The school year may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean learning has to. Science experiments are a good way to keep children learning while doing something fun! Here are five amazing projects for inquisitive minds.
Fun Summer Science!
By now we’ve all seen videos of people dropping Mentos mints into bottles of soda, resulting in a fizzy fountain. Soda’s fizz comes from dissolved carbon dioxide gas, so why does dropping in a mint create such a dramatic effect? According to an article on NewScientist, its due to a combination of factors. The mints may feel smooth, but their surfaces are pitted and these provide excellent places for the CO2 gas to form bubbles. They drop quickly to the bottom, creating more bubbles as they go, and the pressure forces the soda out through the mouth of the bottle.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- An old soda bottle cap
- 6-8 Mentos
- Sealed 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke
- Dental floss or string
- Nail & Hammer
Make sure to do this experiment outside, as it will get sticky. Using the hammer and nail, carefully make a hole in the center of the old bottle cap and the Mentos mints. Knot one end of the dental floss and string the Mentos on it. Put the open end through the bottle cap and tape the floss down. Replace the cap on the soda with the one containing the Mentos. Quickly remove the tape and step back from the bottle. Try the same experiment with a different kind of soda, or by shaking the bottle before putting in the Mentos, and observe the results.
If you’ve ever boiled an egg, you know that they sink to rest on the bottom of the pot. This occurs because eggs are more dense than fresh water. Density, according to Explorable.com, is the amount of matter contained in a given space. The more matter in an area, the more dense it is considered to be. So, if eggs are too dense to float in fresh water, what happens when you change the density of water?
What you need:
- 2 Raw eggs
- 2 Containers
- Table salt
- Tap water
- Tablespoon measure
For this experiment, you’ll need to fill the two containers with tap water. In one glass, star in about 6 tablespoons of salt and stir until it is completely dissolved. Carefully put an egg into the glass of normal tap water. The egg will sink to the bottom of the glass. Now carefully put an egg into the glass of salt water. This time, because the salt increases the density of the water, the egg should float. As an additional experiment, make another container of salt water and float the egg on it. Now carefully add fresh tap water on top of it and watch what happens!
Color Changing Milk
We use soap to clean our dishes, our hands, and even our bodies. But have you ever wondered why soap works? Soap is a bipolar molecule, with one polar end and one nonpolar end. For more about this, visit Steve Spangler Science. When you use soap to clean, the nonpolar end binds to water and the polar end to fats and oils. So what happens, then, if you dip a soapy swab into a liquid that contains both water and fat?
What you’ll need:
- Whole milk
- Food coloring
- Dish Soap
- Cotton Swab
- A plate or bowl
Pour milk into the plate or bowl until it covers the bottom. Once it settles, carefully add a few drops of food-safe coloring. Dip the cotton swab into the dish soap. Gently dip the soapy end of the cotton swab into the milk and make your own explosion of color! The longer you keep the swab in the milk, the more the colors will move and mix. To have a bit more fun, repeat the experiment with different liquids or types of dish soap. Does the fat percentage of the milk change the outcome? What about if you use water or juice?
Inflating a Balloon
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is commonly used in baking as a leavening agent. Vinegar, which contains acetic acid, is a household staple, used for everything from cleaning to cooking. One simple experiment you can do with your children involves combining them in what is known as an acid-base reaction, releasing carbon dioxide gas. Mixing them creates plenty of fizz, but if you include a bottle and a balloon, you can watch science at work!
Here’s what you need:
- Empty plastic bottle, the smaller the better
- 1/2 – 3/4 C. vinegar
- 1 balloon
- Baking soda
- Funnel or piece of paper
Pour the vinegar into the bottle and set it aside. Stretch out the balloon by pulling on it, then carefully insert the funnel and fill it about half way with the baking soda. If you don’t have a funnel, you can use a rolled up sheet of paper and some tape. Carefully put the balloon over the neck of the bottle, making sure you don’t let any baking soda fall in. When you’re ready, left the balloon and tip the baking soda into the vinegar. Watch as the balloon inflates!
Many of us remember having to put water into ice trays to freeze overnight. It is such a slow process that we rarely get to see water freeze before our eyes. In this experiment, you and your child will supercool water so that you can make it freeze on command. The freezing point of water is 0° Celsius, or 32° Fahrenheit, so for this experiment to work, the water needs to be cooled below its freezing point. Make sure you use purified water because tap water has impurities in it that will prevent it from being supercooled. Fiji is a good, if more expensive, brand to use but any purified bottled water will work. You can also use seltzer water.
Here’s what you need:
- Bottle(s) of purified water
- Rock salt
To start, put the ice and bottled water into the container. Make sure the ice completely covers the bottles to ensure more even cooling. Next, add the rock salt to the bucket. You can use regular granulated or kosher salt, but you’ll have to use more because the salt will dissolve more quickly. The salt is important because it lowers the freezing point of water. The temperature you’re looking for is about -8° C, or 17° F. Once you’ve reached the ideal temperature, carefully remove the bottles from the ice bath. There are two ways to get the ice to form: either knock the bottle against the counter or unscrew the cap. If the water has cooled sufficiently, you could see ice start to work its way from the cap down to the bottom of the bottle.
If you make learning fun, children are more likely to want to participate. In between running around and sleeping, reach out for some summer science fun!
What other sorts of fun summer science experiments and projects have you found to do with your children? Share your experiences and experiments on our Community Facebook page!