Welcome to my next blog in the holiday series. In this post I focus on the value of children conducting science experiments at home and in the classroom.
Science is a key learning area that is not taught well in Australian primary schools compared to other countries. Maybe this is the result of many teachers not having a deep understanding about scientific concepts or that parents place a higher emphasis on numeracy and literacy concepts. Regardless of the reason, it is our role as educators and parents to ensure that children are having the opportunity to conduct a variety of science experiments which will help them form a strong understanding about the world around them.
I have put together a list of 10 inexpensive science experiments that can be conducted at home by children from the ages of 3 - 12 years old. Try one or all of them with your child and see your child develop their knowledge about a specific scientific concept.
1. Water movement experiment
Materials needed: Cabbage leaves, containers, water, food dye
Concept taught: Osmosis (diffusion of water through cells) Plants rely on osmosis to move water from the roots to the tallest part of the plant.
1. Pour an equal amount of water into a few containers
2. Put a few drops of different coloured food dye in each container
3. Put a large cabbage leaf in each container
4. Observe cabbage leaves over a 2 week period
2. Rock Candy experiment
Materials needed: 2-3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, jars, candy flavouring, food colouring, skewers, large saucepan, pegs
Concepts taught: Learning about solutes and solvents. The solute (sugar) is mixed with a solvent (water) to make a super saturated solution. After taking the solution off the heat, the sugar will begin to crystallise.
1. Dissolve a cup of sugar in a cup of water over heat in a saucepan.
2. Slowly add more and more sugar until no more will dissolve. (the water will look cloudy)
3. Take the saucepan off the heat and add the candy flavouring if desired and allow solution to cool.
4. Cut the skewers to the right length, soak the end in water and roll the end of the skewer in sugar. Allow the sticks to dry completely.
5. Pour sugar solution equally into jars. You can add a few drops of different food colouring dyes to each jar.
6. Put a dried sugar coated skewer in each jar and secure with a peg. Make sure that the skewer is not touching any part of the jar.
7. Observe skewers over 2 weeks. (The children can eat the rock candy when the experiment is over)
3. Plant maze experiment
Materials needed: shoe box, extra cardboard, scissors, broad bean plant
Concept taught: Plants need light to grow. Plants grow towards the light.
1. Cut a small hole at one end of the shoe box. Ensure that all other holes are taped up so only the hole you made will let light in.
2. Cut two pieces of cardboard and stick one of the left (a third of the way up and one on the right. (two thirds of the way up)
3. Stand the shoe box up ensuring the hole is up the top. Put the broad bean plant down the bottom sidewards. (ensure the broad bean plant is well watered)
4. Put the shoe box lid back on and secure with tape. Put shoe box in a sunny position near a window.
5. Open the shoe box in 4 to 5 days and observe the results.
4. Elephant toothpaste experiment
Materials needed: 1/2 a cup of 6% hydrogen peroxide, empty soft drink bottle, tray, food colouring, dishwashing liquid, warm water, yeast
Concept taught: Chemical reactions using a catalyst. The hydrogen peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water. The large volume of oxygen quickly explodes out of the bottle.
1. Put an empty soft drink bottle in the middle of a tray.
2. Mix the hydrogen peroxide, 3 drops of food colouring and a squirt of dishwashing liquid in the soft drink bottle.
3. In a separate container, mix 1 tsp of yeast and 2 tbsp of warm water.
4. Pour the yeast mixture into the soft drink bottle and watch the chemical reaction.
5. Dissolving egg shells experiment
Materials needed: 4 clear cups, 4 eggs, vinegar,water
Concept taught: Acid base reactions. The vinegar is an acid and dissolves the eggshell which is made up of calcium carbonate (a base). When the acid and base react carbon dioxide is formed (seen as bubbles in the experiment)
- Put 1 egg in each clear cup.
- Add vinegar to two of the cups and water to the other two cups. (ensure each egg is submerged by the liquid in their cup)
- Observe the results over 7 days and compare the eggs that were covered in vinegar to the eggs covered in water.
6. Walking on eggs experiment
Materials needed: many large trays of eggs, plastic sheet
Concept taught: Shapes of objects effect how pressure is distributed.
1. Put down a plastic sheet and lay a few trays of eggs together on it
2. Walk over the trays of eggs ensuring your feet are flat when walking
3. Walk over the eggs on heels or toes to see if it makes any difference
7. Lava lamp experiment
Materials needed: One soft drink bottle, water, vegetable oil, food colouring, Alka-Seltzer tablet broken up
Concept taught: Oil and water do not mix. Oil is less dense and will stay above the water. The food colouring will drop through the oil and mix with the water. The tablet (citric acid and baking soda) releases carbon dioxide gas and the bubbles rise to the top, taking coloured water with it. When the gas is released at the top the coloured water will drop down again.
1. Fill the soft drink bottle a third of the way with water.
2. Fill the rest of the bottle with vegetable oil.
3. Add a couple of drops of food colouring into the soft drink bottle.
4. Add the broken Alka-Seltzer tablet into the soft drink bottle.
5. Observe results. When the experiment has finished, you can add another tablet to watch it again.
8. Make a thermometer
Materials needed: 500ml jar, straw, clay, water, rubbing alcohol, food colouring, marker
Concept taught: Convection (the process of liquid expanding and contracting as a result of temperature) When a liquid is heated, it becomes less dense and expands. It will rise up on the thermometer (the straw). When the liquid is cooled, it contracts, becomes dense and goes down on the thermometer (the straw).
1. Fill up the empty jar with equal amounts of water and rubbing alcohol until it is ¼ of the way up the jar.
2. Put a few drops of food colouring in the liquid to make it easier to see.
3. Put the cap back on the jar and secure it with tape.
4. Mix up the liquid
5. Put a hole in the centre of the cap so a clear straw can fit through. (try to make the hole a similar size to the straw)
6. Make sure the straw is in the liquid but does not touch the bottom of the jar.
7. Use clay around the straw to ensure the jar is air tight and to hold the straw in position.
8. Draw a line on the jar with a marker to indicate room temperature.
9. Put the thermometer in different places to see what happens (eg direct sunlight, fridge)
9. Liquid explosion experiment
Materials needed: One bottle of diet coke, roll of mentos
Concept taught: The effect of carbon dioxide. Each mentos candy has lots of little pits over it, which means they have lots of great places for carbon dioxide bubbles to form. After all of the gas is released, the liquid is pushed out of the bottle at a great speed to form a big soft drink blast.
1. Stand the bottle of diet coke upright with the lid off in the middle of a large area.
2. Ensure everyone is standing clear
3. Unwrap the mentos roll and put all of them into the diet coke at the same time. (This can be quite tricky as you need them to go in very quickly)
4. Run into the safety zone and watch the reaction.
10. Bacteria/germs experiment
Materials needed: two potatoes, zip lock bags, a variety of surfaces
Concept taught: The best surfaces for bacteria to grow. Bacteria are microscopic organisms that live everywhere. Certain conditions cause bacteria to be more prevalent than others. The importance of hygiene can be discussed after observing the results.
1. Wash hands with warm soapy water before commencing experiment.
2. Cut two potatoes into slices using a clean knife.
3. Label 8 zip lock bags with the surfaces : hands, mouth, toilet, dirt, floor, sink, bin lid, bench
4. Take one potato slice and rub it all over your hands. Once done put it in the corresponding bag and zip it up.
5. Repeat process with the other 7 surfaces.
6. Put bags in a dark warm spot for 1 - 2 weeks.
7. Observe which potato slice had the most mould as bacteria helps mould grow.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and are enthusiastic to try some of these at home or in your classroom. Science gets children to ask questions and clarify their own understanding of how our world works. For older children, encourage them to try and explain the science behind each experiment.
Next week I will be starting a blog series aimed at educators and parents of children aged 8 - 12 years old. Please continue to share, comment and spread the news about CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT.
Until next time …
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