Summer Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

This week, abulleyeview.com featured three of my favorite summer science experiments and I showed Twin Cities Live viewers how to make nature walk bracelets and green slime! (Oh yeah, we also broke a few eggs.)

Learn physics by throwing eggs!

Learn physics by throwing eggs!

What summer science experiments have you tried?

Don’t forget to download KidScience app for more great ideas! We just added a new experiment and have another one on the way!

Moss under a Microscope

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

We collected some moss and lichens this weekend at the cabin, so we can look for amazing creatures called tardigrades hiding in the clumps. You may have heard about these extremophiles on Cosmos (they can survive heat, cold, drought, radiation and even space. Click here for some nice close-ups of what we’re looking for. I’ll let you know what we find!
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Farm Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist
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We learned about some of the crops grown in Kansas. This is winter wheat.

Farmers have always depended on science and technology to raise food and animals, and on a recent visit to my friend’s farm, we learned about how farmers use this knowledge every day.

Debbie Lyons-Blythe and her family operate a farm near Manhattan, Kansas, in the midst of the beautiful Flint Hills, and she muses about ranching and life on her blog Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch.

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Debbie gave us an amazing tour!

Not long after piling into Debbie’s pickup truck with my three kids and mom, we were lucky enough to roll down our windows and witness the birth of a calf from about 5o meters away.

It was fascinating, and we learned about how a calf’s mother always eats the placenta, licks the calf thoroughly to warm it up, and tries to get it on its feet as soon as possible, in case predators are lurking nearby. My kid were simultaneously amazed and queasy.

We watched as another calf was weighed and tagged and then left to see the rest of the farm. By the time we returned, the calf was standing on wobbly legs next to it’s mom.

A large percentage of Debbie’s farm is pasture, where the cattle spend the majority of their time.  Like much of the country, Kansas was desperate for rain during our visit, and while driving around the farm, we saw an area that had accidentally caught fire earlier that week.

Here's the solar panel, for the pump on a well. You can see the old windmill.

Here’s the solar panel, for the pump on a well. You can see the old windmill.

Luckily, there was a well nearby, powered by a solar pump, and they were able to control the blaze. Much of the prairie grassland is burned on purpose every year to prevent brush from growing up and allowing the growth of new prairie grasses. In fact, the great prairies of America’s Midwest wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the burning that humans have instigated for centuries to keep grazing animals nearby! Here’s a nice article about it from NPR. 

As we drove past several Angus bulls, Debbie told us that modern science, like DNA analysis of skin tags from hairs plucked from bulls, allows ranchers to learn a huge amount about the about the animals they are raising. They can even predict what kind of fats will marble the steaks harvested from the offspring of the cattle on their ranch.

We visited a nearby feedlot, where cattle are fattened on grain before they go to market as meat and learned that tiny wasps are often used to help control the flies that bother the cattle. Ranchers on horseback patrolled the lots, keeping an eye out for unwell animals. If a cow is sick, they remove it to a different pen, treat it, and give it a new ear tag if it’s been treated with antibiotics. This is how they keep track of animals for food labeling, which we had an interesting conversation about.

patrolling the feedlot to make sure the cattle are healthy

patrolling the feedlot to make sure the cattle are healthy

Personally, I like to know where the meat I buy comes from (called country of origin labeling), what the cattle have eaten and whether they’ve been fed antibiotics. However, Debbie told us that other countries have threatened to stop importing American beef if we label country of origin. She also suggested that many people don’t really care where their beef was raised, or can’t afford to buy antibiotic-free, local beef, which is absolutely true. We also learned that country of origin labeling comes from the ranchers’ pockets, so it’s an added expense for them. Clearly, it’s an important issue, that many people feel passionately about on both sides.

Although I’m opposed to feeding meat animals antibiotics to speed growth, measures must be taken to protect older cattle from anaplasmosis, a deadly tick-born disease endemic to parts of the Midwest. To keep “cattle that are breeding stock–they are older and are not to be consumed as beef,” safe, they are fed a very low level of antibiotics in their salt and mineral supplement throughout the summer during fly and tick season. The cattle are on pasture and eat the supplement by choice, according to Debbie.  Hopefully, a vaccine for anaplasmosis will be developed soon, and antibiotic treatment will no longer be necessary.

We really enjoyed our visit to Debbie’s ranch, and look forward to seeing how farming and science move into the future together to feed a growing population. For an interesting article on feeding the world, read this great National Geographic article, A Five Step Plan to Feed the World, by Jonathan Foley.

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The new baby and her mama are right behind us!

 

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

I’m thrilled to announce that my first book, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, comes out Aug.1  from Quarry Books. The flexiebound book is full of easy recipes for awesome experiments, simple explanations of the science behind the fun, and tons of color photos of kids demonstrating what to do. I hope you love it!  You can pre-order it by clicking on one one of these links: AmazonBarnes&NobleIndieBound, or Indigo!

Final cover

At-home science provides an environment for freedom, creativity and invention that’s not always possible in a school setting. In your own kitchen, it’s simple, inexpensive, and fun to whip up a number of amazing science experiments using everyday ingredients. Science can be as easy as baking. Hands-On Family: Kitchen Science Lab for Kids offers 52 fun science activities for families to do together. The experiments can be used as individual projects, for parties, or as educational activities groups. Kitchen Science Lab for Kids will tempt families to cook up some physics, chemistry and biology in their own kitchens and back yards. Many of the experiments are safe enough for toddlers and exciting enough for older kids, so families can discover the joy of science together.

Rainy Day Science for Kids

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

While you wait for the sun to come out, put away the screens and pull out some simple science! Just click on the blue experiment name for instructions and more about the science behind the fun, or click here to watch me demonstrate them on Twin Cities Live.

Fizzy Balloons are a fun way to explore chemical reactions!
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Have an engineering competition by making breath-propelled Straw Rockets and seeing whose will travel the farthest.
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Make your own Orchestraws from plastic drinking straws. (Get out the earplugs.)
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Or watch science turn psychedelic when you add food coloring and dish soap to dairy and make Tie Dye Milk.

Earth Day Science, #SpaceMicrobes and a Laser Pointer Experiment

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22nd. How will you celebrate the amazing planet that sustains us?  Here’s a link to ten fun Earth Day science experiments. Or, step outside, take a picture of yourself and post it on social media with the hashtag #GlobalSelfie for a new mosaic image of Earth being created by NASA: a new “Blue Marble” built bit by bit with your photos.
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If you live in Minnesota, join me at the Science Museum of Minnesota Tuesday morning from 10-12 to celebrate Earth Day and NASA Climate Day with some games and a hands-on experiment for kids!

#SpaceMicrobes, including our own Minnesota microbe swabbed from the Kare11 television studio, have arrived safely on the International Space Station. Over the next few days, 48 microbes swabbed from sports stadiums and other cool locations will be thawed out and start to grow! Astronauts will measure their growth using a machine called a microplate reader, over a period of three days. The experiment will be repeated three times, and scientists will average the data and compare it to the data they’ve collected doing an identical experiment with the same microbes here on Earth! I talked about it on Kare11 the other day.
Finally, here’s a fun experiment we did with a water bottle and a laser pointer this weekend. Try it!

skullsinthestars.com has a detailed explanation of this amazing phenomenon!

Growing Alum Crystals in Eggshells

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

It only takes a spark to start a fire, and it only takes one atom to act as a seed for crystal formation. Under the right conditions, the atoms in alum will join together like puzzle pieces to form large crystals. I posted a few years ago about how to grow a large alum crystal, but this experiment is even more fun. It’s also easier for young kids, since it takes less small-motor coordination.

Alum is also called  potassium aluminum sulfate. It’s used in pickling and in found in baking powder. You can grow beautiful alum crystals at home with a few jars of alum, water and any object you don’t mind covering with glue. We made fake geodes by breaking eggs in half and washing them out, but we also encrusted a grape stem and a plastic shark.

To do this experiment, you’ll need glue, 3/4 cup alum from the spice section of the grocery store (4 or 5 small jars should do it,) water and whatever you want to coat with crystals. It takes three days to complete.

On day one, paint glue on the objects you want to grow crystals on. If you’re making “geodes”, apply a thin layer of glue to the inside of an eggshell that’s been cut in half, washed out and dried.  Then, sprinkle a little alum powder on the glue and let it dry overnight.  We heavily coated our object with alum, but might have grown larger crystals if we’d used less. Each alum particle acts as a seed for crystal growth. The closer together they are, the less room your crystals will have to grow.

On day two, dissolve 3/4 cup alum in 2 cups of water by boiling. This step requires adult supervision. Make sure all the alum dissolves (it may still look a little cloudy) and let the solution cool. This is your supersaturated alum solution.

After about 30 minutes, when the solution is cool enough to be safely handled, gently immerse your object in the alum solution.  For color, you can add a large squirt of food coloring. Let your project sit overnight to grow crystals.

On day three, gently remove your object from the alum solution and let it dry.  How does it look? Draw it or take a picture to put in your science notebook!

Crystals are geometric networks of atoms. Imagine a three dimensional chain-link fence, and you’ll get the picture. Certain crystals will only grow in certain shapes.  For example, diamonds are always cube-shaped when they form. Whether the atoms have joined to form a small diamond, or a large one, it will always be in the shape of a cube!

Some crystals, like alum, will form from supersaturated solutions, like the one you used in this experiment. A supersaturated solution is one that is forced to hold more atoms in water (or another solute) than it normally would.  You can make these solutions using heat or pressure.  Crystals can form when a supersaturated solutions encounters a “seed” atom or molecule, causing the other atoms to come out of the solution and attach to the seed.

What else could you try? Could you do the same experiment with salt, or sugar crystals? How do you think the color gets incorporated into the crystal? Do you think the food coloring disrupts the shape? Will larger crystals grow if you let your object sit in the solution longer?

You can read more about crystals and gems here.

SpaceX Dragon and Lunar Eclipse

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

It’s a big day for science lovers!

Not only will there be a total lunar eclipse in the wee hours of Tuesday morning (around 2:00-3:30 a.m. Central Time), but this afternoon at 4:58 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (3:58 CDT) a SpaceX/Dragon Cargo Craft will launch from Cape Canaveral, FL to the International Space Station!

A lunar eclipse will be visible early Tuesday morning from much of the United States. Image from CNN.com.

The SpaceX rocket will carry SpaceMicrobes from project MERCCURi and space veggies, among other science projects. You can watch launch coverage from 2:45PM – 5PM CST  on NASA TV.

A bacterium we swabbed on the set of Kare11 Sunrise is headed to the space station!

I’d love to write more, but am busy proofreading lasers of my Kitchen Science Lab for Kids book, that comes out Aug.1 and getting ready to go on Kare11 Sunrise tomorrow morning to show viewers how to grow crystals in eggshells!