- by KitchenPantryScientist

Today on WCCO MidMorning, I’ll be talking microbiology! According to the CDC, hand washing is the best way to remove microbes from your hands.

You can see what bacteria and fungi are hanging out on your fingertips by touching homemade petri plates to grow colonies. Test your fingers before and after washing with water alone, soap and water, and finally hand sanitizer. You can find the experiment in my book, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, and here on my website. The video below shows you how to make plates.

Halloween Science: Magic Potion

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

It’s simple to stir up some Halloween magic with a head of red cabbage and some baking soda and vinegar.

Magic Potion, from “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids” Quarry Books -photo by Amber Procaccini

Chop us half a head of red cabbage (with adult supervision, of course), put it in a sauce pan, cover it with water and boil for 10 minutes or so, until the water turns purple. Let it cool, strain out the cabbage and save the purple juice, which is your Magic Potion.

Pour about half a cup of the purple juice into each of two clear cups or bowls.

To one cups, add 2 tsp. baking soda and stir. What happens?

To the other cup, add 1/4 cup vinegar. Amazing!

Now, put the two cups on a tray or cookie sheet and pour the pink cup into the blue cup quickly. Woo Hoo!

Here’s a video, if you want to see how the experiment works.

What happened?

Everything in our world is made of very tiny pieces called atoms. When atoms bond to other atoms, they form groups of linked atoms called molecules.

Purple cabbage juice is called an acid-base indicator. The molecules in the cabbage juice magic potion change when exposed to an acid or base, making the potion change color.  Vinegar is an acid (acetic acid), which turns the potion pink and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a base, which turns it blue or green.

When you mix the vinegar potion and baking soda potion together, a chemical reaction occurs and you make Carbon Dioxide gas.  That’s why you see bubbles!

Soak coffee filters in leftover cabbage juice (if you have any) to make Homemade Litmus Paper!

Have fun experimenting! Happy Halloween!

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.



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!


Give Kids The Gift of Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

At home science offers an opportunity for kids to have fun and be creative thinkers. This holiday season, help your kids take a break from screens with an activity they’ll love, like blowing up balloons with baking soda and vinegar!

Wrap up Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (available wherever books are sold) with a box of baking soda, a bottle of vinegar and some balloons for an instant holiday hit.












Better yet, put together a homemade science kit for the kids on your list and let them choose and experiment a day to do over break. (Many of them are easier than baking cookies.)



Put kids in charge of the experiments. Let them try whatever they want, as long as it’s safe, even if you don’t think it will work. We learn to be creative when we’re given freedom to make mistakes and go beyond the instructions.

All About That Base

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

In addition to some of my neighborhood friends,two awesome chemist friends helped me out with this song: the amazing Dr. Raychelle Burks (with the Bronsted-Lowry line) and bassist Ryan Williams, who happens to have a PhD in Chemistry, with his awesome bass-playing.

The video quality isn’t top-notch, but you’ll get the idea, and hopefully learn a little chemistry!

Physics! Biology! Chemistry! Yeah!

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

I got together with some friends this weekend to do a quick iPhone recording of a chemistry song (on my Kitchen Pantry Scientist YouTube channel soon) and these awesome kids were nice enough take a break from playing to sing the Science Song with me. They had me laughing so hard that I could hardly get the words out!

Can you make up a song about science?

Shoe Box Solar Viewer (for watching today’s partial solar eclipse)

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

There’s going to be a solar eclipse this afternoon, so I’m re-posting directions on how to make some simple solar viewers!

NEVER look directly at the sun, since you can permanently damage your retinas (the light sensors on the back of your eyeballs.)

Using a pinhole viewer, you can see the sun’s image with the sun behind you!

You can safety view the sun (and therefore a solar eclipse) using a shoe box by standing with the sun BEHIND you.  All you need is a shoe box without a lid, a piece of white paper, aluminum foil, a pin and tape. It’s perfect for viewing a solar eclipse, like the one coming up this afternoon. It will be visible from around 4:30 CST until 6:00 PM CST here in Minnesota!

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking the sun from view.Go to this eclipse calculator to see when and where you can best view the eclipse with your viewer! Here in Minnesota, we’ll see a partial eclipse.

First, tape white paper over one end of the shoe box (on the inside.) This is your viewing screen.

Then, cut a big notch out of the other end of the shoe box and tape aluminum foil over it.

Use a pin to poke a hole in the center of the foil.  If you mess up, you can always put new foil on and try again. The smaller the hole, the better the focus, but we made ours a little bigger than the actual size of the pin.

Now, stand with the sun BEHIND you. (See photo at top of post. The sun is behind her, high in the sky.) NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH THE PINHOLE ITSELF.

Hold the box upside down so the pinhole is pointed at the sun behind you.  The foil should be behind your line of sight so it’s not reflecting the sun in your eyes. Light rays from the sun will shine through the pinhole and project an (upside down) image on the white paper.

This was taken on a cloudy day when the sun peeked out, but you can clearly see the bright circle near the center of the paper.

Practice on a sunny day (or when the sun peeks out between the clouds) so that you know what to do when it’s time for the eclipse. Small children should be supervised so they don’t try to look directly at the sun.

You can do the same thing using two white index card, poking a hole in one you hold nearest to you and projecting the image on the one you hold away from you (with the sun behind you.)

If you’re interested in projecting a larger image of the sun, try making a solar viewer from  binoculars, a tripod and a white piece of paper. Click here for directions!

Enjoy! Watching an eclipse in the 70s after my dad came to school and helped us all make these boxes is one of my earliest “science” memories!

Halloween Science: Cornstarch Goblin Goo

 - by KitchenPantryScientist


Mix a cup of cornstarch and around half a cup of water together for instant Halloween fun! Cornstarch and water mix together to form a strange concoction, called a shear-thickening fluid, that behaves like a solid when you agitate it, but behaves like a liquid when you let it sit still.


To make your Goblin Goo more Halloween-y, add a drop of food coloring, but you’ll risk staining hands and other surfaces. You can experiment with adding more water or cornstarch to get your goo to the consistency of thick syrup.

The molecules in your mixture are sort of like long ropes.  When you leave them alone, or move them slowly, they can slide past each other.  However, if you squeeze them, stir them or roll them around in your hands, the ropey molecules look and feel more like a solid.  Materials like cornstarch goo are known as non-Newtonian fluids, since they don’t have the normal properties of  either a liquid or a solid.

Here’s a “watch and do” video for kids:

Tips For Making Science Experiments More Fun For Everyone

 - by KitchenPantryScientist


Tonight, I’m doing a radio interview about my new book, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids to talk about “making science fun.”

Since I already think that science is pretty fun, but know that the very thought of doing an experiment can be daunting for many parents, I decided to make a short list of tips for making at-home science even more fun for everyone involved.

1. Choose a project you have the time and energy for. Many science experiments, like the ones in my book, only take five or ten minutes and don’t even require a trip to the store. You can have a paper bag volcano “erupting” in 15 minutes, but on a rainy day, you may be willing to commit to a more involved experiment, like growing bacteria on homemade petri platesIt’s like making dinner. Some nights you create a gourmet feast, and other nights you slap together grilled cheese sandwiches, but even grilled cheese hits the spot!

2. Let the kids do everything that they can safely do by themselves. They should be the ones measuring, mixing and experimenting. Don’t worry if they spill a little, or the measurements aren’t perfect! They’re EXPERIMENTING!

3. If they want try something that’s not in the instructions, let them!!! As long as it’s safe, let them test their ideas. Who cares if it doesn’t work? Mistakes, trial and error are how we learn, and this is the great thing about doing science at home. Kids can substitute orange juice for milk, or put cornstarch goo in a balloon in the freezer. They’re exploring the world and learning to be creative thinkers.

4. Have kids clean up their mess. This makes science more fun for parents and will make them more likely to allow future experimentation. Remember, back yards and driveways make great science labs, and can be sprayed off with a hose!

Have fun experimenting!

Halloween Science: Alien Monster Eggs

 - by KitchenPantryScientist


_DSC5642-bThese creepy eggs are a great science project and an awesome Halloween centerpiece! All you need are eggs, vinegar, green food coloring and corn syrup to dissolve the shells and shrivel the eggs via osmosis!

Click here for written directions on how to make the eggs, and for a little more about the science behind the fun!