Symmetry Safari: Discovering nature’s hidden patterns

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If you take the time to look, you’ll find a surprising amount of symmetry when you step outside.

Symmetry in nature is all around us! This experiment takes kids on an excursion to find symmetry in objects out in nature. From the wings of a butterfly to patterns in flower petals (and lots more!), you can find patterns in lots of natural objects.

So put on your safari hats and let’s head outside!

How to make the Symmetry Safari experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you’ll need:

Here’s a fun book about symmetry for kidsOpens in a new tab. to accompany this experiment!

Before you start

You can print out the free worksheet in the supplies section or simply use a piece of paper, draw an example of each type of symmetry, and leave space for your child to add examples of each.

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your child:

Step 1: Discuss bilateral and radial symmetry

Bilateral symmetry: Imagine splitting something in half lengthwise, like a butterfly. If the two halves are mirror images of each other, that’s bilateral symmetry. You can only divide a bilaterally symmetrical object into one plane and have matching halves.

Radial symmetry: Think of a starfish. You can cut a starfish down the center in multiple directions and get roughly similar halves. This is radial symmetry. Radially symmetrical objects can be divided into multiple planes that pass through a central point, creating mirror-image sections.

Step 2: Head outside and hunt!

Use the FREE printable I have linked up in the supplies section and head outside!

Below are some examples of each type of symmetry I have listed to help.

Bilateral symmetry:

  • Butterflies
  • Flies
  • Ladybugs
  • Birds
  • People!

Radial symmetry:

  • Starfish
  • Flowers
  • Spider webs
  • Car rims
  • Orange slices

The STEM behind the Symmetry Safari experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Symmetry
  • Observation skills
  • Spatial reasoning

How it works

Symmetry is all around us in nature, we just have to look closely!

This experiment has kids looking out in nature to find symmetrical objects. We are looking for the two most common symmetrical patterns: bilateral and radial.

Finding symmetry in everyday objects boosts children’s observation skills and spatial reasoning while enhancing their ability to find symmetry in objects (a crucial fundamental for geometry!).

Symmetry

Exploring various examples allows children to discover different types of symmetry, like bilateral, rotational, and radial, expanding their understanding beyond just mirroring.

It has applications in every STEM field, too!

Symmetry is a fundamental concept in geometry, serving as the building block for understanding shapes, angles, lines, and transformations. Identifying and classifying symmetrical shapes is very important for the subject of geometry.

In science, kids can learn about the presence of symmetry in molecules, crystals, plant structures, and even animal bodies.

Understanding symmetry can be beneficial in areas like computer graphics, engineering, and design, where creating balanced and visually appealing elements often plays a role.

Observation skills

The act of searching for symmetry encourages children to pay close attention to details, compare objects, and identify similarities and differences between those objects, which is great for boosting their observation skills.

Spatial reasoning

Recognizing symmetry requires spatial reasoning skills, which are essential for activities like navigating their environment, understanding maps, and playing certain sports.

They learn to predict outcomes of transformations, recognize patterns, and apply logical thinking by strengthening this skill.

More experiments about patterns to try out with your child

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