end point!

Note: this activity works best in pairs, with each person developing their own game board and swapping to write the code for an unfamiliar board. 

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library

How To Be A Coder by Kiki Prottsman (non-fiction, recommended for kids 7-9 years)

Coding Projects in Scratch by Jon Woodcock (non-fiction, recommended for kids 8-12 years)

Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani (non-fiction, recommended for kids 9-16 years)

Extra resources:

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