Homeschool, Science/Math, Toys

Mind Blowing Chemistry Experiments

My sister bought Cooper and Finley the My First Mind Blowing Science Kit for Christmas. The kit has been calling to the boys for a week now: “Mix magic fizzing powders! Create a crystal sunset in a test tube. Make an underwater volcano!” We opened it Saturday and tried our first two chemistry experiments.

Unlike the primary science set we own (which I highly recommend), this one includes chemicals you may not have at home. The first experiment we did was called “Dancing Powders.” Essentially, Cooper combined baking soda (a base) and citric acid powder in water. The acid and base neutralized each other and produced fizzy carbon dioxide gas bubbles as a by-product. As you may recall from school, carbon dioxide is the gas we exhale. Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale the oxygen we inhale.

If you don’t have citric acid on hand (and who does), you can still replicate this experiment at home. This same fizzing process is created when you mix baking soda with any other acid, like vinegar. In fact, baking soda and vinegar are the chemicals commonly used to create exploding volcanoes in elementary school. Just make sure to put a cookie sheet or tray under the container you are using to mix the two, as your concoction might fizz over. And never combine acids and bases in a closed container or they might actually explode.

As a side note: The Queen of Clean recommends pouring vinegar and baking soda down drains to clean them. When you are done experimenting, pour your chemicals down the drain. Two birds, one stone.

You can also replicate this experiment with Alka-Seltzer.  Remember “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is?” That “fizz, fizz” is carbon dioxide escaping as part of the chemical reaction. The Web site Fun Science Project Ideas discusses how you can control factors that might affect how quickly the Alka-Seltzer dissolves in water and stops fizzing. These factors include how much acid you use, how hot or cold the water is and how big or small the Alka-Seltzer tablet is.

Tomorrow, I’ll recount our “color changing liquids” experiment from the same kit and how you can reproduce it at home.

Field Trip Ideas, Science/Math

Celebrating Science Centers

How does wind work?

We have a running joke in our town: while we live in the middle of nowhere, we can be anywhere in an hour and a half — the beach, the mountains and a major city. That certainly holds true for museums and cultural institutions, including one of our favorites: the California Science Center. Since the science center is far from next door, we only make it there every few months, but each trip is a special treat.

Science centers make science fun through hands-on activities and exhibits. This is the type of science I remember from elementary school. While we’ve done our fair share of science experiments at home, there’s nothing like science kids can touch done on a large-scale (and backed by big bucks). Want to learn which materials are good insulators? Check out the giant ice wall in the polar ecosystem exhibit, where you can cover your hands in different materials and judge for yourself. Do you want to learn about solar power? Use a joystick to control a light that mimics the sun; when you shine it on a small car’s solar panels, the car races around the track!

I’m always heartened by the number of school groups and families we see at the science center. Here are kids learning that being a scientist can be fun. To find a science center near you, click……here.