Public Learning Resources

Go Beyond with SCI

Explore science, even when you can't visit SCI!

Looking for science activities and programming to fill your days at home? Good news: We have virtual programs and educational resources for you! Explore combustion, try some kitchen chemistry experiments and how you can "Go Beyond with SCI."

These virtual learning resources take you outside of the walls of SCI and bring science to your homes! 

  • Experience SCI at Home

    • At-Home Activities

      • Make a Pinhole Camera - Use materials around your house to create a pinhole camera. Learn how
      • Make a Solitary Bee House - Make a "bee hotel" for bees in your neighborhood with a few simple materials. Learn how
      • Make a Solar Oven - Summer is right around the corner, and the days are heating up! Harness the energy of the sun to make a homemade solar oven and cook up a summertime favorite... s'mores! Learn how
      • Binary Code Bracelet - Celebrate your BFF by making a friendship bracelet with a techie twist... by spelling out "LOVE" in binary code! View the full instructions on our blog
      • Make A Paper Crane - Learn how to fold paper cranes to bring awareness to the whooping crane, an endangered species, and its relative, the sandhill crane! View video
      • Paper Projectiles - Join Bridgett for a behind-the-scenes look at our paper rocket launcher in the When Things Get Moving exhibit –  then experiment with making some paper projectiles at home. View video
      • Make a Paper Poppy - We celebrated Memorial Day by honoring our military personnel who have lost their lives and learned how to make a red poppy pin! You'll need: red tissue paper, scissors, masking tape, glue, scrap cardboard, a black permanent marker and a safety pin. View video
      • Make a Turtle Journal - We're celebrating World Turtle Day  all week long! Since you'll be learning all kinds of turtle-y awesome turtle facts, you might want to make your own turtle journal. In this video, Patrick and Maddy will show you how! View video (Length: 2 minutes, 36 seconds)
      • All About Robots - Our director of innovative STEM teaching, Jolie, created a socially distancing robot! Join her to learn how robots can be useful to our lives, see how she made her robot and discover how you can control some pre-made robots from home. View video (Length: 2 minutes, 52 seconds)
      • Stop-Motion Animation - Have you used the Stop-Motion Animation Station in our Makers Studio? In this video, Bridgett will explain how stop-motion animation works and show you how to create your own stop-motion movie at home - including a trick that lets you do it on a smartphone without any special apps. View video (Length: 4 minutes, 47 seconds)
      • "Paint" Your Own Lightsaber - Celebrate "May the Fourth" and use a technique called "light painting" to create photos that look like you're holding a lightsaber. View instructions
      • Make An App - Struggling with how much screen time to give your kids? Here's one way to make that screen time fun and educational... Have them make their own app! This is a fun challenge that combines coding and creativity. It can be done independently by kids in grades 5 and up and with assistance for younger learners. View video (Length: 15 minutes, 36 seconds)
      • Studying Earth from Space - We all know NASA studies outer space, but did you know that they study Earth extensively, too? In this video, Dan tells you all about NASA's Earth-observing satellites and what we can learn from the information they collect. For an activity you can try at home, step into the mind of a NASA engineer and check out this "Build Your Own Spacecraft" activityView video (Length: 8 minutes, 16 seconds)
      • Face Mask Science - We're all seeing more and more people wear face masks in public, but how do they work? And why are some mask materials better than others? For this activity, you will investigate different materials and create and test a simple “filter” using objects from around your house. View video (Length: 7 minutes, 45 seconds)
      • Kitchen Chemistry: Mug Cakes - Join our director of early childhood for an example of a "kitchen chemistry" activity you can try with your early learner at home! By experimenting with different ingredients and asking questions, you can learn and grow together. View video (Length: 11 minutes, 16 seconds)
      • Making Music - Join Jolie, our director of innovative STEM teaching, for an idea of how to make music and experiment together at home. View video (Length: 3 minutes, 5 seconds)
    • What's Outside Your Window?

      • World UFO Day: The Drake Equation - Have you ever seen something in the sky that you haven’t been able to identify? Then you've seen a UFO - or an Unidentified Flying Object! What are the odds that those UFOs are aliens? What are the odds that aliens even exist? Scientists called astrobiologists are trying to figure that out right now! Learn more on our blog
      • Bees vs. Wasps - If you saw a small black and yellow flying insect flying around your garden or picnic setup, would you know whether it’s a bee or a wasp? Learn some of the ways they're similar or different
      • What's Outside Your Window (and Below the Surface of the Pond?) - Have you ever gone fishing in a pond? We typically see what we pull OUT of the water, but today, we'll take a look at what's happening BELOW the surface of a pond in our director of innovative STEM teaching's backyard. View video (Length: 3 minutes, 24 seconds)
      • National Corn Day Quiz - We're celebrating the fact that Iowa is the nation's top corn producer with this possibly corny quiz to test your kernels of knowledge about everyday products that are made using corn. Take the quiz
      • Globe Observer: Clouds - Do you love clouds as much as we do? Turn your sky-gazing into real science! Download NASA's Globe Observer app and become a citizen scientist by recording clouds in your backyard or neighborhood. Join Patrick to learn more about clouds and how to use the Globe Observer app! View video (Length: 2 minutes, 56 seconds)
      • Endangered Turtles at Big Sand Mound - The Big Sand Mound Nature Preserve is located south of Muscatine, Iowa, along the Mississippi River. It's home to a unique, diverse ecosystem of plants and animals and has among the highest concentrations of endangered species in the state, including the yellow mud turtle and ornate box turtle. View video (Length: 3 minutes, 36 seconds) 
      • Lewis & Clark in Iowa - For the 216th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, we partnered with Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City to see what Lewis and Clark would have seen outside their window when they visited Iowa in 1804. Learn more on our blog
      • Is it me or is it the Full Moon? - Have you ever noticed your pets and/or children acting very strange and then noticing there is a Full Moon and wondering if the two are related? There's actually some science behind it! Read more on our blog
      • Spring Buds - In this time of social distancing, when you can't hang out with your friends, we have an idea for some other "buds" you can hang out with! Tag along with Patrick, our director of learning experiences, to learn about flowers and trees that are budding right now in Iowa. Then, explore your own backyard to see what buds you can find! View video (Length: 3 minutes, 15 seconds)
      • Listening to Nature - What made that sound? Why did it make that sound? Next time you take a walk outside, notice the sounds around you. It's the first step in learning more about soundscape ecology! View video (Length: 2 minutes, 24 seconds)
      • Window Weather Wonder Watchers - Bridgett will show you how to make Window Weather Wonder Watchers, a "stained-glass" sun-catcher. View video (Length: 9 minutes)
      • Globe Observer: Measuring Trees- In this this video, where our director of learning experiences Patrick introduces a NASA citizen science app called Globe Observer that shows you how to measure trees and help scientist learn about what’s happening on our planet. View video (Length: 3 minutes)
    • Behind-the-Scenes

      • New Rover Exhibit - Over the past year, we've been collaborating with students from ISU's Cardinal Space Mining Club to develop a new interactive for our "Why the Sky?" exhibit. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the project from idea to reality. View the photos
      • Bees at SCI - We recently installed a new set of functioning bee hives in our What On Earth? exhibit. Go "bee"-hind the scenes with Abigail, the 2019 Central Iowa Beekeepers Honey Queen and SCI's volunteer beekeeper, to learn about the process of setting up an urban bee hive. View video (Length: 10 minutes, 18 seconds)
      • Staying Safe with Stuffee - As things in our communities are opening back up (including SCI!*), it's important to keep in mind what we know about germs and how to stay healthy. Let's check in with our friend Stuffee for some reminders! Learn more
      • How does a flag pole work? - Have you ever watched the raising of a flag? That easy-looking task uses multiple simple machines! Join exhibit coordinator Bridgett to explore the science of this symbolic system - and learn some history of the flag of Des Moines. View video (Length: 2 minutes, 56 seconds)
      • Virtual Summer Camps - June 8-12, we hosted our first-ever virtual summer camps! After picking up camp supply kits last week, campers are now engaging with our educators via live and pre-recorded video. See the photos and learn what campers have been up to
      • Laser-Cut Dino Puzzle - For National Dinosaur Day, Jolie created a laser-cut dinosaur puzzle using the Glowforge, a cool piece of maker techologyin our Innovation Lab. View video (Length: 3 minutes, 7 seconds)
      • Turtle "Speed"-Eating Contest - SCI's resident box turtles Lily, Peaches, Charlene and Herman aren't known for being especially speedy... but in this video, we'll learn about what box turtles eat and see who can snarf down their snacks the quickest! View video (Length: 4 minutes, 17 seconds)
      • Snippy's Snack Time - Join exhibit coordinator Bridgett as Snippy, our resident snapping turtle, gets a snack. View video (Length: 14 minutes, 15 seconds)
      • Foucault Pendulum - One of SCI's most iconic and beloved features, the Foucault (pronounced 'foo koh’) Pendulum is a 235-pound, 17-inch brass ball that demonstrates the rotation of the earth. It hung for more than 30 years in the Science Center of Iowa's former location in Greenwood-Ashworth Park before joining SCI in our downtown location in 2005. Learn more on our blog
      • SCI Celebrates Teachers - Join our staff in thanking some of our favorite teachers - the ones who inspired us to become who we are today. View video (Length: 5 minutes, 57 seconds)
      • Superheroes of SCI - April 28 was National Superhero Day, but instead of honoring heroes of fiction, we celebrated three real-life Superheroes of SCI! You might not see them during your visit, but Mark, Don and Jordan work hard to keep SCI running behind-the-scenes. Plus, we turned our building lights blue in support of the heroes of our community... essential workers! View post
      • Behind-the-Scenes in What On Earth? - In celebration of Earth Day, our director of exhibits talked to WHO's Jodi Long about what it takes to create an exhibit and preview some new components that are coming to "What On Earth?" View video (Length: 5 minutes, 26 seconds)
    • News in Space

      • Why the Sky Changes with the Season - Learn more about why the night sky changes as the seasons change and discover what constellations you can look for this summer. Check it out
      • Bees in Space! - Bees in space? Learn more about some of the times scientists have taken bees aboard the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, and explore why these findings might "bee" important for future space exploration. Learn more on our blog
      • What's Up in June? - Check out this NASA video to learn about the upcoming Summer Solstice as well as the planets and constellations visible in (almost) summer sky. View video from NASA
      • ISS Docking Simulator - Did you watch the NASA and SpaceX Crew Dragon launch? Did you see as it approached and docked at the International Space Station? They made it look pretty easy! Test your astro-abilities with this online simulator - it's the same interface used by astronauts to pilot the Dragon vehicle to the ISS. Good luck!
      • Turtles in Space? -This "What's Up Wednesday," we're celebrated World Turtle Day by highlighting a lesser-known constellation, Keya! View video (Length: 26 seconds)
      • What's Up in May? - Feeling cooped up? Remember that we're IN SPACE, cruising through the solar system! Learn more
      • Studying Earth from Space - We all know NASA studies outer space, but did you know that they study Earth extensively, too? In this video, Dan tells you all about NASA's Earth-observing satellites and what we can learn from the information they collect. View video (Length: 8 minutes, 15 seconds)
    • Program Spotlights

      • What Gives Fireworks their Colors? - "Oooh, potassium chloride!" This Fourth of July weekend, you're likely to "ooh" and "ahh" at some spectacular firework displays. Join Bridgett to explore what gives fireworks their colors! View video (Length: 3 minutes, 44 seconds)
      • Story Time Under the Stars: "On the Same Day in March" - Join us in SCI's Star Theater planetarium for a Story Time Under the Stars reading of "On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World's Weather" by Marilyn Singer. This book explores how different parts of the world can experience very weather even on the same day of the year. As Dan reads the book, you can follow his path across the globe with images filmed in the planetarium, which uses Evans & Sutherland's Digistar 5 system. View video (Length: 7 minutes, 55 seconds)
      • Methane Bubbles - This experiment is a fan-favorite from our "Fire Works" program. The combustion reaction uses a fuel called methane gas. View video (Length: 1 minute, 36 seconds)
      • Whoosh Bottle - View video (Length: 3 minutes, 13 seconds)
      • Lycopodium & Combustion - View video (Length: 4 minutes, 14 seconds)
    • Science in 60(ish) Seconds

      Check out our Science in 60(ish) Seconds series, including quick experiments and cool science! View playlist

    • General Science Resources

      Astronomy at Home

      • Explore the night sky from your own backyard! View monthly sky maps at www.skymaps.com
      • Experience "Iowa Skies Tonight" in SCI's iconic Star Theater planetarium! View video

      Kitchen Chemistry

      • Make everything from slime to bubbles with these fun experiments you can do in your own kitchen. View experiments
      • Learn how to extract DNA from peas! View experiment
      • Try this fresh and healthy fruit salad recipe from Fareway! View recipe
    • Exhibit Resources

      Why the Sky?
      Take your exploration of SCI's space exhibit to a new level with this student guide designed to be used during your visit.

    • Planetarium Program Resources

      Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity
      Learn the science behind the dark in this planetarium show all about black holes.

      The Zula Patrol: Under the Weather
      Your favorite TV aliens star in The Zula Patrol: Under the Weather, showing daily in SCI's Star Theater planetarium.