Category:Biology Experiments’

Outdoor Science Apps

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

It’s almost summer! Whether you’re heading to the back yard, a park or a nature center, here are a few of our favorite free apps to enhance your next outdoor adventure…

Merlin Bird ID (free) The Cornell Lab of Ornithology makes it easy to identify that mystery bird in your back yard. http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/

Leaf Snap: (free) Take a photo, identify a plant.http://leafsnap.com/

Bee Friendly: (free) Be a citizen scientist with this cool app that lets you identify and tracking pollinators like bees in your area. http://earthwatch.org/scientific-research/special-initiatives/bee-friend-your-garden

Starmap: iOS (Starmap Lite is free.) Use this app to easily find and identify constellations in the night sky. http://www.star-map.fr/

ISS Spotter: (free) It’s cool to watch the International Space Station fly across the horizon at night. This app will help you spot it, and even has an alarm so you don’t miss it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iss-spotter/id523486350?mt=8

Magnificent : (free version) Magnify leaves, bugs and anything else you want to take a closer look at. http://habitualdigitalsoftware.com/

Edible Water Balloons

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Sodium alginate (Say it like you say algae!) is a substance found in the cell walls of brown algae, including seaweeds and kelp. Its rubbery, gel-like consistency may be important for the flexibility of seaweed, which gets tossed around on ocean waves.

Edible Water Balloons- KitchenPantryScientist.com

Edible Water Balloons- KitchenPantryScientist.com

Here on dry land, you can use sodium alginate to make edible balloon-like blobs that are liquid in the middle. We can thank scientists for this delicious project, since they discovered that a chemical reaction between sodium alginate and calcium causes the alginate to polymerize, or form a gel. In this experiment, the gel forms on the outside of a sodium alginate blob, where the chemical reaction is taking place. The inside of the blob remains liquid!

No heat is required for this experiment, making it safe and fun for all ages!

Sodium alginate and calcium lactate can be tricky to find at the grocery store, so you’ll probably have to order them online. But they’re not very expensive, and you’ll have lots of fun playing with them!

You’ll need:

-a blender or hand blender (parental supervision required for small children)

-1/2 tsp sodium alginate

-2 tsp calcium lactate

-flavored drink drops, like Kool-Aid or Tang (optional)

-water

-a spoon

You can try making these with juice, but if there is any calcium in the juice, you may end up with foam in your blender, since it may start to polymerize the sodium alginate when you blend it in.

  1. Add 1 and 1/2 cup water to the blender.
  2. To the water, add 1/2 tsp. sodium alginate.
  3. Blend for about a minute, and let rest for 15 or 20 minutes, until the bubbles are gone.
  4. If you want to add flavor, divide the sodium alginate solution into small containers and stir in the flavor, like a squirt of Kool-Aid liquid.

    Add liquid drink drops to add flavor and color (KitchenPantryScientist.com)

    Add liquid drink drops to add flavor and color (KitchenPantryScientist.com)

  5. Add 4 cups of water to a clean, clear glass bowl or container.
  6. To the water, add 2 tsp. calcium lactate and mix until completely dissolved. This is your calcium lactate “bath.”
  7. Fill a spoon, like a tablespoon, with the sodium alginate solution, and slowly lower it down into the calcium lactate bath. You’ll see a gel begin to form. Gently turn the spoon so the sodium alginate falls off the spoon and into the calcium lactate.

    Gently turn the spoon upside down.

    Gently turn the spoon upside down.

  8. After about 30 seconds, you’ll be able to see a pale blob in the water. Leave it there for three or four minutes. You can make several edible balloons at once.

    IMG_5400

    After a few minutes, you’ll see a pale blob.

  9. When the blobs are ready, use a spoon to carefully remove them from the bath and put them in a clean bowl of water for a few seconds to rinse them off.

    Rinse balloons off in water.

    Rinse balloons off in water.

  10. Put your edible balloons on a plate and taste them. What do you think?

Now that you know how to polymerize sodium alginate with calcium, what else could you try? Can you make a foam in the blender? Can you make gummy worms in the bath using the rest of your sodium alginate solution? Can you invent something entirely new??? Try it!

Thank you to Andrew Schloss’s book Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science for the experiment inspiration!  Adding the Kool-Aid and Tang drops to add a little flavor and color was our idea!

8 Spring Science Eggsperiments

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

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

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

Egg Geode from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

Egg Geode from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

Dye eggs with spices, fruits and vegetables,

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

IMG_2504

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

Alien Monster Eggs from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

Alien Monster Eggs from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

 

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

Standing on Eggs from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books 2015)

Standing on Eggs from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books 2015)

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

From "Kitchen Science Lab for Kids" Quarry Books

From “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids” Quarry Books

Make egg-eating monsters and watch atmospheric pressure push eggs up into a bottle.CZ1A9811p

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

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

 

 

Epic Star Wars Themed Jell-O

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Did you know you can use science to make amazing works of art in Jell-O? I created this experiment to make Star Wars Jell-O, but you can take it in whatever direction you want. Remember, you’ll need agar, lots of Jell-O and some coconut milk to start experimenting! If your agar figures break, you can fill in the cracks with more melted agar! I ordered the silicone Star Wars molds on Amazon.com.

IMG_5139

Star Wars Themed Jell-O : Educational Science Experiment created by KitchenPantryScientist.com

Here’s the science part: Agar is a substance extracted from the cell walls of red algae. It’s often used in cooking and science experiments. Agar has a higher melting temperature than the gelatin used to make Jell-O. So, if you put a piece of agar gel into melted Jell-O, the agar won’t melt unless the Jell-O is really hot (about 150 degrees Fahrenheit or 65 degrees Celsius!) That means you can create works of agar art to embed in your favorite Jell-O.  We used silicone molds, cookie cutters and a molecular gastronomy technique called oil spherification to make our agar decorations. To make the orbs using spherification, you simple drip coconut milk agar through cold oil, forming perfect spheres that solidify as they fall. We talked with Astronaut Abby on Kare11 Sunrise about how you could make these orbs in space. Click here to see the segment.

Vegetarians like to eat agar, since it’s made from algae and not animals. In labs, scientists use agar to make petri dishes for growing microorganisms, since it won’t melt at high temperatures in incubators. They also use it to make gels for electrophoresis, to separate DNA and RNA molecules by size! 

IMG_5121

Snowflake and Storm Trooper Jell-O (KitchenPantryScientist.com)

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

*If you want to make white orbs from the coconut milk agar, you’ll need to plan ahead and chill tall jar or glass of vegetable oil in the freezer until it is thick and almost frozen. You’ll also need some squeeze bottles or clean eyedroppers.

Coconut Milk Agar -To create your white decorations and mini orbs, mix up this coconut milk agar dessert.

2 1/2 cups water

4 Tbs Agar flakes from Asian section of grocery store or COOP

1 cup coconut milk (not lowfat) Mix the coconut milk well before you measure it.

4 Tbs. sugar

 In a sauce pan or the  microwave, heat 4 Tbs. agar in 2 and 1/2 cups water until the agar is completely dissolved. Adult supervision required. 

To the agar mixture, add 1 cup coconut milk and 4 Tbs. sugar. Mix Well. Pour into molds, pour into a pan to cut shapes out with cookie cutters, or pour some into a squeeze bottle to make white orbs. 

IMG_5100

Coconut Milk Orbs (optional cool science experiment

Slowly drip melted coconut milk agar (above) through ice-cold vegetable oil. As it fall through the oil, it should harden and form orbs. Collect the orbs with a slotted spoon and rinse before adding to your Jell-O.

IMG_5097

 

Jello-O

Follow the directions on the package for the speed set method. If you make a double batch, pour half of it into the bottom of a large, glass casserole dish or bowl. If it’s a single batch, pour the whole thing in. If you made coconut milk orbs, put some in the melted Jell-O to see whether they float or sink. Let the Jell-O solidify and arrange your agar decorations on the Jell-O.

IMG_5111

Set the coconut milk agar decorations on the first layer of Jell-O (KitchenPantryScientist.com)

 

Make or remelt more Jell-O. When it’s cooled down a bit, pour it over your decorations to trap them in the Jell-O. You may want to leave them sticking out a little, or cover them completely with Jell-O over them for effect.

What else could you try? What Jell-O masterpiece can you create?

IMG_5120

Han Solo got a little cracked when we took him out of the mold, but we fixed him with some melted coconut milk agar! (KitchenPantryScientist.com)

 

 

 

Holiday Science: Homemade Science Kit

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

There are few gifts that are more fun (and less expensive) than a homemade science kit. Give a kid a bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda and you’ll make their day. Throw in a bottle of Diet Coke and some Mentos mints, and you may be their favorite person ever. Make a kit for your kids or grand kids. Make one for your favorite niece or nephew. Encourage kids to make kits for friends and siblings. Make one for yourself!

IMG_1732

When kids do science at home, there are no rules, there are no time limits, and no one is judging their results. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to explore, make guesses about what will happen and try new things. In other words, they’re learning to be creative. What could be better than that?

Below are some ideas for great items to include in your kit. I’ve highlighted links to the experiments on my website (just click on the blue experiment name) in case you want to print out directions to add to your kit.

You can also find these experiments, and more,  in my book Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (available wherever books are sold online and in stores), on my free KidScience app for iPhones/iPads/iPods and on my Kitchen Pantry Scientist YouTube channel!

composition book: Makes a great science notebook to draw, record, and tape photos of experiments into.
clear plastic cups to use as test tubes and beakers
measuring spoons and cups 
school glue for making Mad Scientist’s Green Slime
Borax detergent to use as a cross-linker for the Green Slime
gummy worms to transform into Frankenworms
baking soda: Can be used for a number of experiments like fizzy balloons and magic potion. Mix with vinegar to make carbon dioxide bubbles.
vinegar Great for fizzy balloons , alien monster eggs and magic potion.
balloons for fizzy balloons
dry yeast for yeast experiment
white coffee filters: can be used for magic marker chromatography, in place of a paper bag for a coffee-filter volcano or making red cabbage litmus paper.
cornstarch:Lets you play with Cornstarch Goo, a non-newtonian fluid. Here’s the video.
marshmallows with rubber bands and prescription bottle rings you have around the house can be used to make marshmallow catapults. My kids used theirs to make their own Angry Birds game.
Knox gelatin and beef bouillon cubes can be used to make petri plates for culturing microbes from around the house. You can also use the gelatin for cool osmosis experiments!
Food coloring Helps you learn about surface tension by making Tie Dye Milk. Here’s the video. You can also easily make colorful sugar-water gradients that illustrate liquid density!
Mentos mints will make a Mentos geyser when combined with a 2L bottle of Diet Coke.
drinking straws are great for NASA soda straw rockets and a carbon dioxide experiment.

Happy Experimenting!

 

Six Quick and Easy Halloween Science Experiments

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Here are some great last-minute experiments to make your Halloween more fun and spooky! Watch the TV segment I did to see how much fun they are, and look for links to directions below the video.

Click on these links for instructions on how to make Frankenworms, Cornstarch Goo, Mad Scientist’s Green Slime, Alien Monster Eggs, Magic Potion and Bags of Blood. You can find more experiments by scrolling down on my website!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Invisible Ink and Sherlock Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Write spooky messages for your friends with invisible ink! Just paint lemon juice on printer paper with a Q-Tip, let it dry and reveal the message using heat from a candle flame via oxidation!  Adult supervision is required when using candles. You can also reveal your message using a very hot light bulb, but we had better luck with a flame.

You can see how it looks in the segment below. We also dusted for fingerprints on glasses with chalk and cocoa powder to get ready for the Science Museum of Minnesota’s upcoming Sherlock exhibit.

Summer Changelings

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Summer surrounds us with science. We’ve been catching tadpoles and capturing caterpillars and releasing them as frogs and butterflies. It’s nothing short of amazing to watch these creatures move through a process called metamorphosis, which changes them from one form to a completely different one as they become adults. This is a great survival tactic, since the youngsters and adults live in different areas and eat different things, so they’re not completing for food or space!

You can look for monarch caterpillars on milkweed and swamp milkweed, which you see in the video above. Bring plenty of food home for them to eat as they grow (the plants you found them on.) Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillars prefer a diet of dill! If you have trouble finding caterpillars, plant some milkweed and other butterfly-friendly flowers in your garden! The monarch population is in trouble due to lack of milkweed, which once grew everywhere. Click here for more information raising Monarchs.

Monarch caterpillar preparing to form a chrysalis

Monarch caterpillar preparing to form a chrysalis

 

Newly-formed Monarch butterfly chrysalis

Newly-formed Monarch butterfly chrysalis

We caught tadpoles in a local fountain (with permission, of course) and brought them home to observe. When they became tiny toads, we released them in the same fountain where we caught them. Before catching tadpoles, check local regulations to make sure it’s allowed and ALWAYS return them to the exact spot where you caught them, to avoid the spread of deadly fungi and invasive species! If you can’t return them to the same spot, don’t bring them home! Keep them in water from the source where you caught the them, and never add tap water to their habitat, since chlorine will kill them. Be sure there is a rock for them to crawl onto when they become frogs or toads. They’ll eat water plants and algae from their original habitat, but you can also boil green lettuce in bottled water and chop it finely to feed your tadpole. Release them immediately when they hop out of the water, since it may be difficult to know what to feed them once they’re mature.

IMG_6821[1]

mature frog with nearly-mature tadpole in background

16 Summer Science Experiments

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Between working on a follow-up to Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (which involves testing, writing up and photographing 52 experiments), driving my kids around to camps and sports, and doing science outreach at libraries, bookstores and on TV, I’m finding it hard to keep up. Here’s a short video on how to make tie-dye milk (a surface tension experiment), which I did on WCCO Mid Morning show last week and forgot to post!

Diet Coke Mentos fountain. Photo by http://www.amberprocaccini.com/

Diet Coke Mentos fountain. Photo by http://www.amberprocaccini.com/

Luckily, between all the camps and activities, the kids and I are having fun digging in the dirt, blowing giant bubbles, and watching tadpoles and monarch caterpillars go through metamorphosis!

What science experiments are you doing this summer? It’s a great time to take science outdoors!

Here are some of our favorites:

Got water? Make siphons, a water-purifier, water rockets, or fire-proof water balloons.

Hungry? Build a solar oven from a pizza box and bake s’mores.

Stand on eggs or throw them as hard as you can without breaking them. You can always clean up mistakes with your hose!

Play magician with the tablecloth trick, or make paper bag volcanoes erupt in your back yard.

Of course, there’s always the famous Mentos geyser, and film canister rockets are always a hit.

Nature walk bracelets add fun to any excursion, and you can collect water from trees or make water filters with grass and sand.

August is a great time to find Monarch caterpillars or study the earthworms in your back yard.

And no summer would be complete at our house without an epic marshmallow shooting competition. You’ll even learn some physics!