Category Archives: Science Experiments

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!

The dinosaurs are a nice touch, though.
The dinosaurs are a nice touch, though.                                                                                                     (Source)

There are better, more exciting uses for that funky fluid. We’ll help you out with a few ideas to take your vinegar from dull to delightful with these science activities using vinegar. Did I mention that all of the materials are readily available at most stores (if you don’t already have it at home or in class)?


 5. Flame Light Relight

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If you weren’t aware of just what makes the old science fair volcano “erupt,” it’s the production of carbon dioxide gas from the combination of baking soda and vinegar. Now, what’s a fantastic use of carbon dioxide? If you said, “Warming the global climate,” you’re correct, but mistaking this blog post for a political rant.

But if you said, “Extinguishing flames!” you’re even more correct and definitely thinking on the right tracks.

Consider that fire as good as out!
Consider that fire as good as out!      (Source)

The CO2 gas produced from the most basic of acid-base reactions is exactly what you need to perform the Flame Light Relight activity. You’ll also need to commandeer a bit of yeast and hydrogen peroxide but everything for the activity should be at your disposal or easily purchased at a store.

The smoke is really just the bubbles screaming.
The smoke is really just the bubbles screaming.

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 4. Folding Egg

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Perhaps the only things that are on par with the smell of vinegar are eggs and sulfur. We definitely aren’t going to send you out to find some sulfur, so you know this experiment will involve the incredible edible egg. At least, the egg will have been edible when you started.

Eggs aren’t the most malleable item in the world. It’s tough to bend, let alone fold, when you’re known for cracking. With the Folding Egg project, though, you’ll be folding an egg in absolutely no time.

Looks good enough to eat... Later. Eat it later.
Looks good enough to eat… Later. Eat it later.

The Folding Egg is a result of the acetic acid’s reaction with the calcium carbonate found in eggshells. You can see the reaction in the bubbles that form on the egg’s shell. (It’s our good friend CO2, back for another appearance.) Eventually, all that remains in an inner membrane from the egg’s shell. Now you can fold that egg up and stack it neatly with the rest of your linens, or whatever it is you people who fold things do.

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 3. CO2 Sandwich

30abc13cc534f50d7e91a2fd6a66b470332ba6dbI’ll admit, it’s hard to feature vinegar in an experiment and not have it’s gaseous buddy CO2 come along for the ride. Them’s the facts of life, Brostrodamus, so saddle up and prepare to make a delicious sandwich with your favorite acid-base bi-product.

Of course, you’re not going to get much digestive satisfaction from a sandwich full of CO2-filled bubbles. What you will get, however, is a fantastic demonstration of how the vinegar-baking soda reaction can change air pressure in a closed space.

Consider that fire as good as out!
It was the dog, I swear!        (Source)

Not only does the CO2 Sandwich provide an excellent opportunity for scientific exploration (try altering the amounts of each chemical), but the POP! you hear after the zipper-lock threshold is broken? Let’s just say that it’s like the first time I heard The Turtle’s sing “Happy Together.”

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 2. Chemistry Rocket

19310341183c3e4763930296726b1e564d07a3c7“More air pressure activities? DJ, you’re boring.” Is that so? Then how come I’m teaching you how to make a rocket ship that will fly you to the moon using vinegar and baking soda? (Since we’re getting involved with projectiles, it’s the best practice to make sure that plenty of adult supervision is involved.)

The Chemistry Rocket uses the same principles of acid-base reactions and air pressure to launch a soda bottle into the atmosphere. By atmosphere, I mean like…  100 feet or so. I hope you weren’t actually expecting some sort of DIY space program. I’ve got nothing for you, there.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.09.16 PMWhat I do have for you, is all of the air pressure, acids, and bases contributing to a spectacular display of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Unscientific explanation: the bottle goes WHOOSH when the contents go KABLOW!

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


1. Ice Tray Battery

3eef8fb276f7e8a9782135d3f54d61966f9dd37cWhat do you get when vinegar, copper wiring, an LED, and some galvanized nails walk into an ice tray? It’s not a joke! You get a voltaic battery and a simple closed circuit. It may seem like creating a battery would have a lot more to it, but I speak the truth, people!

The Ice Tray Battery is the ultimate when it comes to kids’ science activities using vinegar. Simple household items throw their current-conducting properties into the pot to create a basic version of the batteries you buy at the store.

Love me yet?
Love me yet?                              (Source)

The look on young scientists’ faces when items that they know produces the unexpected result is like watching an LED light up from vinegar in an ice tray. It’s worth it, and isn’t that why we do things like this?

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 

486275_604344292689_1597661315_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

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.


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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!


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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

Density in Action: Can You Sink a Marshmallow?

By Loralee Leavitt, Candy Experiments

At the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, children crowd around the Candy Experiments booth.  A volunteer asks if they’re ready to take the marshmallow challenge: “Can you sink a marshmallow?”

As Steve Spangler teaches in the lemon and lime sink-and-float experiment, an object sinks if it is more dense than water.  It floats if it is less dense than water.

When you drop a marshmallow in water, it floats like a balloon.  A marshmallow is full of air bubbles, which puff it out.  The sugar in the marshmallow gets spread out over a large area, making the marshmallow less dense than water.  So how do you make a marshmallow denser?  You have to make it smaller.

To try the marshmallow challenge, take a mini marshmallow and squash it.  You can do this by smashing it between your palms, rolling it between your fingers, or smashing it against a flat surface.  Try to roll it into a ball rather than flatten it into a pancake, because a pancake shape floats better than a ball.

When your marshmallow is as small as you can make it, drop it in water.  Does it sink?  If it does, you’ve made it denser than water.  You beat the marshmallow challenge!

If that was too easy, try a harder challenge: sinking a regular marshmallow.  Squash or roll it on a cornstarch-covered cutting board to keep it from getting too sticky. (Otherwise, you may have to scrape the marshmallow goo off your hands with a spoon.)  Then drop it in a water to see what happens.  You can also try this experiment with Peeps, 3 Musketeers, or other kinds of candy that float.

 

 

Loralee Leavitt destroys candy for the sake of science at www.CandyExperiments.com. Her new book, Candy Experiments, contains dozens of amazing experiments including creating giant gummi worms, turning M&Ms into comets, and growing candy crystals.  Candy Experiments is available at Amazon.com.

The Invisible Secret Message That Glows in the Dark

Reveal invisible secret messages and drawings under a black light with a spooky homemade Halloween projector.

These handheld projectors are perfect for puppet shows, lighting up while trick or treating, flashing messages in the dark to your friends, haunted houses and more. Take them outside for fun after dark. Decorate a piece of paper, draw your message or picture with a fluorescent highlighter, glue it to a cup, add a black light and you are ready to take on the night.

With the Black Light Secret Message experiment, you’ll see that certain highlighters aren’t just brightly-colored – they’re actually fluorescent and glow underneath a black light! The secret messages and floating images you’ll create with this experiment are sure to create screams of joy and shrieks of excitement. Some even break open highlighters and squeeze out the ink to make glowing potions. On Friday, we will share the Science Behind some of our favorite glowing recipes.

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