A Simple Way to Excite Young Scientists: Go on a “Specimen Tube Walk”!

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Captain had a blast with her test tubes today!

Who wouldn’t love collecting little bits of nature into neat little vials?  It is so much fun!  Today Captain requested some specimen vials to go outside and collect some samples of nature.  She told me that she needed to go out alone and “be a real scientist”, and she had a great time!  She stuffed her pockets with 5 little vials that I found at Target in the dollar bin (they were $1 for a pack of 10~ great price!) and proudly walked out the door.  I can’t believe how valuable these simple tubes are for homeschooling, or for just about any curious child.  It is a great way to get kids outside exploring and collecting, and the learning possibilities can go on from there.

For example, Captain collected her plants and brought them back to the house for identification.  The vials each had a separate specimen contained within.  She had gathered: wild strawberry leaves, rosemary, oregano, a wild grass and the leaf of a wild plant that is native to our area, that we have been meaning to identify.  The act itself of collecting the samples is great fun, but to be able to find out what is inside these cute little vials is the basis for scientific experimentation in all of its budding wonder!  If you are lucky enough to have a decent microscope, kids can really have fun looking at their treasures up close.  What happens when you compare a pine needle with a strand of your own hair? Hmmm.. We plan to get a microscope as soon as we can since Captain is ready for it, and the cheap one we bought doesn’t work…It will be a joyful addition to sample-collecting!!

Even very young kids can have fun with these tubes, as long as they are old enough to know not to pop the caps into their mouths.  The vials are made of sturdy plastic and are terrific to fill with sand, plants, tiny pebbles, pine needles, colored water, etc.  (They are helpful storage for leftover glitter as well 🙂 ) I want to add that kids don’t necessarily need to be “learning something” by collecting samples and having fun stuffing test tubes.  The very act of being excited to collect things, especially bits of nature, is very stimulating for kids, and it doesn’t hurt that science exploration grows from the basic desire to gather and observe!

I highly recommend inviting kids to go on a “specimen tube walk”! Each child should have about 5 vials for collection and it is wise to instruct them to take their time and be selective.  The tubes can be purchased at learning stores, and sometimes at dollar stores, so if you see them, grab some up for future projects! Plastic test tubes with caps can also be purchased on Amazon.  They come in a pack of 10 for around $8 with free shipping.  Learning Resources has a terrific 6 pack (with rack) of larger size test tubes with colorful lids for about $12 (We really want to try these!).

We would love to hear about your adventures with specimen vials, or other fun uses for them, here on kartwheels.

Happy exploring!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “A Simple Way to Excite Young Scientists: Go on a “Specimen Tube Walk”!

  1. Charlotte

    Great idea – my kids would love this…and I’d love not to have to empty out coat pockets and find half a tree jammed in the washing machine lol They would also love making ‘potions’ in these. I’ll have to keep my eyes open or ask some of my young and funky friends (they sell drink mixes in plastic test tubes too) to save their mixer tubes for the kids…I’ve reached the age where the best conatiner I’m coming up with is a tea tin!! lol

    • Ha Ha Charlotte! I hear you loud and clear about emptying out pockets full of leaves, twigs, acorns, rocks etc etc and I LOVE the idea of mixing potions in them! I will encourage Captain with the potions and see what she comes up with. As far as that tea tin… hmmm, what can we do with that???

  2. Anonymous

    I love it! What a great idea! Thanks for sharing

  3. Anonymous

    I believe I have some test tubes and will definitely do this with my daughter. Thanks for sharing this idea!

  4. Darcel

    What a great idea! My kids would love this. We always have bags, boxes, and whatever else they can bring to carry their treasures in.

    • I hope your girls have a great time! We have bags, boxes and baskets for carrying treasures too, and I often find little purses in Captain’s room that don’t have lip gloss in them, but rather rocks and wilted flowers 🙂

  5. Oh, this is super! It’s just the sort of thing my kids, especially my 3yo would love. And I agree with you that kids can benefit from just having fun collecting things from nature, whether or not there is an official ‘lesson’ attached to the activity. I really like the microscope idea.

  6. Debbie*


  7. fabulous idea! makes me think when a then-new friend of mine and i went walking around and decided we’d do our own little experience and gathered sand in a jar and i can’t remember what else we were to do lol but the thought was there. i’ll be sure to pass this along to my parent friends 🙂

  8. What a wonderful idea. I wish I had thought of something like that when my boys were younger. But now they’re teenagers, and going on a specimen-collection walk with their mother is probably the last thing they want to do. 😉

    Thanks for stopping by my site. I appreciate it!

    • Ha ha! You’re right.. A specimen-walk with mom is probably not on the to-do list for teenagers 🙂 Thanks for writing in!!

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