Hands-On Science Experiments Make Learning at Home Fun
With school back in full swing, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education takes center stage for many teachers who strive to instill a lifelong love of learning in their students. Studies from the National Institute of Health’s Office of Science Education indicate, though, that many children start to lose interest in science by the third grade. To change the course of science education and engage students, learning needs to start at home. Simple hands-on experiments, performed with parents, can make a world of difference in cultivating young minds and encouraging children to develop a positive attitude toward science.
Bayer, through its award-winning “Making Science Make Sense” program, has created fun and easy experiments to help children grasp basic science concepts. These experiments can be performed using everyday household items and will help make an impression on young students which will help keep them engaged in science learning throughout their educational careers. Below are a few to try at home with your child this school year:
• 1 Tbsp. Elmer’s white glue
• 1 Tbsp. water
• 2 tsp. Borax solution (dissolve 2 Tbsp. Borax in 1 pint warm water)
• Popsicle stick for stirring
• 6 oz. plastic cup for mixing
• Plastic straw
• Funnel made from 1-liter pop bottle
*Borax can be found in the laundry section of your grocery store.
1. Stir water and glue together—mix well.
2. If you’d like to add a little color, add a few drops of food coloring to glue and water now.
3. While stirring vigorously, slowly pour Borax solution into the glue mixture. If all the water does not get mixed in immediately, keep stirring until it does.
What to do with your putty:
1. Stretch it fast and see what happens. Then stretch it slowly and see what happens.
2. Use a straw to see if you can blow a bubble in it.
3. Holding your funnel 3 feet high, measure the time it takes for the Sticky Icky to flow out of the funnel to a piece of wax paper on the floor or on a table.
4. Form your putty into a ball and see if it bounces.
5. Knead it as forcefully as you can. What happens? Set it on a table for 5 minutes (on a piece of wax paper). What happens?
What this means:
Your glue and water mixture contains molecular chains called “polymers,” which move relatively freely as a liquid. When you add the Borax solution, it acts as a “cross linker,” binding the polymer chains together and restricting their movement. It is this molecule in the Borax solution that causes the liquid to turn into Sticky Icky!
• Small, strong plastic bottle (20-oz. soda bottle)
• Medium round balloon
• Baking soda
1. Pour vinegar into the small bottle until it is about half an inch deep.
2. Using a funnel, pour two teaspoons of baking soda into the neck of a balloon.
3. Stretch the neck of the balloon over the neck of the bottle, being careful not to let the baking soda out of the balloon.
4. Now lift up the balloon so that the baking soda runs into the vinegar. Shake the bottle. What happens?
What this means:
When two substances react together, they can form new chemicals or products. In this chemical reaction, the vinegar and baking soda react to create carbon dioxide. It is these bubbles of gas that inflate the balloon.
• 1 Tbsp. grape jelly
• 1/8 tsp. baking soda (not baking powder)
• 1 Tbsp. vinegar
• ½ plastic cup of warm water
• Popsicle stick to stir solution
1. Dissolve grape jelly in the glass of warm water and note the color.
2. Add baking soda and stir. (NOTE: You should do this over a sink. A fizzing reaction will occur, possibly causing it to overflow.) Notice the change in color.
3. Next add vinegar and stir until the color of the grape jelly solution changes.
What this means:
Chemical reactions occur when one chemical comes into contact with another. For example, when you add baking soda (a base), it turns the solution basic and turns the purple color of the grape jelly solution to a greenish-black color. Then, when you add vinegar (which contains acetic acid), the grape jelly solution reacidifies and the color changes back to purple. Also, mixing baking soda and vinegar together causes a reaction that releases a gas called carbon dioxide.
*Caution: This experiment requires parental supervision. Take care not to let any vinegar splash into your child’s eyes – it can sting.
Bruce Young is a dietary risk assessment expert at Bayer CropScience, as well as a volunteer with the company’s Making Science Make Sense program.