The Cousteaus: Family with a Vision:

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

A few weeks ago, the kids and I were lucky enough to hear the Cousteau family speak at Beth El Synagogue as part of their Inspiring Minds Series. World-famous ocean researcher, conservationist and visionary Jacques Cousteau died in 1997, but his son Jean-Michel and his grandchildren are carrying on his legacy.

Jean-Michele was delightful, joking with his grown kids onstage even as he reminded us that there is only one water system on Earth and that we need to protect it. He worried out loud about what the future holds for our children, and told the story of walking down a beach to see a little boy return a piece of litter to an embarrassed adult with the words, “Excuse me sir, you dropped this!” His stories from the front lines of our struggling seas and polluted beaches reminded the audience that teaching conservation is most often a matter of “reaching the heart.” His PBS website Ocean Adventures” is filled with fantastic videos and activities for kids.

Celine Cousteau, who has a background in psychology, talked about living her life at split level, with “one eye above the water, but always happy to be pulled back to the ocean.” After first visiting the Brazilian Amazon when she was nine, she has returned every year and is currently working on a project called  “Tribes on the Edge,” to educate public on the struggles of the indigenous people there.
She says in one blog post, “Telling the stories of the indigenous people of the Vale do Javari is nothing short of complex- from the logistics and production, to the tribal politics, to the content. I could not have chosen a more challenging subject and location…but really, it chose me. They need to be heard and I can help make that happen. They want the world to know they exist and they matter. They don’t want to die from hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis, or be contaminated by the invasion of oil companies or illegal activities. They want to choose their fate. Wouldn’t you?”

Fabien Cousteau talked about Mission 31, which documented Fabien and his team’s 31 day research stint in Aquarius, the world’s only underwater marine laboratory, located nine miles off the coast of the Florida Keys, and 63 feet beneath the sea. The researchers lived and worked underwater, and when they weren’t diving, they lived and worked in a space about the size of a school bus!

It was wonderful to hear stories from this adventuring family on a mission to remind us of our responsibilities as stewards of this planet (and of each other.) As a sometimes overprotective parent, it was also great to hear Celine, a mom herself, remind us to let our kids explore and go on some adventures of their own. After all, some day they’ll be the ones out saving the world.

Click here for an experiment you can do with kids to learn more about ocean acidification!

I wrote this song for a hootenany I was singing at the week after hearing the Cousteaus speak. I couldn’t get the story about the little boy on the beach out of my mind. It’s pretty rough, but it was fun to put my thoughts to music.

Nature Walk Bracelets

 - by KitchenPantryScientist
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Nature Walk Bracelets from “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids” Quarry Books

I can’t get over how young my kids look in this post, which I first published a few years ago. This is a great science/art crossover project and one of these bracelets would make a fantastic Mother’s Day gift! Just bring an extra bag along and pick up some extra flowers, petals, leaves and seeds for mom’s bracelet. You can assemble it when you get home. Just leave one edge leaf-free so you can put it on her wrist!
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Spring has finally arrived, and a fantastic way to enjoy it is to take a nature walk.  While you walk, watch for signs of spring and assemble your discoveries on your wrist with a nature walk bracelet.  It’s always a good idea to bring a few bags along too- one for larger treasures (like pine cones) and one for trash.  You can study nature and clean up the environment at the same time!

All you need is duct tape.  Cut the tape so it fits comfortably around your wrist and tape it around like a bracelet, sticky side out.  Take a walk in a park or down your own street and look for small leaves, acorns, flowers and other natural artifacts to adorn your wristlets.  Be sure to watch for birds while you walk! There are a number of great apps you can use to identify what species of plants you find, including Leafsnap!

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We wore our bracelets all afternoon and several people mistook them for real jewelry.  My oldest daughter thought they looked even prettier as the leaves and flowers wilted and flattened out on the tape.

IMG_2694Enjoy!

Fossil Hunting

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Every fossil has a story to tell.

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Whether it’s the spectacular specimen of a dinosaur curled up on it’s eggs or a tiny Crinoid ring, mineralized remains offer us a snapshot of the past, telling us not only what creatures lived where, but about how they lived and the world they inhabited.

Growing up surrounded by the flat-topped, windswept Flint Hills of Kansas, it was hard to imagine that I was living in the bottom of an ancient seabed, but there was evidence of the Permian period all around.

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Now, when my kids and I return to my hometown, a fossil-hunting trip is always part of our routine, and we hunt for shells and coral where roads cut through crumbling limestone and and chert (flint.) Looking up at layer after layer of rock and shells, I can almost feel the weight of the water that once covered the land.

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An episode of RadioLab we heard on the drive North from Kansas to Minnesota explained that coral keeps time and that by comparing modern coral to ancient  coral fossils, scientists discovered that millions of years ago, years were about 40 days shorter than they are now. Can you guess why? Give the podcast a listen here. My mind was blown!

A visit to the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, KS gave us more insight into the amazing geology, ecology and anthropology of the Flint Hills and the Konza Prairie that blankets them. Most people don’t know that the great tallgrass prairies of the United States wouldn’t exist if not for humans, who have been burning them for thousands of years.

What do you know about where you live? What’s it like now? What do you think it was like long, long ago? Are there fossils nearby?

Here are some fossil-hunting resources I found online, in case you want to go exploring:

http://geology.about.com/od/fossilbasics/tp/parks-that-allow-fossil-collecting.htm

http://mentalfloss.com/article/50997/10-states-fossil-hunting-sites-public

http://www.fossilsites.com/

http://www.fossilguy.com/sites/

http://www.fossils-facts-and-finds.com/fossil_hunting_usa.html

 

New Experiment! Foaming Slime Monster in a Bottle

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

When I do science outreach with kids, I encourage them to get creative and try different ratios of ingredients in experiments like Mad Scientist’s Green Slime, to see how their results will vary. Will they get stretchy goo, or bouncy balls?

Foaming Slime Monster- KitchenPantryScientist.com

Foaming Slime Monster- KitchenPantryScientist.com

This morning, I decided to explore the kid in me and see what fun new experiment I could come up with, using the ingredients for polymer slime. After lots of giant failures, I came up with a fun way to combine two experiments: Mad Scientist’s Green Slime and Paper Bag Volcano. My kids gave it a big thumbs up and gave the experiment a fun name. Hope you like it too!

For this experiment, you’ll need: Borax laundry detergent (powder), baking soda, glue, vinegar and a full small 8oz plastic water bottle.

1. Remove the label from the bottle, take the lid off and pour out about 2oz of water.

2. Add 1 tsp. Borax and 5 tsp. baking soda to the water in the bottle (we used a paper funnel.) Put lid back on and shake well. Label bottle Borax/Baking soda.

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3. Mix together 2 Tbs. vinegar, 2 generous Tbs. glue and a few drops of food coloring. Mix well and transfer to a pouring container, like a paper cup with one side pinched into a spout.

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4. Shake the bottle of Borax/Baking soda solution up again and set it in a large bowl. Remove the lid from the bottle.

5. Pour the glue/vinegar solution into the water bottle very quickly, all at once.

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6. When your bottle has stopped “erupting,” squeeze the foamy slime out of the bottle into the bowl and mush it all together.

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7. Enjoy your foaming slime monster! What would happen if you added glitter? Does the amount of glue you added make a difference? What if you added more?

The science behind the fun: Polymers are long chains of molecules, like a long string of beads on a necklace. In fact, polymer means “many pieces!” Glue contains a chemical called polyvinyl acetate, a polymer that is runny when you mix it with water or vinegar. However, if you add Borax detergent, a crosslinker,  it makes all of the glue molecules stick (or link) together in a big glob.

When you mix together baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid), you’re doing a chemical reaction. One of the products of this reaction is carbon dioxide gas.

In this experiment, when we pour the glue/vinegar into the baking soda/Borax solution, we mix baking soda and vinegar at the same time as we link glue molecules together, trapping gas bubbles inside our gluey polymer slime. Your “slime monster” escapes as the slimy bubbles push their way out of the bottle under increasing pressure.

Feel free to share this experiments with your friends. If you’re sharing it on a website, please link back to this post though, since it’s an original experiment! 

Spring Science Eggsperiments

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Spring is egg season. You may prefer dyed eggs, hard-boiled eggs, deviled eggs, or even dinosaur eggs.

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No matter what kind of eggs you like best, you’ll love these eggsperiments that let you play with the amazing architecture of eggs, dissolve their shells and even dye them with the pigments found in your refrigerator. Just click on experiments for directions and the science behind the fun!

Dissolve eggshells with vinegar and play with osmosis when you make “Alien Monster Eggs.”

Dye eggs with spices, fruits and vegetables,

or dye them with red cabbage juice and use lemon juice and baking soda to paint them.

You can stand on a carton of eggs to test their strength.

For a fun physics experiment, throw eggs at a hanging sheet.

Make egg-eating monsters and watch atmospheric pressure push eggs up into a bottle.

Egg drops are a fun way to test your engineering prowess. 

Grow alum crystals in eggshells to create beautiful geode-like works of art. 

Finally, here’s a little more about the science of hard-boiled eggs.

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Rocketing into Spring

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Last week, on Twin Cities Live, we headed outside to launch some water rockets and see how high we could make Diet Coke Mentos geyser rise! You can click here to watch the segment or here for directions.)

This video shows Halloween Soda Geysers, but you can decorate them any way you want to!

We even chatted about Thursday night’s NASA rocket launch to study magnetic reconnection.

It was a fun way to celebrate the great weather. Try making your own geyser and water rocket!

 

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for Kids in Grades 5-8

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

I don’t typically write sponsored posts, but I love this contest so much that I’m more than happy to spread the word about it! Last year, I was lucky enough to hear the ten Young Scientist Challenge finalists present their innovations and was blown away by their creativity, their knowledge, and their passion for helping create a better world for everyone to live in.

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The Discovery 3M Young Scientist Challenge “targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to fade and encourages them to explore scientific concepts, apply those concepts to everyday life and creatively communicate their findings.”

My 8th grader fits this description. He loves science, but hasn’t had opportunity to do much hands-on experimentation at school, and he’s bored. Last year, he entered the Young Scientist Challenge and came up with a tornado protection blanket made using a non-Newtonian fluid. He didn’t make it to the finals, but the fire was kindled. He was blown away by the finalists’ presentations and how much his peers knew about science and technology. Now, he tells me that he thinks about the 3M Young Scientist Challenge almost every day and seems determined come up with an idea that will take him to the finals this year for a shot at the $25,000 grand prize!

Whether he makes it to the finals or not, I couldn’t be happier. He’s engaged, he’s excited, and he’s working to think creatively.

Anyone in grade 5-8 can enter! Share the science behind a possible solution to an everyday problem in a 1-2 minute video at www.YoungScientistChallenge.com.  Entries are due by April 21, 2015!

Hints for kids entering the contest: First of all, watch the finalists’ entry videos from last year! Then, think about a problem that needs solving, which is always a great exercise, whether you’re thinking locally or globally! If you’re stuck, read the news, make a list of problems and choose the ones you’re most interested in. Then, read more about the issues and brainstorm solutions. Remember, you’re not being graded and that there are no wrong answers.

Hints for parents: You’re only there to guide your kids, and remind them that some ideas (i.e. new ways to kill Ebola) may be too unsafe to investigate at home. You’ll be amazed at how smart they are!

The ten finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge will each be paired with a 3M scientist mentor. The mentors will help guide finalists to create an innovation that will be presented to a panel of judges at the final competition at the 3M Innovation Center in October.

Follow the competition on Twitter at @DE3MYSC  and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/YoungScientistChallenge 

On Twitter? Join in Thursday evening, March 5 at 9 PM Eastern for the March #STEMchat. TheMakerMom.com is partnering once again with the premiere science competition for middle school students, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. This year, the theme for our chat is applying science to everyday life. (This post is sponsored by #STEMchat.)

Science Sticks!!!

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

This morning my 9 YO came down the stairs and told me she does the soap science experiment every time she washes her hands.

“Which one?” I asked.


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“The one where the soap jumps!” she said, demonstrating for me by pouring a thin stream of liquid hand soap from one palm to the the other. “Sometimes it jumps clear out of the sink!”

Over a year ago, my daughter and some of her friends helped me do this “Kaye Effect” experiment  (shared with me by  Dr. Greg Gbur) for my book “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids,” but I had no idea that it stuck in her mind, or that she’d figure out a new way to do the experiment.

Lab 28 from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids

Lab 28 from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids

Maybe some day in the future, she’ll remember that shear-thinning fluids like soap can “jump” and it will help her solve a problem, or even create something new!

Here’s my original post on the Kaye Effect.

Sound Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

This week, I did some sound science experiments with the kids at my daughter’s school and it was literally a blast (of noise.) Here’s how it sounded (times 50.)

The kids had already done some cool experiments with their teacher, and told me that the sound we hear every day is energy that travels through air molecules as vibrations. We talked about the fact that you can’t hear sound in outer space, since there’s no air.

When I pulled out my trombone, the kids could see that the tube that carries the air from my lungs and the vibrations from my buzzing lips got longer when I extended the slide, making the sound lower. My daughter played her violin, and we heard how string instrument can make short sounds by plucking the strings and continuous sound when a bow makes them keep vibrating. We also saw that shortening the strings by pressing them down made the pitch higher as the string vibrated faster.

 

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The kids told me that we have a “drum” in our ears called an eardrum, or tympanic membrane that picks up sound vibrations in the air and transfers those vibrations to tiny bones in the middle ear, which then move them on to our inner ear, sending a message to our brain.

We made a model “eardrum” out of a cup, saran wrap and sugar sprinkles, and then made two musical instruments: a straw “clarinet” and a kazoo from a comb and tissue paper. Finally, we made the sugar crystals on our model eardrums jump around using sound vibrations from our kazoos.

straw "clarinets"

straw “clarinets”

Click on this  link to learn how to make straw “clarinets.”

To make comb kazoos, fold a piece of tissue paper in half the long way (see photo), place it over a comb with the teeth towards the fold, and place your lips on the tissue paper. Sing doo doo doo doo into the paper (don’t blow.) The vibrations from your voice will make the thin paper vibrate and buzz. It will tickle if you’re doing it right!

 

Creative Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

If I give you glue, water and Borax, can you come up with a recipe for perfect polymer slime based solely on what you know about the science?

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Last week, I did hands-on science with 150 third graders at Success Beyond the Classroom’s Creativity Festival at the University of Minnesota. As they came into the room, I asked them to draw a picture on chalkboard of anything related to science. They drew test tubes, trees, volcanoes, and even scientists!

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Then we dug into the science. After doing my favorite large group hands-on experiment with purple cabbage juice to warm them up, I announced that we’d be making polymer slime, but that they would have to invent the recipe for the perfect goo.

To begin with, I talked about the science. We learned that one ingredient in the slime is glue (polyvinyl acetate), which is a polymer, or long chain of molecules. Then, we talked about the fact that adding water to the glue makes it less viscous, or thick. As usual, I had them repeat the vocabulary after me. Finally, I explained that the sodium tetraborate in Borax laundry detergent is a cross-linking substance that makes glue molecules stick together, and that we’d mixed up some Borax and water for them to use as a crosslinker for the slime.

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Their challenge was to come up with one “recipe” to make a gooey, soft slime and a second recipe for a harder, rubber-like slime that could be rolled into bouncy balls. They each had a note card and pencil to keep track of their work, plastic teaspoons as measuring tools and paper cups for mixing slime. First, they’d stir up different proportions of glue and water, and then they’d add the Borax solution as a cross linker and mix it all together with a popsicle stick. To make it a little more colorful, they could add a drop of food coloring or some cabbage juice.

Needless to say, there were failures and successes and the kids had a blast.  We talked about the fact that experiments often don’t work on the first try, and each kid explained to the group how they’d made their perfect slime as they demonstrated how it bounced and stretched.

Try it!