Category Archives: Science Spotlight

Greystone Elementary's Science Week Goes Beyond the Classroom

Each year, Greystone Elementary in Birmingham, Alabama chooses a topic for a school-wide enrichment week dedicated to help all students learn something they may not learn in the classroom.

Greystone Elementary Celebrates Science Week

This year, teacher Mandy Fox decided to make the week dedicated to science after watching experiment videos from Steve Spangler. Mandy and her co-teacher put together a schedule full of science activities and lessons. They chose activities based on what would “wow” the students and get them interested in science.

Mandy says, “it was great seeing so many kids excited about learning more about science.”

Greystone Elementary Celebrates Science Week

The week was packed with small and large group experiments like Walking on Eggs, Burning Money, Iron for Breakfast and Film Canister Rockets. They had guest speakers like an archeologist, forensic scientist, wildlife rescue officer, chemist, dog agility trainer and a robotics team. The week ended with a paper airplane building competition.

Do we even have to state that the kids had a great time? Mandy says the kids are still telling her that the science week was awesome. Some wish science week could be every week. Now that’s getting it to the dinner table.

Greystone Elementary Celebrates Science Week

The teaching staff also enjoyed  the week. One teacher told Mandy that she didn’t like teaching science because it always seemed so hard. Mandy shared, “with Steve Spangler experiments, it made it so easy and she LOVED sharing in the learning with the kids. She said it had made her a believer in the ease of getting kids to question and want to learn more about science. ”

Mandy Fox and all of the teachers and staff at Greystone Elementary are teachers making a difference. They don’t just teach with worksheets and to the test. They are inspiring their students by creating memorable, teachable moments. Our hats are off to these amazing educators.



11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow

Fort Lauderdale, Florida sixth grader Peyton Robertson may revolutionize how we protect ourselves and property from flooding.

Earlier this month, he won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for his sandless sandbag. The Young Scientist Challenge is sponsored by 3M and the Discovery Channel Education and is open to students in grades 5 – 8. The 2014 challenge opens in late December. Student scientists can win cash prizes and trips.

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow
Courtesy ABC News

Robertson, who wants to be an inventor when he grows up, has invented a sandbag that doesn’t use sand to stop flooding. His bag is “sandless” and contains a much lighter polymer. Sandbags weigh about 40 pounds each, but the sandless sandbag only weighs only a few pounds.

The sandless bag is filled with a mixture of an “ultra-fluid” polymer and salt. When the bag gets wet, the polymer absorbs water and expands, keeping water from seeping through the cracks between bags. This bag is heavy when expanded and won’t float away either.

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow
Courtesy ABC News

The polymer looks very similar to our Water Gel or Insta-Snow, or the polymer found in a baby diaper. Insta-Snow starts out as a fine white powder, but when water is added, the powder absorbs it and quickly expands.

Insta-Snow Powder - Water Absorbing Polymer

Robertson says he came up with the idea after he and his family hid in a closet during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It was the third hurricane in the 2005 season to reach Category 5 status. Wilma was also the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic and was responsible for 62 deaths. His neighborhood was devastated by the damage, so Robertson set off to find a way to keep the water out.


Source: ABC News



High School Students Get a Kitchen Science Lesson with Homemade Ice Cream

Students taking a culinary class at Springs Valley High School in French Lick, Indiana experimented using our Sick Science! Homemade Ice Cream recipe in class last week. They were studying the different ways to make ice cream. They first made ice cream using a churn and then tried our way using a Zip-Loc bag and a lot of ice.

A high school student makes ice cream in a science lab.

The students and their instructor Lisa Wray, enjoyed all of their hard work. Their school building also includes a preschool and the class plans on making more ice cream and sharing it with their tiny counterparts.


Students show off their homemade ice cream in their science lab

You can also make homemade ice cream with some materials and ingredients found in your kitchen, although you may need to take a trip to the store for rock salt.

What You Will Need: 

  • Large (1 gallon) plastic jar (a coffee can works, too)
  • 2 quart-size zipper-lock bags
  • Half & Half
  • Crushed ice (or snow in the winter!)
  • Rock salt
  • Vanilla
  • Sugar
  • Towel (or winter gloves)

Prep Time: 

  • About 10 minutes to pull together the ingredients and supplies.

Time the Activity Will Take: 

  • Ice cream will take about 20 minutes to make. 


Let’s Do It! 

  • Fill the plastic jar about half full with crushed ice.
  • Add about 6 tablespoons of rock salt to the ice. Seal the plastic jar and shake the ice and salt for about five minutes. You’ll need to wear your gloves when you’re handling the jar. If you’re curious as to why you have to wear gloves, measure the temperature of the mixture with a thermometer. The rock salt and ice mixture gets down to about 14 degrees F (-10 degrees C)!
  • Use one quart-size zipper-lock bag to mix the following ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup of Half & Half
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Play and Freeze Ice Cream MakerSeal tightly, allowing as little air to remain in the bag as possible. Too much air left inside may force the bag open during shaking.
  • Place this bag inside the other quart-size bag, again leaving as little air inside as possible and sealing well. By double-bagging, the risk of salt and ice leaking into the ice cream is minimized.
  • Place the two bags inside the jar with the ice and seal the bag. Wrap the bag in the towel or put your gloves on. Shake, rock, roll, and mix that can! Your ice cream should be ready after about 15-20 minutes.
  • Once mixed, remove the inner bags from the jar and rinse them well with water. You don’t want any salt water accidentally getting into your ice cream.

Vanilla doesn’t have to be the only flavor. Add chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, fresh fruit or nuts to experiment with flavor.

With a classroom of kids, use small snack baggies to make individual servings.











Dr. Mad Science Featured in New York Daily News Keeps Kids Learning Over the Summer

One of our favorite kid scientists, Doctor Mad Science, was featured last week in the New York Daily News. His science videos share DIY science experiments and activities to an audience of kids and their parents.

We were introduced to 11-year-old Jordan Hilkowitz a few years ago. He is an amazing online video star who shares his versions of kid-friendly science experiments inspired by the big guys.

Doctor Mad Science Featured in NY Daily News

He has performed science experiments from Steve Spangler, Paul Doherty from San Francisco’s Exploratorium, Science Bob and the Whiz Kid.

Jordan is autistic and until about six years ago, barely spoke at all. He enjoyed trying science experiments at home. His babysitter Tracy Leparulo suggested he perform them while she videotaped him. They then posted the videos on a YouTube channel they named Doctor Mad Science. Tracy thought the video practice would help his speech and gain a little confidence.

Today, Jordan writes his own scripts and chooses the experiments to perform. He has almost 20,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, and a following on Twitter and Facebook.

“If you had told me six years ago that my autistic son who was non-verbal, had temper tantrums, and banged his head against the wall, would be giving lectures in front of hundreds of people, I would never have believed it,” his mom Stacey told the NY Daily News.

Jordan has grown into a confident scientist who wants to share his love and knowledge of science with his viewers. We enjoy following his journey and will continue to cheer him on in his endeavors.





Isabella the Science Girl Shows Teachers and Students That Science Knows No Age Limit

Isabella is a 5-year-old super science kid who lives in Caguas, Puerto Rico. She has been conducting science experiments since she was two years old.

Isabella is a very curious child. She wants to know how things work, she’s very interested in nature, animals, the weather all those things fascinate her. When she was a toddler we took her to a children’s museum and she was fascinated with the exhibits about the human body and wanted to know how everything worked; ears, eyes, tongue etc.. After that all she wanted was to know how things work and how they are made. Some of her questions were; why are plants green? Why the colors in the rainbow? How thunders happen? What is the moon? What is the sun? What is a hurricane? She observed and wanted to know.

- Isabel Gandulla, Isabella’s mom

Isabella’s first experiments were simple – focusing on basic and acid solutions using baking soda to see which liquids could create a reaction. She ran around the house looking for more liquids to mix and see if they would react.

Now, every night at her bedtime, Isabella picks a theme, like how to make paper. Her mom helps her find an appropriate YouTube video to watch. After watching, they discuss the video. That’s how her family discovered Steve Spangler Science. Isabella watches the videos or reads the books and then creates experiments.  She’s done exploding volcanos, non newtonian fluids, bacteria growth, experiments with balloons, how to extract chlorophyll from a leaf, the list is quite long.

“I guess, we saw a spark in her and we realized we had to feed that spark and help her grow,” added her mom.

This past school year, Isabella was in Pre-K and Puerto Rico experienced a tropical storm. To learn more about what she had experienced, Isabella researched how a storm forms, low pressure zones and centrifugal force. She gave a presentation to her class and shared what she had learned.

Isabella  had such a passion for science, she wanted to participate in the school science fair. The school did not allow Pre-K students to enter the fair.  Instead, her preschool teacher set up a science week. The Pre-K kids were able to share their science projects with their class and participate in some fun science-themed activities.

During the science week, their amazing teacher borrowed Isabella’s science books from Steve Spangler. The class performed some of Steve’s experiments including bubbles and Mentos and Diet Coke geysers. The teacher also lined up visits from real scientists like doctors and dentists.

A few of Isabella’s other science projects this year included a study of different types of combustibles and how they make things go. She also conducted an experiment on bacteria. She harvested bacteria from her fingernails, mucus, saliva and her dog’s saliva and allowed it to grow in petri dishes for a week. After a week, she added alcohol, hand sanitizer and hydrogen peroxide to the bacteria farm to see how it would kill the germs. Her results inspired her to start a campaign at her school to encourage hand washing, not biting fingernails and throwing used tissues in the trash.

Her mom, Isabel, says “to actually see the dirty bacteria growing makes it tangible and fun for her.”

Isabella also loves dinosaurs and animals of all kinds. Maybe she is a veteranarian in training?

Needless to say, Isabella’s parents are bursting with pride over their dynamo. Did we forget to mention she’s a well-rounded kid? Isabella is fluent in both English and Spanish, is learning to read, write and some basic math. She enjoys sports and art…she’s active in karate, ballet, drums and a veteran at her tennis club. If that isn’t enough, Isabella is also trying out for her swimming team. Because she is so young, if she makes the team, Isabella will be placed in a special group. She is determined to be the youngest member of the team.

This is one motivated kid! Her parents say they are enjoying every minute of their journey and work hard to juggle and make things work for their amazing daughter.