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!




Water Jelly Marbles Give Gardening a Novel Touch!

While people are still planting seeds for the summer’s gardens, why not be a little novel about it and use some polymers, specifically Water Jelly Marbles, or Clear Spheres?

Spangler Science’s Water Jelly Marbles – Clear Spheres –  have so many and varied uses, and gardening is one of those uses.  In fact, gardening itself has many and varied uses for Water Jelly Marbles!

Water Jelly Marbles


Both multi-colored and clear jelly marbles can be used for this experiment, and both work equally well, but you’ll be able to SEE the results better if you use the clear marbles.

Multi-colored or clear, any kind of water jelly marble will work for this experiment!
Multi-colored or clear, any kind of water jelly marble will work for this experiment!

First of all, you’ll need to hydrate the tiny polymer balls and let them grow.   I usually put some in a shallow pan and add water.

Growing jelly marble polymers
These water jelly marbles are almost full grown and ready!

For experimenting, I like to use nasturtium seeds because they grow so incredibly fast.  Any kind of seed, except the very large ones, may be used.

Using a VERY sharp knife, make a tiny slit in the jelly marble, and insert the seed.  It’s okay for the seed to stick out a little bit, but most of it should be inside the jelly marble.

seeds inside the water jelly marbles

My kids looked at the pan of seeds-inside-the-marbles and said, “Jeepers, Mom, it looks like a pan of fertilized eggs!”  They do, sort of.  That’s another kind of lesson, however.

Here's a closeup!
Here’s a closeup!

Like any kind of hydroponic garden, the nasturtium seeds should, within a few days, germinate and begin to grow.  When they are still pretty tiny, I’ll transplant them to some actual dirt, polymer ball and all!

The water jelly marble will continue to help hydrate the plant even after it blossoms; that’s one reason people put a pinch of polymer marbles under the root or with the seeds of both vegetable and flowering plants.  Polymers are the gardener’s best friend!

And now, we wait.


Insta-Snow: It’s a Ton of Fun!

Steve Spangler’s Insta-Snow is not only a useful gardening/decorating product; it is also a ton of fun!  And when you play with it using martini glasses, it’s even more fun!  Okay, they were plastic martini glasses from the dollar store, but even so.  Tell me these aren’t elegant!

A blue scoop of Insta-Snow, and we're ready to go!
A blue scoop of Insta-Snow, and we’re ready to go!

(I always get the bucket of Insta-Snow because I use it all the time for a variety of different reasons.)  (So I need a lot of it.) bucket of Insta-SnoqMy daughter and two of her friends came by the other day with gooseberries to be made into pie, and strawberries to be made into jam, and these projects require a mommy if they’re to be successful.  While waiting for the pie to bake and the jam to gel, we brought out the Insta-Snow because Insta-Snow pretty much guarantees a good time to be had by all.

Sara is used to Spangler Science experiments and projects, but Mary and Arwa were newbies.  Sometimes I’m not sure which is the most fun to do experiments with, but I think it’s a tie.

All three young ladies put the exact same amount of snow into their martini glasses and added the exact same amount of water.  Naturally, they ended up with three different reactions.

Sara‘s glass was full of slush.  Mary‘s glass was half-full of snow and half-full of powder.  But Arwa – the Insta-Snow powder in Arwa’s glass swelled and overflowed into the plate and she ended up with a pile of perfect Insta-Snow.

Arwa Merriman, polymer scientist!
Arwa Merriman, polymer scientist!

Now, upon examination, even though it seemed that each girl was doing exactly the same thing, Sara actually put too much water in her glass and Mary stopped and started too much.  But Arwa did it exactly right and her results are proof of that.

I was kind of surprised at Sara’s results – she grew up in this house and has done Spangler Science experiments all her life!  But to be fair, she was concentrating on her pizza. . . .

Mary is a beginner, so I cut her some slack.  She also had her wisdom teeth removed that day so we’re not really sure she was mentally there all night.  Those dental drugs are fine, you know.  Her haircut was really cute, though.

Arwa is a beginner, too, but she turned out to be absolutely excellent at following directions, and she also has a lovely innate instinct for doing things well.  And she did.

Insta-Snow, Arwa's glass


Just look at that.  Don’t you wish you had some Insta-Snow?  You can, you know.  You can order some Insta-Snow right here!   Just choose how much you want and proceed from there!

Science experiments, remember, are just that:  experiments.  We think we are doing the same thing in the same way, but the truth is, there will always be variations, big and small, and even the smallest variation can mean a different result.

Summer’s here – finally – so what better time to order some Insta-Snow, and anything else you want – to make sure your kids are never bored this summer.

In fact, to make ABSOLUTELY sure your kids are not bored, why not sign up for the Spangler Science Experiment of the Week?  Every week, you’ll get a free experiment, complete with videos and clear instructions, in your email!  FREE!

Experiment of the Week

You can also sign up for the Spangler Science Club; it doesn’t cost much, and you’ll get a box full of awesome science swag every month, to keep your kids busy learning and having fun all summer long!

Spangler Science Club


Go on, click both of those links and sign up!  Then you and your family can play with Insta-Snow and other awesome things, too!

Families that do science experiments together have more fun.  Seriously.  They do.

We do.  You can, too.  Go for it!

Steve Spangler on The Ellen DeGeneres Show – May 2015

When someone is as awesome as Ellen DeGeneres, people tend to listen to what that person has to say. So when Ellen says, “Steve Spangler is the science teacher you always wanted to have in school,” we get pretty hyped-up around the office. That excitement is tenfold when it’s Steve Spangler on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.


We shouldn’t be surprised, really, that Ellen thinks so highly of our in-house magician and science teaching aficionado, she’s had him on her show a whopping 18 times. Well, at the posting of this blog, he’s only been on the show 17 times, but tomorrow marks the appearance that allows Steve to vote.

Steve is used to getting students and teachers excited about science, but what about a talk show host?

Steve Spangler's 18th appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show May 27, 2015

Steve made his first appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in September of 2007, teaching Ellen how to blow giant smoke rings, and he returned just a month later to demonstrate his exploding pumpkin trick. In one appearance, Steve wowed Ellen and her audience by letting an audience member walk on water… or at least a giant vat of cornstarch and water… and gave Ellen a little surprise when he ignited hydrogen and oxygen bubbles, right in her hands!

During his last appearance…

What? You didn’t think we were going to give away all of the fun and excitement on our blog, did you? You just need to wait a day for the May 27th, 2015 appearance. Of course, schedules and listings may vary from city to city, so make sure to check your local television stations to find The Ellen DeGeneres Show where you live.


What we can tell you is that Ellen is a HUGE fan of our Spangler Science Club monthly kits. They’re the best way to have a science experiences created by Steve delivered right to your door.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 8.29.21 AM
Before we forget, we have a database of all the 17 appearances that Steve has made with Ellen, so make sure to hop over and check that out. Then, head over to our Facebook page to make sure you’re up to date on everything going on in the Steve Spangler Science world. Finally… keep making science fun. We know you are all good for it.