It is still conker season and with the wind and rain this September there are lots of shiny, brown gems still waiting to be collected at the foot of your local horse chestnut trees.
Read on for a simple class activity with conkers.
First of all you need to get everyone in the class to bring some conkers in to school, ideally 3-5 conkers each (you may want to bring a few back up conkers in as well). Then the fun science can begin.
- Talk to the class about plants and seeds and how trees are very clever and drop their ‘seeds’ which little animals like squirrels will go and bury ready for a winter snack. Then the tree hopes some forgetful squirrels don’t go back to get their seeds and those seeds start to grow in to new baby trees.
- Explain the conker is the seed of the horse chestnut tree. Ask the class to think of other seeds and types of trees e.g. acorns & oak trees, apples & apple trees etc
Experiment 1 – planting horse chestnut trees:
- Place conkers in water and only use the ones that sink (if they float they are dried out and won’t grow in to trees)
- Take a plant pot and half fill with soil
- Make a dent in the mud and place a conker in the soil
- Cover the conker with 2 cm of soil
- Place the plant pot in cool, shady area or in the playground and water regularly
- Watch the conkers sprout then children can take them home and plant their horse chestnut tree locally at the end of term
Experiment 2 – testing toughness of conkers in a conker fight
- With the left over conkers do an experiment to see which treatment leads to the toughest conkers for a conker fight
- The teacher needs to make a hole through each of the conkers
- Each child has 3 conkers and paints the top of each conker a different colour: Conker 1 – blue Conker 2 – red Conker 3 – yellow
- Soak all the blue conkers in oil
- Soak all the red conkers in vinegar
- Leave the yellow conkers as they are
- Cook all the conkers at 50 degrees in the oven over night (in the morning thread them with string)
- The next day head out to the playground and have a series of conker fights
- Mark down the winning conkers
In the class add up the number of blue / red / yellow conkers that won and measure which method of treating conkers is toughest.