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Pittsburgh Parenting Blog by Sewickley Academy

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At Home Science Experiment & Design Thinking Challenge

At Home Science Experiment & Design Thinking Challenge

Learning doesn’t have to stop because students can’t be in a physical classroom. A number of interesting experiments or use of Design Thinking can be completed at home with just a few items and not only lead to some good conversations with your child, but meaningful learning. 

Is Yeast Alive?


Determine whether or not yeast is alive.




Bottle (plastic or glass) 



Warm water

Varies depending on bottle size



A few pinches



A few spoons fulls

Honey or syrup



Baggies and rubberband


This can be done using just one bottle or multiple if you want to answer a few more questions regarding yeast (Is yeast alive and does it eat sugar?). 

  1. Fill the bottle(s) with lukewarm water to about the depth of half of your thumb.
  2. Add a pinch of yeast and mix by gently swirling the bottle(s). If you are doing multiple bottles be sure to add nearly the same amount to each bottle.
  3. Add a level spoonful of sugar and swirl. If you are using all four bottles add no sugar to one of them, add about a 1/4 spoonful to one, add about a 1/2 spoonful to the last one and label all of them so you know which is which.
  4. Stretch the balloon over the bottle top (if using baggies, place loosely over the top and use a rubber band to seal the bag to the bottle).
  5. Wait for 20 to 40 minutes. Observe and discuss the results!

You can do a number of additional experiments if you want. What happens if you place a bottle in the refrigerator, use cool water to start, or do one with honey and the other with sugar?

Send marketing@sewickley.org a picture of your work so we can add it to our social media posts.

What Trees are Around Me?

Our yards are full of wonderful species and identifying what species are present has become pretty straight forward using apps on mobile devices. For trees, Leafsnap is a pretty good application. What I like is that it requires, at times, some reasoning skills. For example, I just took a photo of a Rhododendron leaf in my yard. The app came back with two possible plants. Within a few moments of reading, I discovered one plant is native to New Zealand.

Design Challenges 

Designing useful items is not true science, but by using Design Thinking some of the same types of thinking that happens in science get practiced and useful items can result. 

Design Challenge: As more and more folks are using video conferencing and calling tools like Zoom or FaceTime, a good challenge for a young designer would be to design and build a stand for a phone or tablet computer to be used when on a video application. The materials could be Legos or cardboard.

Image courtesy of: https://uxdesign.cc/user-experience-is-design-thinking-2428a0a360c2

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