Category Archives: Science Experiments

Hands-on Science at Home: Needless or Necessary?

Some of us grew up with fantastic science teachers. Mrs. Russell, Mr. Steward, and Mr. Landis are names that you won’t necessarily recognize, but they’re the three science teachers I’ve had in my entire lifetime. I will never forget them, because they were and are awesome science teachers. (Forget the fact that I graduated with less than 20 kids in my class and that the last of those teachers is my best friend’s dad, or that my sister married my best friend’s little brother… Hooray small towns!) But some kids will never have that, that’s why you need to get hands-on science at home.


Classroom Thumwar with DJ
I assume that not everyone had the beneficial science teacher experience that I did, but it blows my mind. How can that even be possible? Then I discovered that the “science teacher” is an endangered species.

Especially when it comes to elementary-aged chitlens, there aren’t teachers dedicated to educating 6- to 12-year-olds on the FREAKING AMAZING WORLD OF SCIENCE! If you were to remove science education from my elementary education, I can personally guarantee that I would not have graduated. Math never made sense unless there was a scientific application. Science is the answer to “when will I ever use this?”

Tomorrow. You'll use this tomorrow... what's the squiggly line mean, again?
Tomorrow. You’ll use this tomorrow… what’s the squiggly line mean, again?                            (Source)

I’m definitely NOT saying that the current teachers being tasked with educating the youth on science are incompetent. They’re already stretched beyond their means, for Bill Nye’s sake. I’m saying that science deserves its own special time, teacher, and even room in the school. I want to scream, because it isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

When I worked in customer service here at Steve Spangler Science, I cannot count on all of my fingers and toes how many times I heard that there’s no budget for science, or that it is being cut, or that teachers had to squeeze it into after-school programs. DEAR SCHOOL BOARDS: Science is the reason that there is a school in the first place, that your children aren’t dropping dead from small pox, and is the basis of all advancement for our planet.

Math = important. Language = important. History = important. Science = meh.

Yeah. That looks super boring and unimportant.
Yeah. That looks super boring and unimportant.

That just doesn’t add up. And again, I’m not arguing importance of anything except science, here. Without language, how could results be replicated? Without math, how would we understand measurements necessary to science? And history… well, there’s the whole saying about it repeating itself. Then there’s science, down at the bottom of the budget list below the coffee expenses.

But, as we’ve seen in recent history, schools take for-eh-ver to change their ways, and the government takes even longer. So how do you inject science into your children’s education? YOU have to do it. You don’t need to home school your kids, but I’ve got all kinds of props for parent/teacher hybrids that I like to call Parajucators. But, take some time out after dinner, before bed, or when the kids get home from school to do some hands-on science.

I'm partial, but may I kindly suggest... YouTube.com/SickScience
I’m partial, but may I  suggest… YouTube.com/SickScience

Don’t have a lot of dough for science supplies? You don’t need it! There are plenty of simple experiments, projects, and activities that can be done right at home and there are plenty of resources to go off of… *cough* SteveSpanglerScience.com *cough*

I’m not going to toot my own horn. Instead, I’m going to conduct the entire band. Have you seen our Sick Science videos? They’re less than 10 minutes long, every time, and walk you through the steps of simple hands-on science projects to do at home. Worried about cost? You probably have well over 90% of what you need right at home!

I’ve spent over 4 years writing the step-by-step instructions for our write-ups, but when I finally started doing the activities with my 6- and 8-year-olds at home, I realized just how easy it is to get them excited about ciencia (that’s science in Spanish). Now, even if there just isn’t time for the actual hands-on experience, they mix in science how-to videos with all of their usual video games and talking cats. Your kids can do it, too, I bet. But I don’t gamble.


 

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Fresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

5 Cool Science Experiments Using Pretty Much Nothing But Water!

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on science supplies. Heck, with these, all you need to do is turn on the water faucet!

1.  Okay, ice is water, right?  How do ice skaters glide across the ice so smoothly and quickly?  It’s all about the science.  Get out a dinner plate and put a large glass on it, upside down.  Put an ice cube on the glass.

water experiment 1

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5 Non-Volcano Kids’ Science Activities Using Vinegar

Want science activities using vinegar? Look no further than Classroom Thumb War with DJ.

Vinegar is a smelly staple of science educators everywhere. The solution of acetic acid is the most often-used, simple acidic solution in the lab, and it’s non-toxic and safe to be handled. It’s no wonder that vinegar is a key component of tons of activities and projects for all sorts of chemically based experiences. What’s that? You only know that classic vinegar and baking soda volcano? C’mon, science-based blog reader!

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The 4 Elements of a Memorable Science Demonstration

Since starting at Steve Spangler Science in 2009, there’s one question that gets asked of our team more than any other: how do you create a memorable science demonstration? And the truth is, from our customer service team to our production team to Steve Spangler himself, we’ll all give you a different answer. So which answer is right? All of them!

Nobel Prizes for everyone!
Nobel Prizes for everyone!                             (Source: Wikipedia)

No matter who is supplying the formula for a memorable science demonstration, they’re correct. Every demonstrator uses the same 4 elements to create the perfect demo for their group, family, kids, or audience, though their methods may be different. They happen to correspond very well with the 4 classic elements. Most people start with…


DirtEarth – Research
Earth is the most familiar of the elements. We spend every day traversing its dusty, dry surface, but we have no clue what’s actually going on inside of it. For all we know, the core of the earth is a big, bubbling vat of baking soda and vinegar waiting to erupt with dyed carbon dioxide bubbles.

Science fair basics aside, it’s good to reacquaint yourself with the science behind the demonstration you’re going to perform. Even if you’re confident in your answer as to why you can create a teeter-totter by with two candles, it will be beneficial to get a refresher. Who knows, science could have uncovered a different answer!

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The world’s most sinister seesaw results from a children’s demonstration.

Researching your demonstration is also a great opportunity to discover ways of taking your experiment further. Find ways to spin off of your initial demonstration. This is your chance to really find ways of driving your lesson home.


drop-83018_640
Water – Practice
More often than not, mysterious happenings come from the water. Flesh eating river fish, mythical monsters, and giant snakes make sure that no human (scientist or otherwise) ever gets too comfortable within a triple-jump of water’s edge.

You shouldn’t be too comfortable in the performance of your demonstration, either. No one (read: actually, literally no one) likes having their demonstration, presentation, slide show, or what-have-you fail to perform. Geysers that don’t explode, launchers that don’t launch, and paper airplanes that don’t do the “plane”-part are all sure-fire ways of winding up red-faced in front of your audience.

IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!
IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!

Now, this is science, so there’s always a chance that things just won’t go your way. THAT is what makes practicing your demo so valuable. Practice gives you the chance at troubleshooting possible issues with your demo. From setup to procedure to clean up, practicing makes sure you’re ready for anything that science throws your way.


air-19227_640Air – Application
Without air, we’re dead. That’s just a fact of life, and YES I intended that horrible pun.

We all require air to run our body. While you never forget how to breathe, we don’t think about it very often, unless we’re really USING our breath. Runner, yoga instructors, midwifes… these people know what it means to really use our breath, because they learned to apply it.

The same goes for so many science demonstrations and lessons. When our minds learn new information, like that hot air has low pressure and rises, we are much more likely to remember it with a direct application. Talk to them about how the downstairs of their house probably feels cooler than the 2nd story or talk to them about weather, wind, and pressure.

Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know... it's science.
Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know… it’s science.

When demos don’t match up with a solid application, you create the dreaded, “When am I ever going to use this?” You need earth and water to be ready for that one!


fractal-22188_640
Fire – Passion

Earth is solid, water is liquid, and air is gaseous. Fire is plasma? Fire is flame? Fire is part of a grouping of things called “intangibles” by sports coaches everywhere; just like passion.

Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.
Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.                           (Source: Flickr)

Passion may not be absolutely required to pull off a memorable science demonstration, but it definitely aids in the effort. People of all ages can tell when someone is passionate about what they’re doing. The more genuinely excited you are about the demonstration you’re doing, the more excited your audience is going to be. Your energy is contagious.

Now just go and do it!

 

541289_10151141696561242_1371670891_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

5 Viral Science Experiments You Didn’t Know We’ve Done Already

The term “viral” has undergone quite the makeover since the end of the 20th century. A word that used to have a connotation on par with “bacterial” has now become something that is sought after.  Going viral entails that something is spreading like proverbial wildfire. There’s viral marketing, viral memes, viral video, and viral photos. There are even viral science experiments.

*cough* Viral: definitely a good thing. *cough*
*cough* Viral: definitely a good thing. *cough*

The problem with things going viral is that, oftentimes, the originator of the content gets lost in the shuffle. Whether it’s from oversight by the sharer or just another detail lost in internet translation.

Here are some instances where Steve Spangler Science got lost in the shuffle. (Note: I’m not saying that we were the first to come up with the experiments. Many of them have been around for years and years.)


 

5. 9 Layer Density Column


You can count 'em. It's all there.
You can count ‘em. It’s all there.

In the last year, we’ve seen the picture above shared more than any other. But did you know that the original experiment only featured 7 layers and no solid objects? It’s true. Our video team decided to take it to another level by adding two additional layers and objects of varying densities. For our money, it’s still the best density demonstration (especially visually) available. Since our 9 Layer Column made it out among the people, you can also find 12 layer columns like this one:  http://youtu.be/4EMUsPJtCoc

Here’s the original video: http://youtu.be/-CDkJuo_LYs


 

4. Mentos Geyser

Secretly powering Old Faithful since 2004.
Secretly powering Old Faithful since 2004.

If you ask someone at the Spangler office what they think is our most famous experiment, they’ll tell you either Insta-Snow® powder, or the Mentos Geyser. The latter has been featured on MythBusters and, more recently, Epic Meal Time (although everyone knows the fruit Mentos don’t work as well, guys). It’s had a couple of viral rounds, but we’re pretty sure it started here.

Here’s the original video: http://youtu.be/rlSMNQ5K51c


 

3. Color Changing Milk

A more "colorful" liquid than is found in the East River.
A more “colorful” liquid than is found in the East River.

The Pinterest fanatics will recognize this one. It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of food coloring, some milk, and dish soap. The newest alteration involves using some Elmer’s glue instead of milk to create a permanent work of art that’s as cool as it is colorful.

Here’s the original video: http://youtu.be/Hr6dZ6aWpF4


 

2. Monster Foam

No monsters were harmed.
No monsters were harmed.

Over the last few years (since the demonstration’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show) we’ve received more calls about this one than any other. Unfortunately, the results are a bit caustic, so we don’t provide the step-by-step process for this one, like we do the others. But it’s still a reaction that is sure to catch some eyes.

Here’s the original video: http://youtu.be/XVLCQYBQPQY


 

1. Instant Freeze

I was going to drink that...
I was going to drink that…

This is the most recent viral experiment that had our team going, “Hey, we’ve done that!” While many variations have come about (including hot ice), Steve has featured it during winter segments on 9News to show people what can happen when they accidentally leave their water bottles in their freezing car overnight.

Here’s the original video: http://youtu.be/sh1Ulhh4pgk