Frankenworms, Magic Bags and Fall Leaf Chromatography

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

This morning, on Kare11 Sunrise, I showed off my new book, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, and demonstrated three experiments from the book.  Just click on the experiment name for directions, photos and more about the science! 

Frankenworms- Bring gummy worms to “life” using a chemical reaction.

Magic Bags- Explore the elastic properties of polymers.

Leaf Chromatography- Separate plant pigments on coffee filters.
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This is especially fun in the fall, when you can compare green leaves to red and yellow ones! Here’s a nice article on the chemistry of the colors of fall leaves (from the Compound Interest website) that my friend Joanne Manaster highlighted on her Joanne Loves Science Facebook page.

Flipped Water Glass Experiment from Beakman

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

My book, “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids,”is finally out, and over Labor Day weekend, I traveled to Dragon Con in Atlanta to talk about it and do science with the kids at the convention. At the convention, I got to meet lots of fantastic scientists, science writers, science entertainers and science enthusiasts. One of them was the amazing Paul Zaloom, of “Beakman’s World.” I checked out his “Beakman Live” show and learned some awesome new experiments.

I tried one of them out this morning. Check it out, and then try it out! All you need is a playing card, a glass and some water. The science explanation is in the video.


Be sure to catch some episodes of Beakman’s World online!

Technology and Nature: What’s That Bird?

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Last week, the kids and I saw a bright red bird with a blue head. Baffled, I pulled out my favorite bird identification app: Merlin Bird IDfrom the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The app is free, available on the App Store and Google play, and much of the data in the app has been collected by citizen scientists, like you and me! 

merlin bird id image

To use the app, you simply answer 5 simple questions about the bird you see and the app draws on a wealth of data to help you identify the bird. It comes up with a list of likely matches, and you choose the bird you’re looking at to learn more about it, and even listen to a recording of its song.

Normally, we can quickly identify the bird we’re stalking using the app, but the blue-headed red bird was tricky, so we went online to do more research. Merlin Bird ID suggested that it might be a cardinal, so we did a search for blue headed cardinals and discovered that we’d seen a bald-headed cardinal. It seems that some cardinals and blue jays molt all their head feathers at once, leaving their bluish skin exposed.

Cool.

My New Book

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

It’s been a busy summer, but we’re working on some sweet new experiments to share with you soon!

Last week, the kids and I got an advance copy of my new book “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids,” which will be available September 15th and we love how it turned out!

If you pre-order a copy from AmazonBarnes&NobleIndieBound, or Indigo before August 15th, I’ll send you a personalized, signed bookplate for each copy you order. Just email your receipt number and the address where you’d like the bookplate(s) sent. My email address is kitchenpantryscientist@earthlink.net.  (Be sure to include the name(s) you’d like the book signed for!)
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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.

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!

 

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.