With summertime here, kids will be spending more time in parks, backyards and at cabins. Pressing plants to make a botanical collection and nature journaling get them outdoors to interact with the environment and discover the science all around them. Here’s a short video demonstrating how to press plants using cardboard, newspaper, watercolor (absorbent) paper and a heavy book.
(Project from The Kitchen Pantry Scientist, Biology for Kids Quarto Books, 2021)
From surface tension to evaporation, science come into play every time you blow a bubble. Here’s some bubble science, along with a recipe for making giant bubbles from my book Outdoor Science Lab for Kids!
Water molecules like to stick to each other , and scientists call this sticky, elastic tendency “surface tension.” Soap molecules, have a hydrophobic (water-hating) end and (hydrophilic) a water-loving end and can lower the surface tension of water. When you blow a bubble, you create a thin film of water molecules sandwiched between two layers of soap molecules, with their water-loving ends pointing toward the water, and their water-hating ends pointing out into the air.
As you might guess, the air pressure inside the elastic soapy sandwich layers of a bubble is slightly higher than the air pressure outside the bubble. Bubbles strive to be round, since the forces of surface tension rearrange their molecular structure to make them have the least amount of surface area possible, and of all three dimensional shapes, a sphere has the lowest surface area. Other forces, like your moving breath or a breeze can affect the shape of bubbles as well.
The thickness of the water/soap molecule is always changing slightly as the water layer evaporates, and light is hitting the soap layers from many angles, causing light waves to bounce around and interfere with each other, giving the bubble a multitude of colors.
Try making these giant bubbles at home this summer! They’re a blast! (It works best a day when it’s not too windy, and bubbles love humid days!)
To make your own giant bubble wand, you’ll need:
-Around 54 inches of cotton kitchen twine
-two sticks 1-3 feet long
-a metal washer
1. Tie string to the end of one stick.
2. Put a washer on the string and tie it to the end of the other stick so the washer is hanging in-between on around 36 inches of string. (See photo.) Tie remaining 18 inches of string to the end of the first stick. See photo!
For the bubbles:
-6 cups distilled or purified water
-1/2 cup cornstarch
-1 Tbs. baking powder
-1 Tbs. glycerine (Optional. Available at most pharmacies.)
-1/2 cup blue Dawn. The type of detergent can literally make or break your giant bubbles. Dawn Ultra (not concentrated) or Dawn Pro are highly recommended. We used Dawn Ultra, which is available at Target.
1. Mix water and cornstarch. Add remaining ingredients and mix well without whipping up tiny bubbles. Use immediately, or stir again and use after an hour or so.
2. With the two sticks parallel and together, dip bubble wand into mixture, immersing all the string completely.
3. Pull the string up out of the bubble mix and pull them apart slowly so that you form a string triangle with bubble in the middle.
4. Move the wands or blow bubbles with your breath. You can “close” the bubbles by moving the sticks together to close the gap between strings.
What else could you try?
-Make another wand with longer or shorter string. How does it affect your bubbles?
-Try different recipes to see if you can improve the bubbles. Do other dish soaps work as well?
-Can you add scent to the bubbles, like vanilla or peppermint, or will it interfere with the surface tension?
-Can you figure out how to make a bubble inside another bubble?
Summer is almost here, and so are the bugs! Here’s a short video segment featuring two inspiring scientists, paired with fun projects from my new book, “Biology for Kids” (available everywhere books are sold.)
Got a Star Wars fan in the house? May the Fourth is next week! I demonstrated a few science projects from my book “Star Wars Maker” Lab on WCCO | CBS Minnesota this morning!
I demonstrated a couple of Earth Day science projects from my new book today on WCCO Midmorning! “The Kitchen Pantry Scientist- Biology for Kids” will be out May 11 and is available for pre-order now, everywhere books are sold.https://cbsloc.al/3dYOTUcHere’s how to make nature bracelets from duct tape and mason bee houses from empty cans, paper straws and rolled paper.
It’s fun to create colorful, swirling marbled designs on eggs, and there’s science behind the fun! Here’s a brief description of each. Click on the blue titles for more instructions and science explanations.
Olive Oil Marbling: You’ll need hard boiled eggs, olive oil, vinegar, and food coloring. We used green, yellow and brown food coloring to make robin’s egg colors.
Natural Dyes: Experiment with fruit, coffee, tea, spices, veggies and even onion skins to create beautiful, natural egg dyes.
Nail Polish Marbling: This one is obviously inedible, but it’s a fun craft project! You’ll need eggs with the yolks and whites blown out, a container that can be thrown away, nail polish in two or more colors, and water. (Project from STEAM Lab for Kids-Quarry Books)
The science behind the marbling fun: Egg dyes and food coloring require an acidic environment to form bonds. That’s why you add vinegar (also called acetic acid) to water and dye when coloring eggs. Things that are less dense than water, like olive oil and nail polish, float on top of water, allowing you to create designs that can be transferred onto your eggs.
So excited for Biology for Kids’ book release on May 11th! Here’s a sneak peek at a few projects from the book. Pre-order now from your favorite bookseller or click here to order.
Crying over broken candy canes? Cry no more. Make art!
This project is from “Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science,” by Andrew Schloss. For a cookbook full of delicious recipes and the Science-Behind-the-Fun, buy my book Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: Edible Edition here!
*Melted candy can get dangerously hot, so parental supervision is required!
-candy canes (broken or whole), wrappers removed
-heavy-duty aluminum foil
-a cookie sheet
-a wire cooling rack
What to do:
- Preheat oven to 250F.
- Cover cookie sheet with foil
- Place candy canes on foil, not touching each other
- Bake candy canes for around 10 minutes and have an adult check them. They should be stretchy, but not too hot to touch.
- When the candy canes are ready, bend, fold, twist and pull them into cool shapes. Try pulling one long and wrapping it around a chopstick to make a spiral. What else could you try?
- If the candy gets to brittle to work with, put it back in the oven for a few minutes to make it soft again.
The science behind the fun:
If you looks at the ingredients of candy canes, they’re usually made of table sugar (sucrose), corn syrup, flavoring, and food coloring. Glucose and fructose are sweet-tasting molecules that stick together to make up most of the sugars we eat, like table sugar (sucrose) and corn syrup. You can think of them as the building blocks of candy.
At room temperature, candy canes are hard and brittle, but adding heat changes the way the molecules behave. Both table sugar and corn syrup contain linked molecules of glucose and fructose, but corn syrup has much more fructose than glucose, and the fructose interferes with sugar crystal formation. According to Andrew Schloss, “the corn syrup has more fructose, which means the sugar crystals in the candy don’t fit tightly together. The crystals have space between them, which allows them to bend and move without cracking.”
Here’s a great article on the science of candy-making.
If you’re looking for holiday gifts for a science-loving kid, my books Chemistry Lab for Kids, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids and Outdoor Science Lab for Kids include over 100 fun family-friendly experiments! They’re available wherever books are sold.
Here’s some fun footage of kids doing projects from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids. I miss those mask-less photo shoots! (Book Photos by Amber Procaccini and illustrations by @kellyannedalton.) If you’ve got a young scientist on your list, “CHEMISTRY FOR KIDS -Homemade Science Experiments and Activities Inspired by Awesome Chemists, Past and Present” is available everywhere books are sold!
Here’s a video on how to make hot chocolate bombs. My tips below.
- Buy thin silicone molds like these that make it easy to pop chocolate half-domes out.
- Melt chocolate (chips or a chopped chocolate bar) in the microwave at 15 second intervals until almost all of it is melted, but there is still some solid chocolate. Stir until the last of the solid chocolate melts. (If you get the chocolate too hot, it ruins the crystal structure of the fat in the cocoa butter and it won’t re-harden very well.)
- Use a spoon or brush to coat the sides of the mold. Put in the freezer (or outdoors if it’s below freezing) for five minutes.
- Add a second layer of chocolate to cover any holes and thicken the structure. Put outside for five more minutes and then carefully remove the chocolate.
- Put hot chocolate mix and marshmallows in half of a dome.
- Add melted chocolate to a small plastic bag, cut the corner off and pipe the chocolate around the edge of the filled half-dome.
- Put a second half-dome on top, smooth the seam with your finger and allow the chocolate to hard.
- Decorate by piping more chocolate on top and adding crushed candy or sprinkles.
- Add to hot milk, stir and enjoy!