Unless otherwise noted, information contained in each edition of the Kansas School Naturalist reflects the knowledge of the subject as of the original date of publication.

KSN - Vol 8, No 4 - Let's Build Equipment (2nd in Series)

THE COVER PICTURE shows Becky Dold, of Thomas W. Butcher Children's School, with the bird feeders which she built and which were chosen to represent the sixth grade at the Emporia Regional Science Fair in April, 1962. Photograph by the college photographic service.

Volume 8, Number 4 - May 1962

Let's Build Equipment for Elementary Science
(Second in a Series)

by Ina M. Borman and Helen M. Douglass



Published by The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia

Prepared and Issued by The Department of Biology, with the cooperation of the Division of Education

Editor: John Breukelman, Department of Biology

Editorial Committee: Ina M. Borman, Helen M. Douglass, Gilbert A. Leisman, David Parmelee, Dixon Smith

Online format by: Terri Weast

The Kansas School Naturalist is sent upon request, free of charge, to Kansas teachers and others interested in nature education. Back numbers are sent free as long as the supply lasts, except Vol. 5, No. 3, Poisonous Snakes of Kansas. Copies of this issue may be obtained for 25 cents each postpaid. Send orders to The Kansas School Naturalist, Department of Biology, Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in November, January, March, and May of each year by The Kansas State Teachers Col­lege, Twelfth Avenue and Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas. Second-class mail privileges authorized at Emporia, Kansas.

THE SKETCHES (except as noted below) for this issue were drawn by Dr. Robert Boles, Assistant Professor of Biology at KSTC. Figure 7 and 9 were repeated from previous numbers of The Kansas School Naturalist.

Let's Build Equipment for Elementary Science (Second in a Series)

by Ina M. Borman and Helen M. Douglass

Many elementary teachers have said that they lack experience in making science equipment. They need practical help so that they can guide girls and boys in making and using everyday things needed in elementary science classes. Many simple pieces of equipment can be made in the elementary classroom
and used to promote interest in the field and to challenge children's curiosity.

This issue of The Kansas School Naturalist is the second devoted to equipment that can be made by the teacher or by the pupils, or by the teacher and pupils working together. The subject matter for which the equipment is used deals with both biological and physical science. Some of the suggestions are simple and some are more detailed. You will have to be selective as to the ones usable in your particular situation. All of the pieces described have been made in classrooms and found to be appropriate for elementary science. You may want to modify some procedures; this is to be expected. The main idea is "let's make some equipment." Of course the descriptions in this issue are only samplings of what can be done.

see description below

Figure 1. These dimensions fit the ordinary coat hanger, but the same kind of net may be made in any desired size.



  • one yard of cheesecloth or net from a discarded lace curtain
  • 50 inches of heavy duty wire such as is used in wire coat hangers
  • mop or broom handle
  • staples
  • heavy duty thread and needle
  • 40 inches of heavy cloth, such as canvas


Make loop with wire and wind the ends tightly around one end of the mop or broom handle. Fasten the ends of the wire to the handle with staples. Be sure the wire is held securely in place.

Fold the cloth, cut, and stitch in an oval shape. See Figure 1. Fasten the edge of the net over the wire frame, cover the wire with the canvas strip and staple together around the wire.


Children can use this inexpensive but adequate net to catch insects, and to make a great deal of first hand observation of insects. This may lead to further study of insect life found in their community.



  • wide mouth pint jar and lid
  • cotton
  • carbon tetrachloride
  • cardboard


Cut a disc of cardboard the same size as the bottom of the pint jar. Perforate the disc to allow the fumes from the chemical to fill the jar.

Saturate a small piece of cotton with carbon tetrachloride and place it at the bottom of the pint jar. Cover with the perforated cardboard. Place the lid on the jar and be sure to keep it on tightly.

Instead of using carbon tetrachloride, the following may be substituted:

  1. rubbing alcohol
  2. broken-up moth balls, or "moth crystals"
  3. dichloride crystals

Caution must be taken at all times when handling chemicals.


It is important to kill the insect quickly without it "fluttering" about and destroying or damaging a wing, leg, or some other part of its body. Children need to be taught humane ways to kill insects, in order to have good specimens to mount.



see description below

Figure 2. Left; a simple insect cage; right: a cage for pets or other small animals.



  • flower pot
  • saucer
  • garden soil
  • lamp chimney or lantern globe
  • a small plant
  • mosquito netting or cheesecloth
  • a grasshopper or other insect

Fill the flower pot with soil and set it in the saucer. Set the plant in the soil and water liberally. Cover the plant with a lamp chimney. Put the insect inside the chimney and tie the mosquito netting over the top of the chimney, as shown in Figure 2.

When the children bring an insect to school it may be kept in the cage for observation of size, locomotion, eating habits, and other interesting features. From curiosity some children may try to learn more about the insect and its habits.




  • 4 one or two-inch wooden strips 26 inches long
  • 2 similar strips 24 inches long
  • 3 similar strips 10 inches long
  • hail screen
  • nails, staples
  • hinges
  • door hook and eye
  • drain pan
  • 2 boards, 12 x 16 inches, or the size needed for the cage

The two boards are the ends of the cage. To these ends nail the four 26-inch strips, two al the top and two at the bottom. One of the bottom strips should be raised about an inch from the bottom of the cage to allow room to slide a metal drain pan in and out easily. Cover each side of the cage with hail screen. To make the lid, nail three 10-inch strips to the two 24-inch strips, as shown in Figure 2. By means of the hinges, attach the lid to the main part of the cage. The door hook and eye will keep the lid fastened to the cage. Hail screen covers the lid.

To have a removable metal bottom for the cage, find a drip pan from an old stove, or make one from a piece of sheet metal by bending up the edges all around, about ~; inch high. A metal bottom of this kind is a great help in keeping the cage clean and sanitary.

It is important to have a cage in the classroom, ready when a child brings a pet or other small animal to school. Pets in the classroom permit children to observe feeding habits and other behavior. If the animals are wild, children can observe them for a while and then return them to their natural habitat.


see description below

Figure 3. A house of this design is elastically mounted atop a post or suspended from a branch of a tree.

 see description below

Figure 4. Bird houses like this are commonly fastened to buildings or tree trunks.



  • lumber, in sizes necessary for each birdhouse as planned
  • tag board
  • nails
  • brace and bit, or keyhole saw
  • hand saw, or jig saw

Measure and mark each piece on tag board for a pattern. Cut out the pattern and place it on the lumber that you are going to use, Mark each piece and saw it out, using a regular hand saw or jig saw, Upper grade children can do all this work themselves, but children in the third grade may need help in planning and measuring for the pattern, Making the pattern first lessens errors and reduces waste of lumber. Two common types of bird house are shown in Figures 3 and 4, but the children can plan variations of these.

Children take an interest in birds and want t~ provide shelter and nesting facilities for them.


Figure 5. A simple vivarium

 Figure 5. A simple vivarium


  • fine mesh screen
  • glass
  • lumber
  • galvanized iron container, size 31 1/2 inches long x 16 inches wide x 6 inches high
  • hasp
  • hinges, two

The size of the main part of the vivarium illustrated in Figure 5 is 34 inches long, 19 inches high, and 18 inches wide. On each side of the main part of the vivarium are two panes of glass, 10 inches x 14 inches. At each end of the vivarium are screened openings, 10 inches x 13 1/2 inches. There is a solid bottom. The lumber used for this vivarium is three quarters inches thick and twelve inches wide. The lid is 34 inches long x 18 inches wide, three quarters inch in thickness. A screen is inserted in the lid, 31 inches long and 15 inches wide. The lid is held in place by two hinges that fasten from the back of the lid to the main part of the vivarium. A hasp is placed on the front part of the lid about in the center and is used to fasten down the lid. This hasp fits over a staple.

A galvanized iron container 31 1/2 inches long x 16 inches wide x 6 inches high will need to be made. This container will fit into the bottom of the vivarium

A vivarium is an excellent place to keep live animals. Often their natural habitat can be exemplified. Thus children have an opportunity to study animals in their simulated environment as well as in other situations.



  • two pieces of wood, 12 inches x 15 inches
  • two pieces of wood 12 inches x 24 inches (only one if a lid is not wanted)
  • one piece of wood, 15 inches x 24 inches
  • glass, 15 inches x 24 inches

Construct a wooden box 24 inches long x 12 inches wide and 15 inches high, or of approximately these dimensions. Fit a piece of glass 15 inches x 24 inches as a front to the box. Fill the box nearly to the top with alternate layers of sand, leaf mould, and loam. Pad down each layer before adding the next one. Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.

Now the box is ready to add the crawlers or worms to it. Place lettuce leaves, dead leaves, pieces of carrot or other vegetable matter on the surface of the soil. Keep the soil moist.

This will give children an opportunity to make detailed study of worms in first hand situations.


Figure 6. A lamp-shade brooder

Figure 6. A lamp-shade brooder


  • an old lamp shade
  • heavy cloth, 4 inches wide
  • light bulb, 60 watt
  • extension cord with light socket
  • foil pie tin, or heavy foil cut in a circle to fit the top of the shade

Make a hole in the center of the pie tin, and place it at the top of the lamp shade. Cut the cloth into a strip four inches wide. Be sure the strip is long enough to go around the bottom of the shade. Sew the cloth to the bottom of the shade. Hold the cloth loosely when sewing it.

Insert the extension cord through the center of the shade and through the hole in the pie tin. The socket on the extension cord must be inside the shade. See Figure 6. Suspend the shade by means of the extension cord from the top of a box or cage.

The light bulb will produce enough heat for little chicks. The cloth around the bottom of the shade keeps the heat in an enclosed area yet will allow the chicks to move to and from the warm area. As the chicks grow older and require less heat, the brooder may be raised.

Chicks may be bought from a hatchery or may even be hatched in the classroom. With the use of this brooder, the chicks may be kept in the classroom for an indefinite period. Children can observe the feeding habits and the growth pattern of the chicks, and learn to take care of them.



  • onion sack or other sack made of open mesh material
  • hay, straw, loose sticks
  • string, small pieces of cloth, yarn, feathers, hair, dead grass

Fill the sack with loosely packed hay or straw. With a pencil or small stick, push the string, yarn, and bits of cloth, feathers, hair or dead grass through the mesh of the sack. Take care to leave part of the string, yarn, and other material hanging from the sack.

When finished, place the sack with its contents in a convenient place for the birds to find. They will use the material in nest building.

This is a good project for kindergarten and first grade children. Each child can make a nester, or the construction can be a class project, and the completed nester placed in a tree in the school yard.

This nesting material will attract birds to the home or school yard where the child can observe, identify, and study the birds at close range.

see description below

Figure 7. Several common types of bird feeders


So many different kinds of bird feeders may be built that we are not listing materials and procedures for each type. Figure 7 suggests several different kinds, all of which can be built from easily obtained materials, at home or at school.

The window shelf, No.1, can be built as plain or as fancy as you want it. A roof can be put over it to keep off rain and snow, or the shelf may be protected by a window awning. The weathervane feeder, No.2, if mounted so that it can turn freely, will be turned by the wind so that the closed side is always toward the wind, so that the birds may feed in the sheltered space.

For birds that eat insects and other animal life, suet is a good substitute. Put the suet in a wire holder (No.6) or a knitted bag (No.4) and suspend from a branch, clothes line, or other support. Or put the suet in a piece of hail screen attached to a tree trunk or pole (No.3).

Self feeders like No.5 are excellent for birds that prefer grain or weed seeds. You can think of several other kinds of bird feeders. All sorts of boxes or containers can be used. Do not paint the feeders - birds seem to feel more at home with weathered wood than with painted wood.

Other even simpler feeders are possible. For example, you may drive several large nails through a board and
fasten the board, with nails protruding, to a pole or tree. Suet balls, apples, slices of bread, pieces of meat, or other food may be stuck on the protruding nails. Suet balls are made by kneading together equal parts of mixed grain and ground suet, and molding the mixture into balls about two inches in diameter.

Bird feeders serve to attract birds to the home or school yard where the children may watch them at close range. The kinds of birds that use each type of food provides an interesting study. In severe weather the lives of many birds may be saved by regular feeding.


see description below

Figure 8. A juice-can feeder for rabbits or other small animals


  • large juice can
  • coat hanger

Select an empty juice can that has both ends in place. Using tin snips, cut an opening in the side of the can, and remove the tin. This opening should be about three inches wide and extend almost the full length of the can.

Make a hole in each end of the can with wire cutters, cut a coat hanger in two and place the cut ends in the holes made in the ends of the can, as shown in Figure 8.

Hook the end of the coat hanger over a bush low enough for rabbits to reach the food placed in the can. A variety of food can be put in the can.

Children can feed the rabbits, especially when the ground is covered with snow. Keeping food out for rabbits may keep them from barking young trees and rose bushes.



  • coffee can or any flat bottom can with straight sides
  • steel tape or plastic rule
  • board, 6 x 12 inches or so
  • nails

Fasten the can to the board by driving nails all mound the outside of the can, being careful not to make any holes in the can. Place the board with the attached can in an open space, being careful to have the board level. To measure the rainfall, place one end of the tape or rule against the bottom of the can, being careful to hold the tape or rule upright; read the number and fractions of inches at the water mark.

Children will be able to keep records of the rainfall, and to compare the amount of rainfall with that of other localities and stations.

see description below

Figure 9. Some uses for this equipment were suggested in the November 1960 issue of
The Kansas School Naturalist.



  • 2 one-quart Mason jars
  • 2 Kerr jar rings
  • 1 can black enamel
  • 1 paint brush
  • solder and flux
  • sandpaper

With sandpaper clean the top surface of the Kerr jar rings. Apply flux to the surface of the jar rings. Solder the tops of the two jar rings together. Care should he taken to keep the tops of the rings together as the solder melts and flows between the top surfaces before it solidifies. Snap clothes pins will help to hold the lids securely as they are being soldered.

Paint one jar black. When dry screw the black jar in one of the rings and the clear jar in the other. (See Figure 9.)

Half gallon jars which have the same mouth size as the Kerr jar rings may be used if a larger container is desired.

This piece of apparatus will allow children to observe behavior of insects or other small animals in response to changes in temperature, or to light and darkness. Many other types of observation call be made by the children.


see description below

Figure 10. The constellarium is an extremely simple form of projector.


  • oatmeal box, small or medium sized, or ice cream carton, large size
  • black construction paper
  • ice pick, large needle, or stiletto

In the center of the bottom of an oatmeal box or ice cream carton, make a hole the size of a quarter. Cut a one-eighth inch slit half way around the circumference of the box about 1/2 inch down from the top end of the container. Cut round cardboard discs slightly smaller than the circumference of the box. Leave a tab on the disc to allow ease of handling. (See Figure 10.) Cover the discs with black construction paper.

By using an ice pick or needle make holes in a disc to represent the stars in a constellation. Make larger openings to represent brighter stars. Many discs with different constellations on them can be made and used in this carton constellarium.

To use the constellarium hold the container up to a light source and look through the hole in the bottom of the box. In a dark room a flashlight may be held at the opening in the bottom of the carton and the picture of the constellation will be projected on the wall.

This is an excellent way for children to become acquainted with some of the more common constellations. Thus it will help them to identify these constellations when they view the night sky.



  • clinker, soft coal, or soft brick
  • plain salt (not iodized)
  • household ammonia
  • liquid bluing
  • food coloring of different colors
  • water
  • hammer
  • dishes
  • medicine dropper
  • tablespoon

With a hammer, break the clinker, soft coal, or soft brick into pieces about the size of walnuts. Arrange in the dish near the center but be careful not to overcrowd the dish.

Mix the ingredients in the following order:

  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons liquid bluing
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon of household ammonia

Pour the mixture slowly over the broken pieces of clinker, soft coal. or soft brick. With the medicine dropper filled with one color of food coloring drop in spots over the clinker. Rinse the dropper with water and refill with a second color. Follow the same procedure as you did with the first color. Apply all the colors in the same manner.

Allow the material to stand for some time and then observe the growth of crystals that have been colored by the use of food coloring. Display the dish and its contents when it is ready.

Children can watch the salt crystals form, observe their shape, and get some ideas about evaporation and crystal formation. They will observe that some of the crystals have different colors while others are clear.

see description below

Figure 11. It is important that the weight of the tail be correct for the size of the kite.



  • light sticks, or dowel rods, or bamboo from fishing pole
  • strong paper, cellophane, or plastic material
  • kite string or fishing line
  • glue or paste

Measure and cut two sticks, one 36 inches (E-E) and the other 30 inches (B-C) long. as shown in Figure 11, left. On the longer stick. measure 9 inches from one end and mark to indicate this is the point where the sticks should cross. This is one-fourth of the length of the long stick. Cut notches at each end of each stick in order to fasten the string to the frame at that point. Glue sticks together and tie securely with string, in such a way that the sticks cross at the mid-point of the shorter stick.

Put string around the frame by sliding through the notches at each end. To make the kite more secure, tie the string around the notch and fasten tightly.

Lay the kite on a piece of paper large enough so the edges overlap the string. Paste the edges and fold over the string. Let paste dry.

Each kite needs a bridle. To make the bridle, tie a string from one end of the cross piece to the other end. This string should be about twice the distance from B to C. The second string is about 48 inches long and is tied from one end to the other end of the longer stick (E to E) . Attach the kite string or fishing line at the point where the two strings cross.

Tie pieces of bright cloth or crepe paper to a string one or two feet long and fasten the "tail" to the bottom point of the kite. In order to make kites individual, children may want to paint bright pictures on the paper.

A simple reel for the kite string can be made. Obtain two dowel rods or broom handle rods twelve inches long. Sandpaper the handles so they will turn easily. Get two four inch boards about twelve inches long. Bore holes in each board three inches from the ends. Put the dowel rods or broom handle through these openings and glue or nail in place.

The making and flying of kites will aid children in understanding air pressure and wind movement.

Figure 12. Steps in making in "snowflake"

Figure 12. Steps in making in "snowflake."



  • white paper
  • scissors

Cut a 9 inch square, or any other convenient size. As shown in Figure 12, I; fold diagonally, and crease the fold (II). Mark the center of the fold "x" and mark off three 60 degree angles at "x." Fold at x z to meet x y (III). Fold at x y to meet x z (IV). Crease each fold. Fold backwards at Ax to divide the triangle equally. Cut the top off along the dotted line (V) so that the cut mn is at right angles to Ax.

With scissors cut a design along the mx and nx sides of the last fold. Open the folds and you have a snowflake, which will have six sides, and the 6-rayed pattern found in natural snowflakes.

Figure 13. An Irish harp

Figure 13. An Irish harp



  • 3 strips of plywood or other strong wood, about 3/4 inch wide, and 17, 12, and 16 inches long
  • 2 blocks, 2 x 4 inches
  • thumb tacks
  • rubber bands
  • nails or glue

Nail or glue the strips of plywood in a triangle. The longest one should be perpendicular to the base. Mark off on the 12 inch and 16 inch strips, enough points for about 12 to 15 strings, so spaced that the strings will be parallel to the 17 inch strip. (See Figure 13). Fastening them with thumb tacks, stretch the elastic bands from the 12 inch to the 16 inch strip. Strings or wire may be substituted for the elastic bands. Make a support for the harp by nailing the two blocks on the apex of the two longer strips.

Children can experiment to note the change in pitch according to the length of the string. They can compare the stretched bands to the strings on a piano.

Figure 14. A simple telegraph

Figure 14. A simple telegraph



  • 3 inch x 5 inch piece of galvanized iron
  • 2, 16-penny nails
  • insulated copper bell wire
  • block of wood, 3 x 4 inches
  • board, 8 x 8 inches
  • wood screws or nails
  • hammer
  • screw driver

Nail the block of wood to the left hand side on the board as shown in Figure 14. Find the center of a five foot piece of copper insulated bell wire. Begin at this center and wind the insulated wire around one of the nails, starting at the head of the nail and winding toward the point. Do not overlap the winding. Leave an inch between the nail heads and begin to wind the wire around the second nail, winding in the opposite direction from that of the first nail. Leave about six inches of wire unwound at each nail.

From the front of the block measure four inches toward the right and draw a line parallel to the block. On this line measure one inch from the edge and place a dot, then measure another inch and place a dot. At these two dots drive into the board the two sixteen penny nails that have insulated wire wound around them.

From the galvanized iron, cut a "T" shaped piece. Both arms of the "T' should be one inch wide. Thus after making the "T' there will be two 1 x 4 inch pieces left over. Fasten the "T" shaped piece to the top of the block of wood that had been nailed to the board. Center the galvanized iron on the block so that the "T" will be directly over the nails, which act as electromagnets.

Make a key out of one piece of the galvanized iron piece left over from making the "T." It should be about four inches long and a half inch wide. By means of a wood screw or a nail fasten the key to the right hand side of the board. A screw or a nail must be directly under the free end of the key. To this attach the wire from one nail on the left side of the board. The wire on the other nail will be attached to the positive post of a dry cell. A wire from the negative post will go to the screw or nail that holds the key to the board.

Figure 15. A simple radio

Figure 15. A simple radio



  • block of wood, 8 x 8 inches
  • 5-inch cardboard tubing
  • 2 Fahnestock clips, 1 x 3/8 inch
  • Belden magnetic insulated wire No. 30
  • open type crystal detector
  • super-sensitive crystal
  • wood screws
  • screw driver

Punch two holes in each end of the five inch cardboard tubing. Place the end of the Belden magnetic copper wire No. 30 through the two holes in one end of the tubing. Leave a twelve inch length of wire extending from the tubing. Wind the wire around the tube, keeping it tight and winding the turns close together but not overlapping. There should be 120 turns of the wire around the tubing. When this is accomplished, run the end of the wire through the two remaining holes in the tubing. Leave a twelve inch length of wire from the end of the tube. Now you are ready to fasten the tube to the board. A small tack inside the tube at each end will hold it.

Place the open type crystal detector in the center of the board and fasten it down properly, using small wood
screws. Put the super sensitive crystal in the holder in such a manner that the "cat's whisker" can touch it.

At each side of the coil fasten a Fahnestock clip. Connect the wire from the left side of the coil to the screw that holds the Fahnestock clip in place. Using a piece of insulated bell wire, wire the bottom screw of the Fahnestock clip to the left side of the crystal detector. Fasten two Fahnestock clips to the board about an inch from the bottom edge of board and about two inches apart. From the crystal holder connect a piece of copper insulated bell wire to the left one of the Fahnestock clips placed at the bottom of the board. The wire at the right side of the coil is connected to the upper right Fahnestock clip, and from here, using a piece of copper insulated bell wire, make a connection to the lower right Fahnestock clip. In every case where a connection is made, be sure the insulation has been removed from the wire at the point of connection.

The ground wire is attached to the Fahnestock clip on the right side of the coil and the aerial wire is attached to the clip on the left side of the coil. The earphones are attached to the clips at the bottom of the board.
A modification of this simple crystal radio set is shown in the accompanying diagram. (Figure 15)

The Belden wire, open type crystal detector and super sensitive crystal can be purchased at Burstein-Applebee, Kansas City, Missouri, or from Science Education Center, 3107 East Central, Wichita 14, Kansas.

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