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.


SITR Encouraging Teachers to Fill Classrooms with STEAM

Steve Spangler Hosts a Hands-on Science Institute for Teachers – Science in the Rockies – that Explores Strategies for Incorporating the Arts with Current STEM Initiatives

Lanyards for teachers ready for Science in the Teachers SITR

With more emphasis being put on teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), teachers are eager to learn how to integrate more science and engineering challenges into their daily curriculum. 

The business community has also discovered that students need more than facts and concepts to compete for STEM-based jobs.

Learning how to effectively communicate scientific ideas and engineering solutions requires a connection to the arts (oral, written and visual communication). STEM is turning into STEAM, and Steve Spangler is leading the charge.

Teachers learning and having fun at Science in the Rockies #SITR

That’s why 168 teachers from 5 countries are attending Science in the Rockies this week at the Sheraton Denver West Conference Center. During the three-day training, teachers will participate in more than 75 hands-on science experiments and engineering challenges aimed at engaging students on many levels.

The leader for SITR is none other than Denver’s own Steve Spangler, who is well known throughout the country for his eye-catching science experiments and engaging presentation style as a science communicator. 

Science in the Rockies Flash drives and test tubes - take home learning materials for SITR

“I believe that at its root level STEM is all about creating the next generation of young scientists and engineers,” says Spangler, who started his career as a science teacher in the Cherry Creek Schools from 1991-2003. “Science in the Rockies is all about teaching teachers how to turn ordinary activities into unforgettable learning experiences that will spark passion and enthusiasm in the students they reach.” 

Given Spangler’s reputation for making things fun, participants never know what to expect. What’s in store for this year’s participants? If you’re a betting person, place your money on messy and memorable.

 Teachers Send Home Multiple Boxes of Take Home Supplies from Science in the Rockies SITR

Kid City Does Spangler Science!

Bloomington, Indiana’s Kid City had a Spangler Science experience this week at Ivy Tech Community College, and according to a very professional exit poll* it was a big hit!

Kid City Science started off with marshmallow/toothpick towers.  The goal:  HEIGHT.
Kid City Science started off with marshmallow/toothpick      towers. The goal: HEIGHT.

After this project (Prize:  Insta-Snow!) a trip to the restroom to wash all that marshmallow dust off our hands was in order.  Before the students left the room, however, each got a squirt of GlitterBug Lotion to rub all over his/her hands.  They were then told to wash their hands thoroughly.

A casual handwashing will NOT get all the dirt off your skin!

One black light viewing later, and the students decided to go back to the sinks and try again.

That official exit poll* indicated that the hit of the morning was Insta-Worms.  The excitement also indicated that Insta-Worms were a popular activity.  We used Atomic Insta Worms because, well, they’re COOL, and we already had the black light.

They GLOW!

Polymer science is awesome in so many ways, and Insta-Worms is one of those ways.


Kid City students agree:  Insta-Worms rocked.

Both boys and girls agreed: Insta-Worms were awesome!
Both boys and girls agreed: Insta-Worms were awesome!
If it breaks, you can just stick it back together!  Polymers!
If it breaks, you can just    stick it back together!    Polymers!
You can make those Insta-Worms really long, too!
You can make those Insta-Worms really long, too!
The Kid City counselors loved the Insta-Worms, too!
The Kid City counselors loved the Insta-Worms,    too!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, you’re NEVER too old to have fun with science – just ask those Kid City counselors up there!

And the QUESTIONS!  All morning, super questions about polymers, and pyramids, and black lights, and more.  When there are lots of questions, there is lots of learning going on.

QUESTIONS!  There were     questions!
QUESTIONS! There were    questions!

And there was tie dye – not the t-shirt kind – the milk kind!

Tie Dye Milk
Tie dye, using whole milk, food coloring, and Dawn dishwashing detergent!
And more tie dye!
And more tie dye!
. . . and MORE!
. . . and MORE!

Color-changing milk is such a simple experiment, and yet the results are beautiful.  All you need is a plate, a cotton swab, a dot of Dawn dishwashing detergent, and some whole milk.  I think it usually looks like tie dye, but some of the Kid City students thought theirs looked like stained glass.  It did, too.

We did a lot more in our three hours together – culminating with some ice cream in a zip-lock bag – but these were some highlights.

The morning with Kid City was a lot of fun, for the counselors, for me, and from the reactions, questions, and laughter, for the students as well.  And, as with most things that create genuine laughter and fun, there was a lot of learning, as well.  I hope much of the morning’s lab ended up at each student’s dinner table, because, as Steve Spangler himself often says, “If it ends up at the dinner table, it was a success.”

As for that exit poll I was referring to up there, I asked each student, as he/she exited the lab, what they liked best.  The Atomic Worms pretty much won, but every experiment we’d done that morning was mentioned, so I count them all a success.

A success.  You know – like each and every one of those wonderful Kid City kids are now and will be for the rest of their lives.


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!