Category Archives: Cool Products

Throw the Ultimate Harry Potter Halloween or Birthday Science Party Part 1

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

My daughters, husband and I are all Harry Potter fanatics. Our obsession began last summer when my then 6-year-old and I began reading The Sorcerer’s Stone. After completing the book, we all watched the movie. Then my older daughter and husband were also hooked.

Part 2 from September 28, 2012

For my daughter’s seventh birthday, she wanted a Harry Potter themed party. That’s all she needed to say and I was all over it. My job helped us add some science into the festivities and create the world of Harry Potter in our garage. My suggestions will work for a birthday, Halloween or anytime HP party.

My girls demanded that I dress up as a character, so I went for the Divinations teacher, Sybill Trelawny. I’m not sure I captured her or just looked like a gypsy  librarian.

We began by transforming our garage into Hogwarts. I found wall decorations on Amazon and even a cool Chamber of Secrets-looking doorway poster. To fill in gaps, I used gold and black tablecloths. It was June, but I pulled out my Halloween decorations. We hung candles from the ceiling with thread and pins, blow up skeletons, light up spiders and more. The girls and I had a little too much fun creating potion jars and other decorations for the tables.

Blood Worms: Atomic Insta-Worms & red True Color Tablets in water. These also glow under a black light.
Polyjuice Potion: Water, Water Gel, green True Color Tablets, Pearl Swirl and grass blades.
Gillyweed:  Water, Clear Insta-Worms, blue True Color Tablets.

Skele-Gro: A Growing Body Parts Jar

Potion Test Tubes: Test Tube and Rack, Jumbo Test Tubes, Water Jelly Marbles, Water Jelly Crystals, Atomic Glow Concentrate, Black Lights, Clear SlimeTrue Color TabletsPearl Swirl, Colorful Growing Orbs and plastic spiders and bugs.

I also had several bubbling and boiling graduated cylinders in the background. Fill the cylinder about 3/4 full with warm water. Add a few True Color Tablets for color. Then drop a couple of pieces of dry ice. This also creates a nice bubbling lab sound effect. I also filled a black plastic cauldron with warm water and added dry ice. The kids loved it but I had to keep an eye on them so they wouldn’t touch the dry ice.

This isn’t science, but I also had a lot of fun with the treats and snacks. I had to cover all of the bases, besides, there’s nothing better than cauldron cakes, Honeydukes Fizzers and licorice wands.

I realize this is quite the list of science supplies, but each product comes in a large quantity and I also used them in the lesson demonstrations. In Part 2 of my Ultimate Harry Potter Party, I will list the activities and how I pulled it all off. Watch for the post next Friday, September 28th.

 

The Science Secret Behind Squishy Baff – How to Make Your Own Squishy Bath

By Blog Editor Susan Wells 

If you have kids, you’ve seen the commercials – buy a magic powder, add it to the bath and have a squishy bath. Squishy Baff works when you fill the bath with water, add a special colored powder, and the bath water turns to a soupy, mushy, squishy bath. Then have the kids climb in and have fun.

 

One of our favorite bloggers Sarah, from Moose and Tater, asked us to do a little work and figure out the science behind this product. We took the challenge and started in with our research.

Squishy Baff – the powder that turns your bath into squishy fun is most likely a polymer. Polymers are long chains of molecules. Water absorbing polymers soak up water through osmosis and swell to a larger size.  The polymer chains have an elastic quality, but they can stretch only so far and hold just so much water.

Most common synthetic polymers are said to be hydrophobic (water-fearing), which means that they do not absorb water. Examples of these polymers might include products such as plastic cups, bags, and plastic toys. There are also hydrophilic, or water-loving polymers. Many natural polymers such as cotton fibers are hydrophilic.

Steve Spangler Science sells several different polymers. These hydrogels come in solid form or in powder form. The Squishy Bath product is a powder. We believe it is very similar to our Water Gel powder.

Water Gel is also known as slush powder. It instantly turns a liquid into a solid or at least into a slushy solid. With Squishy Baff, the powder is super saturated with water, so it goes beyond a solid and becomes more of a goo.

The main ingredient in Water Gel is sodium polyacrylate. It absorbs from 800 to 1000 times its weight in water and is actually the secret ingredient that’s used to absorb “liquid” in baby diapers.

To replicate the gooey bath that Squishy Baff creates, we made a small scale version in a plastic tub. We added about 3 scoops of Water Gel and mixed it with about 2 pitchers full of colored water. Food coloring can stain, so we used our Color Fizzers – True Color Tablets to color the water.

Buy Water Gel now to make your own Squishy Baff

We came up with a very similar bath situation. It was squishy, it was gooey and it was a lot of fun. Hands and feet were quickly added to the solution. The kids couldn’t get enough of squishing the goo in their fingers and toes. I’m just glad we did this on a smaller scale…I couldn’t imagine trying to clean up an entire body covered with goo.

But what happens when the fun is over? The Squishy Baff people include a special powder to add to your bath at the end. The powder dissolves the polymer, allowing it to wash down the drain. Our guess was the “special” powder is really sodium chloride, or some type of salt. Salt breaks the bonds in a polymer, breaking it down.

The problem is it takes a LOT of salt to break down the polymer. We added about 1/3 cup of salt to our mixture and while the polymer did break down, there was still some of it left.

Water Gel is non-toxic, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated with care and adult supervision.

Our Spangler Lab Rats, the people behind the scenes at Steve Spangler Science who test all of our products, all winced when I mentioned putting Water Gel or Squishy Baff in the tub with children. For starters, a water-absorbing polymer will absorb water from anything it comes into contact with. If a child accidentally gets some of the powder in their mouth, the polymer will attach itself to all water, including that in the lips, mouth and cheeks. You can’t spit it out, because it absorbs the liquid in saliva. Drinking water will only make it worse and hydrate the powder even more. If you get water absorbing polymer powder in your mouth, your best option is to continually rinse and spit until your mouth is clear.

You also do not want the polymer to wash down the drain. In our experiment, even after adding a lot of salt, there was still a trace of Water Gel left in the water. I was not comfortable washing it down my drain, even if it had completely broken down. A little water absorbing polymer in your pipes can cause problems with clogs. The polymer will take a long time to wash away and will re-hydrate every time water runs down the pipe.

We poured our Water Gel squishy bath out in the garden. The water absorbing polymer helps with water conservation in the garden and will hold moisture in the dirt when it hydrates and slowly dehydrates, like in the experiment we did a few years ago with gardening with hydrogel crystals. You can also put it in a plastic bag and throw it away in the trash.

Whether you try Squishy Baff or our Water Gel experiment, we suggest you do not do it in the tub or sink and instead have the kids play with it in a blow up pool (like in the ad) or plastic tub. We also aren’t sure it’s a good idea to submerge children (or adults) in the hydrogel. The stuff isn’t meant to get into every crevice and just like taking a bath with bubble bath, it could potentially cause some irritation, especially in girls.

We love messy activities at Spangler Science, but cringe as parents when we think of trying to clean up children and tubs full of hydrogel. The stuff sticks everywhere.

 

 

Time Lapse Photography Shows Crystals Forming and Growing on Paper Tree

Carey Brown, father to our Customer Service Manager, Zarah Brown, shared these amazing time lapse photography videos. He was experimenting with his new time lapse photography equipment and used our Magic Growing Crystal Trees as his subjects.

Carey shot the time lapse using a Canon MP-E65mm super macro lens and a Canon 5D2 camera.

Pour the growing liquid into a plastic tray and insert the paper tree. Allow it to soak and after about 15 minutes, crystals will begin forming. The entire process takes about six hours. Once the tree is dry, you can keep it in a safe place to enjoy for weeks.

In the first video, you can see the capillary action as the water moves up the paper, and then crystals begin to grow.

In the second video, you can witness a crystal forming and growing up close and personal. The delicate spider fingers that grow and stretch really demonstrate how the crystals


Spectacular Science – 4th of July Activities

This is an encore posting from June, 2011 on 4th of July science activities. Many areas in Colorado have cancelled their fireworks displays this year due to extremely hot and dry conditions. Here are some ways to celebrate without fireworks or firecrackers…

Independence Day is the absolute best of summer – picnics, barbecue, fireworks and family fun. Are you looking for something to keep everyone entertained during your 4th of July summer picnic? We have some suggestions for summer learning fun…Fourth of July celebrations.

Before you watch the rockets red glare, how about firing off some of your own rockets, making your own ice cream and designing your own light show?  Here are some of our recommendations to make your 4th of July barbecue sizzle.

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How to Say Thank You to That Special Teacher

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

Every time I help out in the classroom, I am in awe of what my children’s teachers do every day. Not only do they have the responsibility of molding, shaping and educating young minds, but they also must deal with a constant influx of small issues. One child wants to share what they did over the weekend; another lost an earring and their ear hole will close in five minutes if it isn’t located; another is sitting at their desk without a pencil or the ability to locate another; another needs a book;  someone else left their lunch at home; and another is wandering aimlessly around the classroom. Let’s not also forget the meeting at the coat rack about why someone can’t play with the others at recess. And that is just in the first five minutes of the day.

Teachers wipe noses, bandaid boo boos, soothe hurt or upset feelings, go on search and rescue missions, serve as a mediator along with trying to educate young minds.

Even though both my mother and father were teachers, teaching is not in my blood. I know I’d either be huddled in the fetal position by the time the bell rang every day or I’d be crushing fragile souls with “just find it yourself!” I don’t have the patience or stamina to be a teacher.

That’s why I am so appreciative of what my children’s teachers do every day. They should be put on a pedestal and celebrated every day. Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7 – 11th this year. Make sure you honor and thank your children’s teachers for everything they do day in and day out. And don’t forget the other professionals at the school – the art, music and PE teachers, the office staff, school nurse and classroom aides. It’s a big list, but all of these people are helping to prepare your child for the world.

If you are at a loss for how to say thank you, we have a few suggestions beyond the Starbucks cards and body lotion.

Gift Certificates
Teachers spend an average of $2,000 to $3,000 a year out of their own pockets on classroom supplies. A gift certificate to Steve Spangler Science allows the teacher to choose exactly what they need or want for the classroom. You can send them immediately via email or have them delivered to the teacher’s door.

Steve’s Hands-on Science Experiment Books
Your teacher introduced you to thousands of amazing hands-on science experiments this year, so Steve Spangler’s Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste and Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes books are the perfect gift to say thank you. Both books are filled with a great collection of experiments and are now only $20 for the set.

Beaker Mug
Keep your teacher sipping in style with this scientifically modeled Beaker Mug. This mug, handcrafted from a real beaker, is a must for your favorite science teacher. They’ll never need to worry about someone “borrowing” their mug again. Theirs is the awesome Beaker Mug!

 Tie Dye Lab Coats 
Every year I give my kids’ teachers a lab coat. After several years at the school, it’s fun to see all of the teachers we have touched. So after a fun-filled year with your teacher, show them your appreciation with a Tie Dye Lab Coat. It’s a guaranteed hit and your teacher will love the way they look in their brightly colored lab coat. Safety has never looked quite so good.

 

These are some big ideas as gifts for the end of the year, but you don’t have to go big to show how much you care during Teacher Appreciation Week. Have your child write a note to their teacher, give them a plant, school supplies or a special treat. For more ideas, visit our Teacher Gifts page or for more crafty ideas and do it yourself ideas, visit our Pinterest Teacher Appreciation category.