Category Archives: Science Experiments

Science Project? Parents – Hands Off!

It’s back to school, and school means an eventual science project!  Do not fear it.   While it’s true that not everybody loves a science fair, it’s also true that some people do.  In my experience as a parent and as a teacher, the kids who enjoy the science fair the most tend to be the students who did it themselves.

All those huge fancy projects obviously created by adults are NOT what the science fair is all about, and it is definitely not what the science fair should be.

Parents, we expect your young lower elementary children to produce science projects that look like they were made by young lower elementary students.  A seven-year-old child doesn’t usually submit a nuclear reactor lettered by a calligraphy expert and put together by NASA.

A good science fair judge likes a science project that is, without a shadow of a doubt, thought up and put together by the student.

Parents, your job, during science fair season, is to provide materials, advice, and pats on the back.  Keep your hands OFF the actual project.

Andy made his science project all by himself.
Andy made his science project all by himself.

See that science project up there?  Andy was six years old that year.  His parents supplied him with magazines, books, and suggestions, and he decided what he wanted to do and did it all by himself.

Sara did her science project all by herself, too!
Sara did her science project all by herself, too!

These two science projects might not look professional, but that’s because they’re not.  They were thought up and created by small children, and I can guarantee you that their parents did nothing but show support, provide materials, and stand back.

How can I guarantee that?  Easy.

These are MY children and I am the parent who put her hands behind her back and did NOT help.  These projects are the honest results of two small children’s ideas and labor.

Which is exactly what a science project is supposed to be.

Back off the science project, parents.  It’ll be hard – I know – but it’s how it’s supposed to be.  Anything else is cheating.

If you need help getting ideas,  Steve Spangler’s website is full of wonderful ideas, most of which can be done by children with little or no help from an adult.

Now, sit down with your kids and discuss what they’re interested in so their science project will reflect that.  A science project isn’t something that can be done overnight – start planning well in advance.

Tomorrow would be a good time.

The Big Bag of Science!

It seems like summer has only just begun, but the truth is, school will be starting in just a few weeks in many areas and nothing says preparation for school like Spangler Science’s Big Bag of Science!

Science is such an all-encompassing area, and one of our (many) goals here is to try to help as many kids (and adults, too!) learn just how awesome and interesting and fun science can be.  Remember, our goal here isn’t just to get kids excited about an explosion or a color change or a geyser, etc. – it’s to get kids excited about learning so that they become LIFELONG learners.

Our Big Bag of Science is just what your home needs to help everyone who lives there or visits there do experiments that will help a student (and we are ALL students) make connections and get a little sampling of all different kinds of science, each with experiments and explanations galore to make the process flow smoothly.  Physics, chemistry, biology. . . . measurements, observation. . . you name it, and this kit has it.

Check out the awesome – it’s Steve Spangler’s Big Bag of Science!

Just look at that Big Bag of Science – all those many possible experiments that will open up the world of science to your kids and help them greet the new school year with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn more and more!

While they’re at school, you’ll want to play with our Big Bag of Science, too.  Just try not to use anything up completely because, believe me, your kids know what was there when they were forced to leave this kit behind, and they’ll expect it all to still be there when they get home this afternoon.

There’s just nothing like our Big Bag of Science to get and keep kids interested in science.

They make great gifts, too.  The holidays aren’t that far away, you know.

UV Beads and Bracelets and Amber, Oh My!

Spangler Science’s UV Beads are one of my (many) favorites of Steve’s products, and there are so many interesting things that can be done with them!

Combining science and literature is also one of my favorite things to do with students, and since science can be teamed up with everything else, creating a combination mystery story/fairy tale/science project is easy!

I like mysteries, and I like fairy tales, and I like science. Let’s put them together!

What possible mystery could there be about UV Beads?  Well, for starters, they’re all identical in the package – snow white,  and not really very interesting in appearance.  Ah, but appearances can be deceiving. . . .

And what connection could we make between UV Beads and fairy tales?

What if an intrepid young person were to be given a goal, say, the King offered his kingdom as a prize to whoever brought him the most interesting object in the kingdom?  Young men and young women everywhere would flock to the palace in hordes, each with ideas and suggestions and examples, and it would be up to the King to select the most interesting object and award the prize.

Now, one young man in particular had an idea, and he knew it was a good one.But he needed to package his idea in such a way that he could easily transport it to the palace.

His idea?  UV Beads.  They were white and mysterious, and yet when exposed to the sunlight, they turned into a beautiful rainbow of bright colors.  That’s pretty interesting, don’t you think?  This young man thought so.  His name was Sol, and he was a young man of many talents.

One of his talents was needlework, and he decided to get out his crochet needle and work a simple bracelet containing five beads, one of each color, to bring to the King.

He started with a basic chain stitch.

Basic chain stitch, with five stitches.
Basic chain stitch, with five stitches.

After that fifth stitch, Sol slipped a UV bead over the loop.

Sol slipped a UV bead over the loop after every five stitches!
Sol slipped a UV bead over the loop after every five stitches!

Five plain white UV beads with five stitches in between layers, and Sol snipped the yard and tied the ends into a bracelet!

Sol's finished UV bracelet!
Sol’s finished UV bracelet!

Sol slipped the bracelet onto his arm, but on his way to the palace, he thought of some other ways to prove to the King that his contribution to the contest was the most interesting one.  He made a few more bracelets, and put them into amber medicine bottles!

Sol made a bracelet for everyone in the King's court, and put each in an amber medicine bottle!
Sol made a bracelet for everyone in the King’s court, and put each in an amber medicine bottle!

He put all the bottles in his backpack and set out to the palace to show the King.  The UV beads were so fascinating to Sol that he just knew the King would think so, too.

Here’s a closeup of what the bracelets looked like in their amber bottles:

UV bead bracelet in amber bottle
UV bead bracelet in amber bottle.

When Sol arrived at the palace, he presented a bottle to the King, who said, “What is this?  An amber bottle with a simple bracelet inside?  How is this interesting?”

“Just you wait, Your Majesty,” said Sol.  “Slip this bracelet on your wrist, and go stand by that window with your bottle.”

The King did so, and the moment the sun’s UV rays touched the plain white beads, they began to turn beautiful colors.

“This is amazing!” shouted the King.  “This is by far the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen! Please tell me more!”

So Sol explained to the King about the sun’s UV rays, and about the amber bottle being able to block these rays.

The sun , but the UV rays are invisible.
The sun , but the UV rays are invisible.

“So this is why my medicine always comes in an amber bottle!”  shouted the King.  “UV rays have the power to change things!”

“That’s right!” said Sol happily.  He had a feeling that he knew who was going to inherit the kingdom, and he was right, too.

“I brought enough amber bottles and bracelets for everybody in the court,” said the new King Sol.

And they all lived happily ever after, and nobody was ever sunburned again.

The end.


Non-Newtonian and Fun!

Non-Newtonian fluids are an aspect of science that is simple, interesting, and a lot of fun.  Non-Newtonian fluid experiments are also inexpensive; there are only two ingredients and both are probably already in your pantry.

School’s out, but that doesn’t mean learning is on hiatus.  There are so many cool experiments to keep kids busy and their imaginations soaring, and most of them don’t cost much, if anything at all.  Non-Newtonian fluids are one of these.

Mix the two ingredients with our fingers!
Mix the two ingredients with your fingers!

But what IS a non-Newtonian fluid?

It’s a fluid that is both liquid and solid, depending on what you’re doing with it.  Non-Newtonian fluids defy the laws of viscosity, or ease of flow.  Water is highly viscous and flows smoothly, but syrup, ketchup, mustard, and honey don’t pour – they gradually flow.

Get a large bowl and put a box of cornstarch in it.  Gradually add water until you’ve got a gooey concoction; you can start by using a large spoon to mix but you’ll end up using your fingers.

When your cornstarch/water ratio is such that it doesn’t splash when you tap it with your finger, it’s ready to play with.

Scoop some into your hand and work it into a ball.  It will stay solid and round until you stop rubbing it.  Once you stop rubbing it, it will turn into a puddle in your hand and drip right through your fingers.

Remember Silly Putty?  That’s a non-Newtonian fluid, too.

But what is really fun is quicksand.  Oh, not real quicksand, although it’s easier to escape from than old cowboy movies would lead you to believe.  What’s really fun is creating some “quicksand” in a big container and dancing on it.

Let's make some quicksand!
Let’s make some quicksand!

In a large container, start dumping boxes of cornstarch and adding water, mixing with your hands until it “taps” just right.

. . . and mix it with your hands until it's juuuuuust right. . . .
. . . and mix it with your hands until it’s                                              juuuuuust right. . . .

The above pictures are from the Shazaam Science program at Ivy Tech Community College’s summer College for Kids program, but even the celebrities love to walk on water, Spangler Science style!

So do these experiments at home with your kids, or at school with your students. . . .

Then appear on Ellen DeGeneres’ show and demonstrate how a person can run across or dance on top of a good non-Newtonian batch of fake quicksand and only sink when you stop moving.

Everybody loves science, even famous celebrities.  That’s because with science, there’s just so much to love.

Like, everything.





UV Beads: Experiments and Crafts!

There are so many creative things to make and do with Spangler Science’s Color Changing Beads – UV Beads – that we’re going to talk about just a few here.  We simply don’t have all day!

Spangler Science UV Beads!
Spangler Science UV Beads!

Our UV beads are pony beads that have been treated so that they react with the sun’s UV rays.  The beads are snow white when they are not in the sun, and they turn various colors when the sun’s rays hit them.

For this reason, our UV beads are fantastic when you or your children plan to spend some time at the beach or any place that is outdoors, in reach of the sun’s rays.

Many parents or childcare providers like to give each child a little bracelet made of UV beads, or weave a bead or two into a child’s hair, or safety-pin a single bead – or two or three – to a child’s swimsuit or play clothes.  When the sunscreen is applied to the child’s skin, some is also spread over the beads.  When the beads begin to turn color, it’s time for more sunscreen!  In this way, even very small children can help take responsibility for their own sunscreen application!

UV bead bracelet


The beads will turn colors even when the day is cloudy, but the colors will be brighter in bright sunlight.  Remember, our skin is in danger from UV rays even on cloudy days, and the beads can help us stay alert!

Have you ever wondered why most prescription medicine is sold in those amber bottles?  UV rays can’t penetrate the amber, so your medication stays fresh; UV rays can actually change the chemical content of your pills.

A good experiment is to put a few UV beads in an empty amber medicine bottle and replace the lid.  Take the bottle outside; even the brightest sunlight can’t touch the beads!

The sun's UV rays can't touch the pills in this bottle!
The sun’s UV rays can’t touch the             pills in this bottle!

But if you open the lid and let the sunshine touch the beads, they will change colors.

UV beads in opened bottlePour the beads into your hand and the colors will really flow!

Just a few seconds in the sun, and the colors are showing!  They'll get even darker in less than a minute!
Just a few seconds in the sun, and the colors are showing! They’ll get even         darker in less than a minute!

The high school and college students in my community are wearing their UV beads in an even more creative way – they’re crocheting a long chain, with a bead placed every ten stitches or so, tying the ends together, and winding them around their wrists.  Apparently these wrist-wraps are quite popular, and with the UV beads, they’re quite useful as well!

UV bead crocheted loopI’ve seen some of the students wear this as a necklace, but most of them are using it as a wrist-wrap.

UV bead wrist-wrapPretty cool, huh.

Well, they made one for me, and I sure thought so!

By the way, water will not hurt your UV beads at all, but it will wash away the sunscreen you put on them.  Be sure to reapply your sunscreen the minute you see the beads start to turn colors!