Six Cool Facts about the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

In less than two weeks, the kids and I will hit the road to venture into the path of totality of the August 21st total solar eclipse. We’re hoping for clear skies in St. Joseph, MO, so that we can stand under the moon-darkened sky and catch a glimpse of the Sun’s corona.

Pinhole Solar Viewer- Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

NASA’s website is one of my favorite science resources, and they have tons of great information on the upcoming total solar eclipse. Check it out to learn when and where you can watch the eclipse, and how much of the Sun will be covered up in your back yard.

To safely watch the eclipse without damaging your eyes, you’ll need National Science Foundation-approved solar viewing glasses. If you don’t have glasses, you can easily view it indirectly by making a pinhole viewer. Here’s a link to an article I wrote for Scholastic Parents on how to build a solar viewer using a shoe box and some aluminum foil.

The Exploratorium in San Francisco has a fantastic Total Solar Eclipse 2017 app that you can download for more resources and to watch the eclipse live.

Here are some of the coolest things I learned about total solar eclipses from NASA’s website:

1: During a total eclipse, it’s possible to see bright stars and planets, even in the middle of the day. (I knew it would get dark, but that’s amazing!)

2. The Sun is 400 times wider than the Moon, but it’s 400 times farther away, so they appear to be the same size if you’re looking at them from Earth. That’s why the Moon can completely cover the sun. Scientists describe this by saying that they have the same angular size.

3. If you’re in the path of the total eclipse and place a large sheet of white paper on the ground, you may see dancing “shadow bands” moments before and after the eclipse, which are created by tiny slivers of sunlight passing through the currents of Earth’s atmosphere.

4. The temperature in areas of the Moon’s shadow will briefly drop as the Sun’s light is blocked.

5. The only popular song that refers directly to an actual solar eclipse is Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain.” (1970 total solar eclipse in Nova Scotia) (Around 3:05 in the song.)

6. Just before a total solar eclipse, you can see flashes of light called “Bailey’s Beads”around the edges of the dark circle of the Moon. They’re caused by sunlight flashing through canyons on the Moon’s surface.

Will you be watching? The next total solar eclipse won’t traverse the continental United States until April, 2024.

 

 

 

 

Elemental Science: Gallium

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Gallium is a soft metal related to other metals in Group 13 of the periodic table, including aluminum. It doesn’t exist as a free element in nature, but can be purified from other metallic ores, like zinc. Each gallium atom has 31 protons in its nucleus, so its atomic number is 31.

You’ll find it around you in thermometers, semiconductors, and even some LED lights, and one property that makes it so cool is that it melts from solid to liquid at low temperatures (around 85.6 degrees F or 29.8 degrees C.) This makes it easy to play with the liquid metal simply by melting it in a glass of hot water, or in the palm of your hand.

You can see the crystal structure in the side of the gallium “Lego” we created in play dough! KitchenPantryScientist.com

*Not for small children! Wearing gloves and safety goggles is recommended when observing gallium. Although is is fairly safe, gallium will coat hands with a lead-like substance. (Wash with soap and water to remove.) Gallium can also damage other metals, so keep it away from jewelry, like rings. I always recommend doing your research, as well as checking out the MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) of a new substance before using it to know what precautions to take.

We ordered 99.99% pure gallium on Amazon. It arrived in plastic tubes,in crystal form, but by placing the tubes in hot tap water, it melted easily. Eye droppers work well for moving the melted metal around. I’d recommend using a rimmed paper plate to contain the mess.

Try imprinting a Lego or toy car in play dough and pouring the molten gallium into the imprint. When it solidifies, you’ll have a cast of the item you imprinted! (It takes a while.) Gallium coats glass to create mirrored surfaces, so you can pour some into a small jar and use it to coat the sides. If you leave some in a puddle on the bottom of an upside-down jar, you can watch crystals form.

In other words, it’s pretty awesome!

Kid-Friendly “Elephant Toothpaste”

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

I’ve been hearing about this science demonstration for years, and finally decided to try it! If you do it at home, kids should wear safety goggles or sunglasses to protect their eyes, and adults should pour the 3% hydrogen peroxide into the bottles.

You’ll need:
a tray or cookie sheet
3% hydrogen peroxide (available at most pharmacies and discount stores)
liquid dish soap
dry yeast (2 packets)
food coloring
empty 16 oz bottle

What to do:
1. Pour 1 cup hydrogen peroxide into an empty 16oz bottle. (A funnel helps!)
2. Add 2 Tbs. liquid dish soap to the bottle and mix well with the hydrogen peroxide.
3. Put 8 drops of food coloring into the bottle and swirl to mix.
4. Position the bottle on the tray.
5. Pour 2 packets of yeast into a paper cup and pinch the cup’s lip to make a pouring spout.
6. Quickly pour the yeast into the bottle, while swirling the liquid vigorously to mix well. The better you mix it, the better the experiment will work!
7. Set the bottle down on the tray before the foam emerges from the top.
8. Watch the chemical reaction between catalase in the yeast and the hydrogen peroxide create oxygen bubbles in the soap!
9. When the reactions has stopped, have an adult clean up the mess by pouring everything down the sink and rinsing the tray with water. (Normally kids should clean up, but for this one, I’d recommend an adult do it.)

The Science Behind the Fun:

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is a common household chemical that is often used to disinfect wounds and bleach hair. Certain chemicals can break it down into water (H2O) and Oxygen (O).

Dry yeast is a living fungus that produces a molecule called catalase. Catalase is very good at breaking down hydrogen peroxide quickly. When you add yeast to hydrogen peroxide that’s been mixed with liquid soap, the soap traps the oxygen and makes bubbles that push their way out of the bottle.

You may notice that the bottle feels warm. That’s because the chemical reaction produces heat and is called an exothermic reaction.

Science Light

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Here’s a fun optics experiment, based on one created in 1842 by Jean-Daniel Colladon, that you can do at home using a laser pointer and a bottle of water.

Parental supervision required. (Eye protection recommended for kids.) Never shine a laser pointer at or near eyes, as it can cause blindness.

Skullsinthestars.com has a well-written, detailed explanation of how light can be reflected in a transparent medium, like water.

 

Floating Ping Pong Balls

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

This experiment is so awesome that our balloon-popping dog Heidi had to get in on the action! Try it, and you’ll see how much fun it is to play with the forces of physics using a blow drier and a ping pong ball or balloon.

Newton’s third law tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the air pushes up on the ball, the ball pushes back down on the air. Other forces are at work too, as pressure differences in the air column help the ball stay in the middle of the air flow.

Weather Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

It’s fun to track the weather, and you can create some cool meteorology instruments using stuff you have around the house. Here’s a great post by NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) on how to make your own weather station.

It’s also fun and easy to do this cool convection current experiment, using warm and cold water to explore how air moves in Earth’s atmosphere.

Convection Experiment (kitchenpantryscientist.com)

To see how cold fronts move under warm fronts, you’ll need ice cube trays, water, blue and red food coloring and a clear container.

  1. Add water to an ice cube tray and add a few drops of blue food coloring to the water in each cube space. Freeze.
  2. Fill a clear container with room temperature water.
  3. Place one or two blue ice cube or two at one end of the container, and a few drops of red food coloring at the other end.
  4. Observe what happens.

The Science Behind the Fun:

Cold water(blue) is more dense than warm water and forces warmer water (red) to move up and over it.

This is similar to the way warm air is forced up when it collides with masses of cold air in the atmosphere. Warm air carries energy, and when there’s lots of moisture in the air, these collisions often result in thunderstorms.

 

Homemade Tie-Dye Fidget Spinner

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Homemade Spinner with Tie-Dye Edges (KitchenPantryScientist.com)

Make a super-cool spinning toy using skateboard bearings, super glue and a little physics. Customize your design with a marker tie-dyed shoelace.

Warning: Not for recommended for kids under 5. Use adult supervision for super glue, sharp points, rubbing alcohol and glue gun.

You’ll need:

-4 skateboard bearings (available online or at skateboard stores)
-superglue or Krazy Glue
-a white shoelace
-permanent markers, like Sharpies
-rubbing alcohol (isopropanol)
-a glue gun

KitchenPantryScientist.com

1. Use a sharp point to remove the cover from one of the bearings so that you can see the ball bearings inside. (See image above.)
2. Cut a piece of paper 6cm x 6cm and draw an X from corner to corner.
3. Center the bearing with the cover removed in the middle of the X. Then, center the other 3 bearings around the one in the middle so that they’re evenly spaced. You can use a ruler to check spacing. (See image below.)

KitchenPantryScientist.com

4. Add a single drop of super glue to the junction between each bearing to connect them. If you add too much, the spinner will stick to the paper. *Be careful not to get any glue onto the moving parts of the bearings.

KitchenPantryScientist.com

5. When the glue is dry, carefully turn the spinner over and place another drop of glue at each junction.

6. When the glue is dry, prop the spinner up on its side and add glue to the junctions on the sides. (See image below.) Repeat on each side.

KitchenPantryScientist.com

7. While the spinner glue is drying, make dots of permanent marker on the shoelace. In a well-ventilated area, suspend the shoelace over a tray or colander and drip rubbing alcohol onto it to make the colors run together. (See image.) Let it dry completely.

KitchenPantryScientist.com

8. Use the glue gun to attach the shoelace to the outside edges of the spinner. Fill in gaps between the lace and bearings with hot glue.

KitchenPantryScientist.com

9. Spin away!

The Science Behind the Fun:

If you look closely at a skateboard bearing there are only a few ball bearings connecting the center and the outside part that spins. This means that there’s very little friction, or rubbing, between the parts. If you spin the toy around the center bearing, that bearing is called the axis of rotation.

The three bearings on the outside of the spinner provide the rotating mass that gives the toy a property called angular momentum, which keeps it spinning until the frictional force from the ball bearings in the center slows it down.

Pigments are molecules that give things color. The pigments in permanent markers are trapped in ink compounds that are insoluable in water, which means that they won’t dissolve in water. However, if you add a solvent, like rubbing alcohol, or isopropanol, to permanent markers, it dissolves the ink. As the alcohol moves through the cloth you are decorating, it carries the pigments along with it.

Bristlebots

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

With a brush, some batteries, a small motor and a few wires, it’s easy to create a robot that spins, bumps and buzzes around on any smooth surface.

You’ll need:

-a small brush, like a vegetable brush or a cleaning brush

-two AA batteries

battery holder for 2 AA batteries (optional)

-insulated wire

-a small toy motor and pencil eraser or small rubber stopper (or vibrating motor)

battery clip (optional)

-zip ties (optional)

-electrical tape or duct tape

Bristlebot-KitchenPantryScientist.com

Make your bristlebot!

  1. Attach the motor to one end of the top of the brush. If it’s not a vibrating motor, stick a eraser or rubber stopper onto the spinning post to make it vibrate. Use a zip tie or duct tape to secure it. Make sure the spinning parts can rotate freely.

    Attach motor- KitchenPantryScientist.com

  2. Attach the battery holder to the top of the brush near the motor.

    Attach batteries- KitchenPantryScientist.com

  3. Insert batteries in motor.
  4. Twist wires around the motor terminals and secure with tape. (These may be the wires on the battery clip, if you have one.)

    Connect battery clip- KitchenPantryScientist.com

  5. To start the motor, attach wires directly to the battery terminals, or to the battery clip and snap it onto the batteries.

    Bristlebot- KitchenPantryScientist.com

  6. Place your robot on a smooth surface to see what happens.

Enrichment: Try different brush shapes, sizes and angles to see how they move. Does your robot spin in the same direction as the motor, or the opposite direction?

The Science Behind the Fun: In this experiment, you complete a battery-powered electrical circuit to spin a vibrating motor. The vibrations traveling through the bristles of the brush move your robot around on the floor.

 

 

 

 

Homemade Sweep Nets (from Outdoor Science Lab for Kids)

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

This fun project from my book Outdoor Science Lab for Kids shows you how to collect and identify amazing arthropods using a net you make yourself. For more engaging outdoor experiments, you can order the book here, or anywhere else books are sold.

Image from Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books 2016)

Materials

– sweep net or: two wire hangers,  an old, light-colored pillowcase, scissors, pliers, long wooden broomstick or sturdy yardstick, and duct tape

– area with long grass

– jars

-large white piece of fabric, like an old sheet

–  insect identification books (optional)

Safety Tips and Hints

  • Don’t pick insects up with your bare hands, unless you know they don’t bite or sting.
  • Ticks love tall grass. If there are ticks in your area, take precautions and do a tick check after your insects hunt.

 

Protocol

Step 1:  If you don’t have a sweep net, make one by straightening and twisting two wire hangers together. Form them into a loop, leaving about 3 inches (8cm) straight on either end. Cut about one third off of the open end of a pillow case and pull the mouth of the pillowcase over the wire loop. Tape it securely around the perimenter.

Image from Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books 2016)

Step 2.   Find an area with long grass and plants. Sweep with your net the same way you’d sweep a floor, but flip the open side of the net back and forth to capture insects in the grass.

From Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books 2016)

 

Step 3.    Close your net by flipping the bottom over the top and take it over to your large piece of fabric.

Step 4.    Carefully dump the creatures you’ve collected onto the white fabric to inspect them. If you want a closer look, put an insect inside a jar with a loose lid.

Image from Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books 2016)

Step 5.    Count how many legs they have, how many body segments, look for antennae, wings and unique color.  Record your observations in a notebook.

Step 6.    Use insect identification books, or other means to identify what you’ve found.

Step 7.   Keep a journal of the insects and arachnids you capture, the time of day, and where you found them.

The Science Behind the Fun:

Arthropods are amazing animals with skeletons outside their body, called exoskeletons,   segmented bodies, and jointed legs.

When you sweep, chances are you’ll find lots of insects, which are arthropods with six legs. They often have wings, and their life cycle goes from egg to larva, to adult. Some insects, like butterflies, also go through a pupal stage, in which their bodies are significantly transformed. The antennae on their heads are sensory organs.

Earth Day Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Saturday April 22nd is Earth Day, so get outside and show our home planet some love! Whether you’re picking up trash or visiting a park, it’s always fun to throw some science into the mix.

Here are some of our favorite environmental science experiments. Just click on the experiment names for directions and photos. You can find more fun outdoor experiments in my books “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids” and Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books.)

from "Outdoor Science Lab for Kids" (Quarry Books)

from “Outdoor Science Lab for Kids” (Quarry Books)

Homemade Sweep Nets: Make a sweep net from a pillowcase and a hanger to see what arthropods are hanging out in your favorite outdoor spaces.

Window Sprouts: Plant a bean in a plastic baggie with a damp paper towel to see how plants need only water and air to sprout roots and leaves.  Here’s a short video demonstrating how to make a window garden.

Homemade Solar Oven: Using a pizza box, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and newspaper, you can harness the sun’s energy to cook your own S’mores!

Nature Walk Bracelets: Wrap some duct tape around your wrist (inside out) and take a walk, sticking interesting natural objects like leaves and flowers to your bracelet. It’s a great way to get outdoors and engage with nature!

Carbon Dioxide and Ocean Acidity: See for yourself how the carbon dioxide in your own breath can make a water-based solution more acidic. It’s the same reason too much carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere can be bad for our oceans.

9781631591150

Plant Transpiration:  See how trees “sweat” in this survival science experiment.

Earthworm Experiment:  Do you know what kind of earthworms are living in your back yard?

Composting: Be a composting detective. Bury some things in your back yard (away from power cables) and dig them up in a few months to see how they look. Composting reduces methane gas emissions (a greenhouse gas) from dumps.

Diffusion and Osmosis: See for yourself how the chemicals we add to water, put on our streets to melt ice, and spray on our lawns and crops can move into our soil, ground water, rivers, lakes and oceans.

Solar Water Purification: This project illustrates the greenhouse effect and is a fun “survival science” experiment. Requires hot sun and some patience!

Citizen Science: Don’t forget about all the real environmental research projects you can participate in through Citizen Science programs all around the world!

For mores activities and games, check out NASA’s Climate Kids website, to see a kid-friendly diagram of the water cycle, click here or just get outside and enjoy the beautiful planet that sustains and nurtures us.