Observation Jar Activity

Observation jar full of cool plants

Look all around you – how are the things we see around us different from each other? How are they the same? Scientists put things into groups based on their observations of similarities and differences. Why do you think this is?

Today we are going to do some scientific sorting using objects you can find around or outside of your house. We’ll make observations, explore the different ways we can group objects together and create a jar full of our fun finds!

What you will need:

  • A clear jar or bottle.
    • You can reuse a plastic water bottle, pasta sauce jar, or any kind of clear container that you can find
  • At least 4 different found objects 

1. ) It’s time to collect some objects! 

  • Make sure to take a trusted adult with you if you choose to leave the house! 
  • We don’t want to put any living creatures in the jar. Make sure to check for tiny insects on any of your objects before putting them in the jar if you collect things from outside your house.
  • Try to gather things that are different sizes, shapes, and colors.
  • Some ideas could include: rocks, leaves, coins, small toys, flowers, shells, buttons, or small sticks. 

2. ) Now that we’ve collected our objects, let’s take a little bit of time to look more closely at the things we found before we put them in our jar. See if you can answer the following questions about your objects!

  • How many things did you find? I found _____________ things.
  • Pick one object that catches your eye and see what you can notice about it. See if you can answer these questions about the thing that you found! 
  • What do you notice about it? What do you wonder about it? What does it remind you of?
  • You can also think about…
    • Where did you find it?
    • What color is it?
    • What does it feel like in your hand? 
    • How big is it?
  • Take a look at all the objects that you found. Can you find any similarities between them? Try to find at least two things that are similar about your objects.
  • Try sorting your objects into different categories by putting them in different piles. Can you sort your objects by….
    • Color?
    • Size? 
    • Types of things (plant, rock, toy, flowers)?
  • Which object is the heaviest? Which is the lightest?

3.) Now you are ready to fill up your jar! Layer your items based on how you sorted them. You can always take your objects out of the jar if you think of fun new ways to sort your items. Or, you can put all the things you found right back where you found them.

If you chose objects like flowers and leaves, you may want to put them at the top of your jar so that they don’t get crushed by heavier objects!

Wrap-up questions
Can you think of some other ways you could group your objects together?
What do you think we can learn when we sort objects or living organisms?

Post by Elise

How To Draw a Flower Video

Do you enjoy looking at flowers? What do you want to learn about flowers? Use this step-by-step guide to learn about the different parts of a flower through illustration. Afterwards you will be able to identify perfect and imperfect flowers.

Explore more about plants with the resources in our Online Museum Store.

Post by Elise

Phenology Wheel Activity

All around us, things are constantly changing. Spring rains come and bring new flowers, baby birds are hatching from eggs, and new green leaves emerge on trees. Can you think of some ways you have observed changes in nature? 

Artwork by Ivy Kae from The Art of Nature Exhibit
Artwork by Ivy Kae from The Art of Nature Exhibit
  • Phenology is the study of cycles and patterns in nature. You can practice phenology by making observations in nature and noticing how things change over time! Create a phenology wheel of your own as a tool to record your observations about a natural phenomenon in your own life! 
  • A phenology wheel is simply a way to keep track of the observations you are making about your chosen subject in nature.
    • Here is a detailed guide for creating your own wheel.
    • Or you can use this template!
  • To use the wheel, spend some time making observations in nature for a day, week, month, or even an entire year! You can focus on one species or a special spot outside your window or place of your own choosing

Here  are some prompts to help inspire you to create your own wheel! Check out the detailed guide below for even more ideas. 

  • Look outside your window each day for a week. What do you notice? What has changed? 
  • Look up at the sky! Each night, record your observations of the moon throughout its phases on your phenology wheel.
  • What’s the weather? Track the weather where you live for a week/month/year. 
  • Do you see any animals regularly near your home? Such as a bird? What do you think it is doing?

Watch our Phenology Wheel Video.

Post by Ellen

Meet the Artist: Diane T Sands

A 4-panel comic from Life On Toast by Diane T Sands that says "Start Where You Are"

These pieces are a part of Life on Toast — a window into how I view the world. Essentially a one-panel comic, it is delineated into four frames. I had been enjoying other webcomics on Instagram and my favorites would show one panel at a time, with the fifth image being the whole comic. I designed Life on Toast for this medium. It followed from observations and doodles in my sketchbook, many with puns added but also bringing in elements of the scientific illustration work I’ve done and daily encouragements. Unlike other webcomics, I wanted mine to be hand-drawn and hand-painted, yet shared electronically. Little did I know how important this would become once shelter-in-place was established. On many days, this tiny window is my only contact with the world. 

A 4-panel comic from Life On Toast by Diane T Sands depicting 3 ducks and 1 goose
A 4-panel comic from Life On Toast by Diane T Sands saying "You choose: One day, or day one."
A 4-panel comic from Life On Toast by Diane T Sands saying, "No, I DON'T know the words."

For years I have taken photos — many of them blurry or cluttered — as a way of keeping track of nature I see on hikes and dog walks, or the growth in my garden, when my sketchbook is out of reach. I use these reference photos later as part of Life on Toast and other art, like the piece I have in this year’s The Art of Nature exhibit. I draw the items I have collected over the years and keep around my house — rocks, bones, paint tubes — the detritus of my life as inspiration. Art can be made anywhere out of the things you see in the world around you. Take a look inside my electronic window and share my Life on Toast.

Diane T Sands describes herself as “illustrator, librarian, writer, nerd.” Explore her website and the virtual exhibit, The Art of Nature, featuring her piece Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia).