Take your kids to a scientific dimension, where science experiment Bible lessons are waiting to be discovered!
There’s a dimension of learning that naturally appeals to children. It’s the place where they discover the truth behind the words they read or hear. It’s the dimension that causes adults to ponder childhood memories of discovery, adventure, and exploration.
You can capitalize on kids’ love of discovery with these seven Sunday school activity ideas. Discover a new dimension of imagination and exploration with kids that can reveal biblical truth to their curious young hearts. Enter—The Discovery Zone.
What to Do if Your Experiment Flops
One of the unique features of science experiments is that they don’t always turn out the way you plan. And then panic sets in! “What do I do? Where do I go from here?”
Have no fear; the unknown is part of what makes science an exciting and wonderful teaching tool. Use these tips as a guide if you encounter a science experiment that flops.
Make it a teachable moment.
Sometimes what doesn’t happen becomes the lesson. Discuss with kids why the experiment didn’t work and what they could change in the experiment that might change the outcome. Discuss how life doesn’t always work according to plan either, and talk about how the choices we make can affect the outcome.
Find the answer.
Failure often yields the answer we’re seeking. If an experiment fails, dig into the root of what went wrong. Your unexpected conclusions may bring insight you never expected. Discuss that there are times we fail in life, but God is always there. He never changes.
Compare the hypothesis and result.
Science experiments begin with a hypothesis that doesn’t always match the results. Talk with kids about what they thought would happen during the experiment and what actually happened. Tell kids that sometimes God gives us answers in unexpected ways.
After repeat tries and a host of variables, your experiment still may flop. We don’t always have the answers, but God does. And in times when the going is tough, God challenges us to press on and persevere.
1. Nifty Knitting (Grades K-6)
Kids will learn that they’re uniquely created by God.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
- a dark-colored plate made of pottery or glass,
- a half-eaten cookie,
- talcum powder,
- a small soft paintbrush,
- 3×5 cards,
- Scotch tape,
- baby wipes, and
- a Bible.
Before class, place a half-eaten cookie on the plate. Then make very clear fingerprints on the top of the plate. Make sure no one else touches the plate.
As the kids enter the room, say: Someone has mysteriously eaten the cookie on this plate! I’m going to need your help to figure out who ate my cookie.
- What’s one thing that each person has and no two are alike?
Say: Let’s get to work solving our mystery.
Remove the cookie and have a child lightly sprinkle talcum powder on the plate. Have a second child use the soft paintbrush to lightly brush the talcum powder across the plate.
- What did the powder reveal?
Say: We all have a little oil on our fingers, and we leave that oil on everything we touch. In this case, the oil left behind fingerprints! Each of us has a different fingerprint; it’s part of what makes us special. Let’s make pictures of our unique fingerprints.
Give each child two 3×5 cards, a pencil, and 10 one-inch pieces of tape. Say: Rub your pencil on one of your cards to make a dark smudge the size of your fingertip. After you’ve done that, rub your fingertip over the smudge until your fingertip is completely silver. Press one piece of tape to that fingertip. Then take the tape off your finger and stick it on your other card. Label your print with which finger it is and which hand it came from. Continue this process until you’ve made a print of each finger on both hands.
While the kids do this, make a set of your fingerprints. When kids are finished, give them baby wipes to wash their fingers.
- What do you notice about your fingerprints?
- Do they look like the fingerprints of the person sitting next to you?
- What’s the same and what’s different?
The Science Behind Fingerprints
Say: The science of identifying fingerprints is called dactylography. People who investigate crimes use fingerprints to help capture criminals because no two prints are alike. One of the ways your fingers got those little prints on them is from moving around in your mother’s womb. That’s where God formed you, and you grew there until it was time for you to be born. All of your movements in the womb made those little swirls on your fingers.
Read aloud Psalm 139:13. Then say: God was working on your uniqueness even before you were born. Now let’s try to figure out which one of God’s special creations ate my cookie. Let’s try to match someone’s fingerprints with the ones on the plate.
Kids will discover that the fingerprints are yours. Ask:
- How did you figure out that the prints belonged to me?
- How are my fingerprints different from yours?
Say: I’m glad God made our fingerprints so different and special!
(Experiment adapted from Amazing Science Devotions for Children’s Ministry, Group Publishing.)
2. Mirror Images (Grades 3-6)
Kids will learn that they can reflect God.
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- one Bible for every five children,
- a small square mirror for every five children, and
- a wallet-size school photo or Polaroid photo of each child.
Form groups of five. Give each group a mirror, and have kids take turns looking at Bible text reflected in the mirror. Ask:
- What do you see?
Say: Mirrors produce a reflection that appear backwards because light waves reflect straight off the surface. But a face in the mirror is different; it doesn’t look backward in a mirror because it’s symmetrical, which means that when the image is divided, both halves look the same. Let’s test this concept together.
Have kids take turns looking into the mirror. Ask:
- What unique facial qualities do you see in the mirror?
- Do you think one side of your face looks exactly like the other side? Why or why not?
Have kids take out their photos. Demonstrate how to hold the edge of the mirror perpendicular to the photo. Half of the face should reflect into the mirror, making the photo and reflection look like a whole face. Allow time for each child to test the mirror concept.
- How was your symmetrical reflection in the mirror similar or different to your actual photo?
- Did this experiment reflect an image in the mirror that you would easily recognize, or does the image look like a stranger to you?
Read aloud 2 Corinthians 3:18. Say: This Scripture says that we’re to reflect the Lord’s glory.
- What do you think that reflection looks like?
- Is the Lord’s glory something we can see in a mirror? Explain.
Say: Your life is a reflection of a life that’s been changed by God; your actions can reveal what God is like. Take another look at your reflection in the mirror.
- Does the image you see reflect a person who’s been changed by God?
- What can you do to reflect what God is like every day?
3. Full of Life (Grades 3-6)
Kids will learn that Jesus desires for us to have full lives.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Kids will learn that Jesus desires for us to have full lives.
For each child you’ll need:
- a large marshmallow,
- a marker,
- a small glass iced tea or juice bottle with an opening slightly larger than the marshmallow (or one for every two children to share),
- a small piece of clay, and
- a straw.
You’ll also need:
- a Bible.
Have kids form pairs. Give each child a marshmallow and a marker. Tell kids to draw faces on the flat end of their marshmallows.
Say: We’re going to do an experiment to see how much pressure your marshmallow face can take.
Give a glass bottle to each child. Tell kids to drop their marshmallows into the glass bottles. Give each child a lump of clay and a straw. Show kids how to wrap the clay 1 inch from one end of the straw so the clay forms a ring around the end of the straw. Have each child place the short end of the straw in the bottle so the clay prevents the straw from dropping into the bottle. Then have each child press the clay tightly around the mouth of the bottle so no air can get in or out.
Say: Your marshmallow face is plump and ‘full of life.’
- What do you think will happen to the faces if you blow air into the bottle through the straw?
Say: Let’s experiment and see what happens.
Have one partner blow air into the bottle and quickly suck it out. Have kids do this until their partners can see the marshmallows expanding and shrinking slightly. They may be surprised to discover that the marshmallows expand when the air is blown in and shrink when the air is sucked out. Then have partners trade roles and do the experiment again.
Let kids experiment for three minutes. Afterward, ask:
- Were you surprised at which action gave ‘life’ to your marshmallow? Why or why not?
- What makes a person’s life full? Can a life ever become too full? Why or why not?
- What kinds of things can lead to an unfulfilling life?
Read aloud John 10:10. Then say: The air that you blew into the bottle caused the marshmallow faces to expand. You were breathing life into your marshmallow. The air blown in caused the tiny air pockets in the marshmallow to expand, so it grew. But when you sucked out to take away the air pressure, the marshmallows shrunk. When Jesus comes into our lives, we have full lives.
4. Joyful Raisins (Grades Preschool-3)
Kids will experience the joy of praising the Lord.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100).
- a clear drinking glass for every five kids,
- 2-liter bottles of carbonated soda water,
- a CD or cassette player,
- lively praise music, and
- a Bible.
Say: Tell about a time you were so excited about something that you were bursting with joy and excitement.
- What kinds of things make you that excited about God?
Read aloud Psalm 100. Then say: God wants us to be filled with joy and excitement when we praise and worship. We’re going to try an experiment that reflects excitement.
Form groups of five. Fill one glass with carbonated soda water for each group of five kids. Tell them not to drink their experiment. Play the praise music and encourage kids to clap their hands and get excited about praising the Lord. While the music plays, pass out five raisins to each child. Say: Drop your raisins into the glass, and see how the raisins react.
The raisins may not move immediately, but soon they’ll be bouncing around in the glass because of the bubbles around them. Say: The raisins are dancing because they’re reacting to the soda water’s carbonation. The carbonation in the soda is a gas called carbon dioxide. Tiny bubbles form on the raisins when they’re dropped into the soda water. The bubbles collect carbon dioxide and grow; that’s what lifts the raisin. When the raisin reaches the top of the water, the bubbles pop, and the raisin sinks. Then the process starts over again.
- Tell about a time you felt like your life was out of energy.
- How can worshiping God give you excitement?
5. Bursting With Joy (Grades K-3)
Kids will learn that God wants our lives to be filled with joy.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music” (Psalm 98:4).
- adult helpers,
- a Bible,
- a facial tissue for every four kids,
- a teaspoon,
- baking soda,
- vinegar, and
- one plastic 35mm film container for each child.
Before kids arrive, tear each facial tissue into fourths, and pour two teaspoons of vinegar into each film canister.
Read Psalm 98:4. Say: On “go,” I want each of you to act out Psalm 98:4. Ready, set, go!
Allow kids to shout for joy for one minute. Then give each child a torn tissue piece and a film canister filled with vinegar.
Say: The Bible tells us that we can be really excited about God. Tell about a time when you were so excited about something that you felt like you were going to burst.
Then say: I watched how well you all acted out our Bible verse. Now let’s try to make something else burst forth.
Show kids how to measure one teaspoon of baking soda and place it in the center of the tissue square. Have kids wrap the tissue around the baking soda. Tell kids to remove the lids of their film canisters and wait.
Say: We need to be careful with the next step of our experiment. You’re going to place the tissue inside your film canister and quickly put the lid on. Then we’re going to stand back. A lot of pressure is going to build up inside—so much pressure, it just might burst!
Allow two kids at a time to conduct the experiment. Tell kids to quickly step back after they secure the lids. (Small children might need help securing the lids quickly.) The lids will pop into the air, creating a lot of foam and giggles.
When everyone has had a turn, say: I think our whole class is bursting with joy. God wants us to be bursting with the good news of Jesus. When we have so much of God’s joy built up inside, we just have to let it out! I hope that you’re so excited about God that you’ll be bursting all week!
6. This Little Light of Mine (Grades 4-6)
Kids will learn that Jesus is the light in a dark world.
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
- a Bible,
- an aluminum pie pan,
- a thumbtack,
- a hot glue gun,
- a foam plate,
- a wool rag or sweater, and
- an empty ballpoint pen barrel (the hollow outside of the pen).
Alert: This experiment requires adult supervision.
Say: Think about a time you’ve seen a flash of lightning on a dark night.
- How did the lightning change the sky?
Allow the kids to tell a few stories. Then ask:
- Did you know that Christians are like a light in a dark place? Listen to what the Bible tells us.
Read aloud 2 Corinthians 4:6. Say: This Scripture says that Jesus’ light shines in our hearts. We’re going to do an experiment that’ll demonstrate a little spark. I’ll need three kids to help and one kid who wants to test our spark and doesn’t mind feeling a slight shock.
A Shocking Result
Place the pie pan face down on a table. Have a helper push the thumbtack through the center of the pan. Turn over the pan so you can see the point of the thumbtack. Coat the tip of the thumbtack with hot glue. Push the small open end of the pen barrel onto the thumbtack point. The pen barrel will act as a “handle” for the experiment.
While the glue dries, have another helper rub the foam plate and wool together for 45 seconds. Place the foam plate face down on the table. Have another helper place the pie pan on top of the upside-down foam plate using the pen handle. Turn off the lights and have the spark tester quickly touch the pie pan with his or her finger. The pan should produce a small shock and a small spark of light. Take the pie pan off the foam plate using the pen handle.
For another small shock, have the spark tester touch the pan with his or her finger again. Touching the pan a second time will neutralize the electrical charge. Repeat the activity for kids who want to feel the spark.
Say: When the plate was rubbed with wool, it created a negative charge because the plate attracted electrons from the wool. When the plate touched the pie pan, the electrons on the plate repelled the electrons on the pan. But when a finger touched the pan on the plate, the electrons traveled off the pan onto the finger. That was the spark you experienced, and then the pan was positively charged. That’s what the light of Jesus does in our lives. When we connect with Jesus, he can help us be a positive force in a negative world—a light in the dark!
7. Listen Up (Grades 3-6)
Kids will learn that we need to be spiritually healthy.
“Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” (Psalm 44:21).
- electrical tape,
- a Bible
- one plastic funnel for every two children, and
- 1 foot of plastic or rubber tubing for every two children.
Form pairs. Say: Listen! Can you hear your heart beating? Let’s try to hear our hearts beat after we do 20 jumping jacks. Ready? Go! Afterward, ask,
- Can you hear your heart beating now?
- Can you feel it beating?
- What does it sound or feel like?
Say: Let’s try an experiment to see if we can hear our hearts more clearly. We’re going to make stethoscopes to help us listen to our hearts.
Give each pair a funnel and 1 foot of tubing. Show kids how to fit the tubing over the funnel’s spout. If the tubing doesn’t fit tightly on the funnel’s spout, secure it with tape. Partners can listen to each other’s hearts by having one child put the funnel over his heart while the other partner listens through the end of the tubing.
After every child has had a chance to listen, say: Your heart pumps blood 24 hours a day. There are valves in your heart that keep the blood moving through your body. These valves open and close as the heart pumps the blood. That’s what makes the sound of your heartbeat.
- How was the sound of a heart different when you used the stethoscope?
- Do you think everyone’s heart sounds the same? Why or why not?
- What do you think God hears when he listens to our hearts?
Say: God has a special interest in your heart because your heart indicates more than your physical health. It also reveals your spiritual health.
Read aloud Psalm 44:21. Ask:
- What kind of secrets does your heart hide?
- How can our hearts be spiritually unhealthy?
- What can you do to make your heart spiritually healthy?
Courtney Wilson is a children’s pastor in Vancouver, Washington.
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