Carin Bonder recently wrote a great post for Scientific American’s PsiVid about an autistic boy named Jordan Hilkowitz who is storming YouTube with his fantastic science videos! Parents will enjoy Carin’s post, and kids will love his Doctor Mad Science videos!
If you’re on Twitter, we’ll be chatting about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) tonight at 8 Central under the hashtag #STEMchat. Click here for more information if you’re interested in joining us as we talk about kids science at home and in schools.
Here’s a video that I just made for KidScience app about a fun chemical reaction we call fizzy balloons. Hope you have as much fun watching it as we had making it!
If you haven’t downloaded KidScience, it’s a great way to search for experiments based on kids’ ages, what you have around the house, or how much time you have. There’s a free version and a Premium version with extra videos, so you can have science at your fingertips wherever you go!
Got fruit, laundry detergent, coffee filters, salt and alcohol? You can extract DNA!
Here’s a video on how to extract DNA from strawberries. This version was a little long for KidScience app, so I thought I’d post it here.
If you haven’t tried this experiment, you should! It’s a simple version of how scientists in labs really extract DNA for their research. Click here to see my original post on DNA extraction with easy directions and a little more science.
I spent an hour yesterday doing science with the girls at TXT2012 camp at Dakota County Technical College yesterday, where kids get to explore Technology, Science, Transportation, Health, Design, Technical/Industrial, and Business fields with hands-on projects. I showed them how to make a marshmallow slingshots (and talked about conservation of energy,) we talked about the fact that there are fun, safe experiments to do with kids you might be babysitting (with mom and dad’s permission, of course,) and then we played with red cabbage juice, and talked a little about pigments, flavenoids and anthocyanins. Finally, we did a hands-on chemical reaction using the cabbage juice, vinegar and baking soda.
Here are the experiments I demonstrated and mentioned: Marshmallow Slingshots, “Magic Potion” (Red Cabbage Juice chemical reaction,) Homemade Litumus Paper, CO2 breath test with red cabbage juice
and here are some fun, safe experiments for babysitters that can be done (under supervision) with young children: Tie-Dye Milk, Cornstarch Goo. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, these experiments are on the free (and Premium) version of KidScience app, so you can have them with you all the time.
***Always wear goggles and fireproof aprons, if you have them, when working with flammable substances like ethyl alcohol, which burns very hot with no color! Be sure to pull long hair back as well!
Fireworks are really just explosive chemical reactions, and they’ve been around for thousands of years. Most of them are far too dangerous to make at home, but with some parental supervision, it’s fun to make homemade “black snake” fireworks, which are basically just flambeed powdered sugar and baking soda! Thanks again to Pat Mullin of Labconco who sent me a video of this experiment, which I posted about a year ago.
I had to mess around with the recipe to get it to work consistently, and each time we do it we get different-looking snakes, but it’s pretty neat. The key is to use enough fuel (alcohol) to keep your sugar burning.
BE SAFE! Set this experiment up on a heat-proof surface like a concrete driveway and have a hose ready, just in case. Make sure long hair is pulled back, and don’t try this on a windy day.
1/3 cup sand, mounded in a pie plate with an indentation in the middle to hold the sugar/baking soda mix.
3 tsp. high-percentage alcohol (ethanol) like Everclear. I chose this as fuel rather than denatured alcohol or lighter fluid since there are no toxic fumes when you burn it.
4 tsp. powdered sugar mixed with 1 tsp. baking soda.
To make your snakes:
-Add the alcohol to the indentation in the sand.
-pack 1 tsp. of the sugar/baking soda mix into a teaspoon and carefully drop it into the indentation in the sand. It’s fine if it holds the shape of the spoon, but try not to pack it down!
-Have an adult use a grill lighter or a long match to light the alcohol around the sugar on fire. It may be hard to see the flame, so stand back. You’ll see the sugar start to bubble when it’s lit. It will burn until the alcohol is gone, so wait until you’re sure it’s out before you try to touch the snakes!
What happens? When baking soda gets hot, it makes carbon dioxide gas (this is also how it makes cookies puff up in the oven.) The pressure from this gas pushes the carbonate from the burning sugar out of the sand, producing the “black snakes” you see.
Did you already know that there’s carbon in plants (like sugar cane?) It’s called new carbon and is constantly recycled between the environment and living things. There’s also something called old carbon, like the kind you find in fossil fuels like oil. Here’s a cool NASA video that talks about the carbon cycle:
It’s not quite hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, but a hot summer day like today would be perfect for making a solar oven from a pizza box! (This is a repost of one of our summer favorites.)
When my friend Sheila, who works at NREL (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) sent me this project, I couldn’t wait to try it out. We first tried it out on a cool spring day in Minnesota and to my surprise, it worked. The oven didn’t get very hot, but we were able to warm a chocolate chip cookie enough to make it soft and melt the chips.
NREL suggests using your oven to make s’mores, which we’ve tried and is really fun. (We did it on Kare11 last summer.) The solar oven is surprisingly easy to make. It only took us 10 or 15 minutes..
You will need: 1 pizza box from a local pizza delivery store (Little Caesars, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, etc.), newspapers, tape, scissors, black construction paper, clear plastic wrap, aluminum foil and a dowel or stick to prop the lid up. You will also want to have some food to warm in your oven-marshmallows, chocolate, etc.
Make sure the cardboard is folded into its box shape. Carefully cut out 3 sides of a square in the lid of the box. Do not cut out the fourth side of the square, which is the one closest to where the pizza box lid hinges. Gently fold the flap back along the uncut edge to form a crease. See photo below!
Now, Wrap the underside (inside) face of the flap that you made with aluminum foil. Tape it so that the foil is help firmly but so that there’s not too much tape showing on the foil side of the flap.
Open the box and place a piece of black construction paper so that it fits the bottom of the box. Tape it by the edges. (We used two pieces.)
Roll up some newspaper and fit it around the inside edges of the box. This is the insulation. It should be about 1-1 ½” thick. Use tape (or other materials you can think of) to hold the newspaper in place. Tape it to the bottom of the box so that you can close the lid. (We taped it to the sides and had to cut the tape so that we could close the lid. Luckily our newspaper fit in tightly enough that we didn’t really even need the tape.)
Finally, cut plastic wrap an inch larger than the lid opening on the box top. Tape it on the underside of the lid opening. Add another piece of plastic wrap to the top of the lid opening. This creates a layer of air as insulation that keeps heat in the box. It also makes a window you can look through at the food you’re “cooking.” BE SURE THE PLASTIC WRAP IS TIGHT.
You are almost done! According to NREL, the oven needs to sit at an angle facing the sun directly so you’ll need to make a prop. You could probably just use a book or something under the hinged side of the oven. However, I missed this when I read the directions and we just put it flat on the ground. The flap of the box top needs to be propped open—a dowel or ruler works great. We used a wooden skewer that I broke the sharp point off of. This way you can change the amount of sunlight striking the oven window. Play with the angle of the flap to see how much sunlight you can get to reflect on the food.
Check every once in a while to see how well your food is being heated by solar thermal energy. If you’re is interested in finding out how the sun cooked your food, go to http://www.nrel.gov/ NREL’s website has great information on solar energy and many other sources of renewable energy.
I have to admit it. I’m ridiculously excited!
Our KidScience app is now available on the App Store, making it easy for kids of all ages to do science anywhere, any time, or to check out KidScience watch-and-do videos and learn a little science when they (or you) need a little portable screen time.
Let us know how you like it. It’s for you!
Here’s the scoop: If you’re ready to keep the kids busy this summer doing fun, educational projects without shopping trips and complicated directions, you’ll be as excited as we are that KidScience Premium, based on Kitchen Pantry Scientist science projects, has arrived.
Available for iphone, ipod touch and ipad, KidScience Premium brings entertainment and education to your fingertips with a continually updated list of experiments to choose from using things you already have on hand. It includes both photos and watch-and-do videos that make it easy for kids to do projects on their own or you can have fun doing projects together.
A free version of the KidScience app is on the way and will include all the same experiments and photos, but have limited free videos. I’ll let you know when it joins KidScience Premium on the App Store.
There are other kid science apps, but only one KidScience app! You’ll know us by our bright orange and blue logo.
Let’s do some science!
Want to do a science project for NASA this summer? NASA scientists are very interested in learning more about how clouds affect Earth’s climate and you can help them collect data!
Although satellites can look down on the earth and study cloud cover, it can be difficult for them to distinguish clouds from other white surfaces, including snow and ice. Using your eyes, you can observe the clouds over your head within 15 minutes of the time a NASA satellite passes over to confirm what it sees from space.
Learn what’s involved and how to register on NASA’s S’COOL Roving Observation website. Or, if you’re an educator or homeschooler who wants to collect data from the same location each time, you can go to the CERES S’COOL Project website. I know we’re going to sign up!
On another note, our tadpoles are growing legs. We’ll have to put them in a taller container soon so I don’t come down some morning to find frogs hopping around our kitchen.
The kids and I have been keeping an eye on a local pond, and this week we were rewarded with the sight of tadpoles dotting the sand at the bottom like a swarm of commas. We pulled out a butterfly net, scooped up a bucket of pond water, and gently snagged a few of the frogs-to-be. Some tiny plants, baby fish, snails and a waterbug hitched a ride as well.
At home, we put our pollywogs in a bigger container (rinsed well with distilled water,) added more pond water and put some rocks in our tadpole habitat to make our visitors feel at home. A few times a week, we’ll siphon out some of the old water and add more pond water to keep our tadpoles healthy as they grow and change. When they’re almost frogs, we’ll lower the water level and be sure there are plenty of rocks for them to hop onto when metamorphosis is complete.
I’ll post a video of our tadpoles every so often so you can see how they’re changing. Eventually, we’ll release our frogs, along with the other plants and critters in our habitat, back into the pond where we found them!
Can you find some tadpoles of your own? If you do, be sure to keep them in pond/lake water and change it frequently. Chlorinated water will kill them! We’re feeding our tadpoles frog pellets and a little fish food, but I suspect they’re mostly eating algae in the pond water.
Summer is a great time to start a science notebook! Not only can you keep track of experiments, you can take your notebook with you when you go hiking, camping, to the lake, or on even on a walk through the neighborhood. How many different kind of trees do you see? Draw a bug, leaf or mushroom that you’re not familiar with and see if you can identify it when you get home. Walk the same trail every few weeks and record how the plants and animals you see change with through the season.
Note for parents: It is amazing how well kids observe the world. Mine notice things that I have become completely oblivious to, after years of exposure. If you look closely at children’s drawings, you’ll see that seemingly insignificant details achieve huge scale. Very young kids don’t understand perspective, but they also haven’t put on blinders the way most adults have.
A science notebook is a great way for kids to illustrate and catalog their discoveries and observations. You can buy a lab notebook, but it work equally well to just use a spiral notebook, a loose leaf binder they can add pages to, or a composition book. You can even staple some pieces of paper together and write “Lab Notebook” on the cover!
Send your kid outside to draw a bug or plant. Have them keep tally of how many birds they hear sing in five minutes. In the fall, they can press leaves in their notebook. If it’s rainy, have them find a rock or shell from one of their collections and draw it. My son loves to copy facts about his favorite animals from National Geographic!
Do a science experiment and have them draw a picture of what they did and make a chart of the results (there are tons of easy experiments on this website.) Anything they can think of is great. Be sure to have them or help them write the date on each page they write something on. Tell them this is very important for a junior scientist! Older kids will be able to write great descriptions and even take photos to tape into their notebooks.
Someday, far in the future, your kid’s lab notebook may help them remember what it is like to look at the world through a child’s eyes.