The Science of Summer


Get ready for summer by exploring the science behind some of your favorite summer activities. Discover the physics of sailing, the chemistry of campfires, the science of blowing bubbles, the mineral composition of sand, and the forces that allow humans to ride bicycles and roller coasters. Use these videos and lesson plans to encourage your students to become scientists this summer!

  • The Combustion of Wood

    What happens when wood burns? Learn about the chemistry of combustion, as well as the different types of combustion, including the types that are harmful to human health. 

    The new e-book, Engineering is Saving the World with Cookstoves, tells the story of the need for a new design for cookstoves in Darfur and how researchers have worked to make that happen. Videos, animations, and interactive graphics explain the design process, and provide a deep dive into science concepts, like combustion. This video is part of the e-book.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Physics of Sailing

    In this video adapted from QUEST, take a sailing lesson from a San Francisco-based sailing club and learn what it takes to get a sailboat moving in the water. With the help of some of the Bay Area’s top aerospace engineers, the QUEST team learns that sailboats don’t simply rely on wind to push them forward but that there are other invisible forces that are fundamental to the process. In fact, the physical elements that make a sail boat sail are the same ones that make an airplane fly.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio with closed captions.

    Grades: 8-12
  • Airborne Wind Energy

    The strongest and most consistent winds are found in the jet stream as high as 30,000 feet above the earth. In this video from QUEST produced by KQED, learn about the benefits and challenges of wind energy. In this video from QUEST produced by KQED, learn about the similarities and differences between conventional and airborne wind turbines. Also, explore the benefits and challenges of wind energy.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Amazing Life of Sand | Deep Look

    There's a story in every grain of sand: tales of life and death, fire and water. If you scooped up a handful of sand from every beach, you'd have a history of the world sifting through your fingers. From mountain boulders to the shells of tiny ocean creatures, follow the journey that sand takes through thousands of years across entire continents to wind up stuck between your toes.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The World's Most Powerful Microscope

    In this resource from KQED’s QUEST, learn about the light microscope and how it's helping scientists create three-dimensional images of cells, which may lead to new medical breakthroughs.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Science of Riding a Bicycle

    Riding a bicycle might be easy. But the forces that allow humans to balance atop a bicycle are complex. Take a ride on a research bicycle and explore a collection of antique bicycles in this QUEST video.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Newton's Laws of Motion | QUEST

    In this video from KQED's QUEST, Paul Doherty of the Exploratorium in San Francisco performs a "sit-down" lecture on one of Sir Issac Newton's most famous laws, demonstrating how Newton's three laws of motion affect all movement in the universe. An explanation is provided and examples are given of how Newton's laws of motion govern activities in our everyday lives.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions. 

    Grades: 8-12
  • Is a Bubble Always Round? | Science-U

    Is a bubble always round? What do you need to do to create another shape? Can you make a square bubble? See how our Science-U campers did it, then try it yourself with step-by-step instructions and guided scientific questions available in the downloadable handout or at the Science-U website.

    Grades: 2-5
  • The Effects of Light Pollution on Firefly Communication

    Firefly populations are declining all over the world. Filmmaker Emily Driscoll’s documentary Brilliant Darkness highlights the different habits of the species and the conservation efforts being put in place to preserve them. Scientists from the Department of Entomology & Nematology of the University of Florida discuss their methodology that led to the understanding of the impact of artificial light on firefly populations in this clip from SciTech Now.

    Grades: 5-8
  • Centripetal Force: Roller Coaster Loops

    What can we learn about physics from an amusement park ride? This video segment, produced for Teachers' Domain, uses roller coaster footage to demonstrate that what really keeps people pinned to their seats as a roller coaster hurtles through a loop isn't just the seat belts, it's centripetal force. To reinforce this important scientific principle, a physics teacher successfully swings a cup of water around his headwithout spilling a drop.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 6-12
  • How to Curve a Ball Backwards Using Science | Physics Girl

    Curving and bending a ball using the Magnus effect is common in every sport. The effect can be reversed though—kick the ball the same way, and it will bend in the opposite direction!

    Grades: 6-12
  • Science Spotlight: How to Build a Model of a Future Space-Exploring Robot

    Learn how to make a model of a tensegrity robot with CaT Bobino using just straws and rubber bands. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Physics of Baseball

    Two scientists from San Francisco Bay Area institutions break down a few of the many different ways that baseball is a great way to learn about the physics of motion and energy, including aerodynamics and vibrations in this video adapted from QUEST.

    Grades: 9-12