Blast Back to School with End of Summer Fun!

As the long lazy summer days begin to dwindle and the new school year fast approaches,  it’s a rush to pack in all of your summer fun.

End Summer with a Blast - Rocket Science from Steve Spangler Science

Wait a minute.., do I see you moping?  That is no way to enjoy the last few days of vacation time. Turn that frown upside down and blast back to school with end of summer fun! Not sure what to do to put some pep back into your summer? Why not let your friends at Steve Spangler Science help you find some fun experiments and activities to pull you out of your end of summer doldrums? Here are some great ideas to take away those end of summer blues:

Tie Dye T-Shirts from Steve Spangler Science

Want more instant ideas?  Try downloading one of our digital experiment guides!

That’s right, now you’re excited!  So go ahead, get that brain of yours back in gear with super fun, end of summer experiments from Steve Spangler Science!

Have more ideas for end of summer fun? Share them with us by leaving a comment below!

 

Joy Gintzler's Bio

Bio: Joy Gintzler is a jack of all trades.  Currently a Customer Service Guru and Blogger for Steve Spangler Science.    She mixes cereal without remorse and loves engaging with customers, especially when helping plan events. 

 

 

 

Science & Music – 4 Fields of Science and Their Tunes

IMG_1533
(morguefile.com)

Music makes everything better. While that might not be scientific fact, it’s an opinion that holds a lot of stock, for me. In fact, I believe that certain types or styles of music can make things better to the point of being perfect. We’ve all heard people say something along the lines of “this is the PERFECT song.” It can be driving a car or going for a swim. Songs can be perfect for situations… and fields of science! Science & music go together like dry ice and dish soap… that is to say, they’re better together.


4. Physics and EDM
stained-glass-aqua-tiles copy

Physics is arguably the most applicable field of science, as it pertains to human existence. My very typing on a keyboard is governed by physics: friction between my fingers and the keys, potential energy in stationary fingers, kinetic energy in moving fingers, etcetera, etcetera, on and on. I would float away if it wasn’t for physics.

The necessity and application of physics to real life makes it seem like the musical suitor should exhibit similar real-world tendencies. Country music with lyrics that harken to blue collar life, runaway dogs, and heartbreak? Symphonies that fit perfectly with the dance of planets, stars, and other universal bodies? Nope.

Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, fits the bill.

Younger scientists will think of popular artists/DJs like Skrillex, Diplo, or deadmau5. (That’s “dead mouse,” if you were curious. It is not Dead Mow Five, however incredible that would be.) For older scientists, EDM is that weird noise that has been referred to as “that noise,” “robot sounds,” and “what in the…?”

The majority of EDM music falls in a beat per minute (BPM) range that only seems suitable for things like running, faster running, and sprinting until your heart explodes. However, isn’t movement what physics is all about? And while EDM does tend to stay above 100 BPM, there is a TON (metric) of movement from key changes, tempo adjustments, and more. Listen through one of your favorite tracks (or, one that you can tolerate) and imagine vectors, angles, and Sir Isaac Newton holding headphones to his ears. Glorious.

flickr.com
D-d-d-d-drop the apple… er… bass! (flickr.com)

 

3. Biology and Hip Hop
Philips_D_8210-00_vintage_boombox copy 2

I’ve heard it said that life has a beat, a pulse, that drives each being, each action. Therefore, biology is essentially studying that beat.

Hip hop, more than any other style of music, relies heavily on a beat. Some songs are comprised of nothing but lyrics over a kick and snare drum combination.

A BUH-bum, BUH-bum gives your body the rhythm required to make you a functioning homosapien. I know more than one person that has made a hip-hop beat out of their own heart beat. Time lapse videos show plants swaying to a muted tune like commuters on a train. Biology, the science of life, has a beat, because life has a beat.


 

2. Ecology and Atmospheric Nature Sounds
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re an ecologist and you listen to anything except atmospheric nature sounds when you’re doing lab work or paper work, I question your dedication to your work.

Aren't my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets]
Aren’t my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets] (pixabay.com)
Turn your lab into your passion!


 

1. Chemistry and the Late 60’s
60s_wallpaper copy

The Late 60’s comprise an era of music as diverse and all-over-the-place as Janis Joplin’s hair.

Pictured: A GOOD hair day.
Pictured: A GOOD hair day. (wikimedia.org)

If one field of science can relate to that, it’s chemistry.

Good ol’ chemistry: identifying, studying, and playing with the building blocks of life. From the first time your dad convinces you that vinegar and baking soda taste really great together and that, “No! They won’t make a mess,” chemistry is just… THERE. Chemistry is involved in your life whether you like it or not. Want to know the reason your shampoo foams so much? Chemistry. (Well, foaming agents like cocamid, DEA, MEA, or TEA, to be more exact.) Gasoline propelling your vehicle? That’s combustion, and that’s chemistry!

You know how I made fun of older scientists before? Well… younger scientists, take a listen to 10 recent pop songs. Odds are that, whether inconspicuous or blatant, nearly half of those songs feature a sample. Where did that sample come from? Let’s just say the 60’s would be a very, very solid guess. That era of music is still everywhere, even though we don’t know everything about it. What did they take when they wrote that? What in the world are they singing about? Doesn’t matter! It’s good music!

That sounds a lot like the constant investigation of chemicals and elements, don’t you think?

School Supplies For All

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite days of the year (besides Christmas Day) was the day the newspaper posted the list of required school supplies, and Mom took us to the drug store  to buy them.

I loved looking at that list, and Mom always let me put the little checkmark beside the items as we put them in our basket.

Prang paints. Check. Paint pan. Check. Rectangular eraser. Check. Blunt-tipped scissors. Check. Etc. Check.

On the first day of school, I loved bringing my beautiful shiny school supplies into my new classroom, and I loved arranging them all inside my desk. I loved to look inside my desk and just savor the sight: all those cool things I could draw with and paint with and write with. . . and they were mine, all mine, and nobody else could touch my things unless I gave them permission. Me. I was the boss of my desk things. I took such pride in my school supplies, and mine were usually still looking pretty good even at the end of the year. They were mine, you see, and I had a vested interest in them; therefore, I took pains to take care of them. Back then, down in lower elementary, the school supplied only the special fat pencils and the weird orange pens.  Oh, and that huge jar of smelly paste that bore the germs of generations past. . . .

pencil-chewing girlWhen my own children were little, I looked forward to Buying School Supplies Day with just as much delight as I did when I was a little kid. New binders. New pencils. And the most fun of all, choosing the new lunchbox. My own children loved the new school supplies, too.  I think it is of vital importance that all children have their own school supplies; it is the beginning of them learning the pride of possession and the importance of caring for one’s own things in order to keep them for any length of time.

It’s not like that in many schools nowadays. Many teachers do not allow their students to have their own supplies now; the little sack of a child’s very own things is taken from the child on that first day, and dumped into the community pot for all the kids to dip into and out of. There are no “my scissors,” there is only a rack or box of scissors for everyone. “Look, there are my scissors; my name is engraved on them; I wish I could use them but they’re so cool, other kids grab them first every time. . . .” There are no more personalized pencils or a child’s favorite cartoon character pencils to use and handle carefully; there is only a big bucket of chewed-on germ-covered pencils grabbed at and used by everybody in the room.

And since nothing belongs to anybody, who cares about taking good care of them?

I fully understand that the community pot of supplies is much easier for a teacher to control. I wasn’t, however, aware of the fact that teacher convenience was any kind of issue here. I taught in the public schools for 26 years and I never expected things to happen for the convenience of me; that wasn’t why I was there.

I fully understand, too, that some children’s little sack of supplies won’t be as individualized or cool as another child’s sack of supplies. I know for a sad fact that some children will never have their own little sack of supplies, at least, not one brought from home. That’s life; that should not even be an issue. Some children’s shoes aren’t as cool, either; do we throw shoes in a box and let the kids take pot luck with those, too? I understand that in some classrooms, a child’s packed lunch is sometimes taken apart and certain things confiscated or distributed, lest some child have a treat that another child doesn’t have. (this actually happened to both my children, and more than once!)  When my kids were in grade school, my mother would occasionally stop by at lunch time with a Happy Meal for them – and for me! – and I was told this had to stop because other children didn’t have that option. Well, you know what, my children were often envious of another child’s dress or shoes or lunch or cool pen, but I would never have tried to ensure that other children would never be able to have anything my own kids couldn’t have. Good grief. Such insanity!

Teachers should keep an eye out for those kids who don’t have supplies, and the school should supply them, but after that point, they become the child’s own and he/she should be required to take good care of them, just as any and every kid should be required to take care of his/her things. Children who take good care of their things should not be required to supply children who had their own things but didn’t take care of them properly. As a little child, I was horrified at the thought, and as a parent, I’m even more horrified. It was like a reward for being negligent! Every year, I donate tons of school supplies to my neighbor’s children’s school; I’m delighted to do this, and I recommend this to all of you. Perhaps, if schools have enough donated supplies, our little children will be allowed to keep their very own supplies once again.

I think most people would be happy to donate a full set of school supplies for children whose families couldn’t afford them.  I would, and I do.  But I fully expect my donated school supply set to be given to an individual child and become his/her very, very own, carefully tended, appreciated, and lovingly used school supplies.  If each parent, or each parent who was able, donated a complete set or two each year, I’m betting the school itself wouldn’t have as big a burden in supplying freebies to needy kids.  But community bins containing chewed-on, drooled-on, broken-on-purpose junk that everybody is required to dip into?  Required? Absolutely not.  No.  NO.

A few bins for the forgetful or temporary lack might be a good thing, but the option to keep one’s very own stuff to oneself should be upheld, too.

When I was a child, I had very little that was my very own. Everything that was supposedly mine was expected to be shared with anybody else in the house that wanted it at any given moment. But at school? In my desk, in my very own desk, were things that were inviolably mine, and I can not even describe for you the sensations that went through me when I looked at those things that my teacher had ruled were mine and only mine. Kids who violated another kid’s desk were quite properly labeled ‘thieves,’ and they soon learned what happens when a person put his hands on property that was not rightfully theirs.

Things are very different now. I hate it. The rare teacher who takes the time and trouble to allow his/her students to have their boy breaking pencil from bin things is often castigated by the other teachers who are taking the easy ‘community property’ route – or being forced to by an administrator. Kids are sharing more than gluesticks and pencils, too; I don’t even want to THINK about the incredible pot-o-germs they’re dipping into daily. Gross. My child using a pencil some other child gnawed? I guess so, because teachers who don’t want to bother with a child’s private property are forcing the kids to dump it all in the pot for everybody to use. “Don’t be selfish.” “Share.” Well, you know what? I don’t like that kind of forced sharing. I had to share everything, EVERYTHING, and that little pile of school supplies was my only private stash of anything. I do not feel it was selfish, or is selfish, to want to keep school supplies that were carefully chosen, to oneself. Children who have their own things learn to respect the property of other children. Children with no concept of personal property tend to view the world as a buffet of free, unearned delights awaiting their grasping, grabbing hands. Both tend to grow into adults with the same concepts learned as children.

This business of everything being community property in the classroom causes problems in the upper levels, too. Junior high, high school, even college students, are expecting things to be available for them without any effort on their part. Upper level students come to class without pencils, erasers, paper, etc, because they’re used to having those things always available in some community bin somewhere in the room. They have never been required, or allowed, to maintain their own things, and now they don’t know how to. The stuff was always just THERE, for a student to help himself to. And now that they are supposed to maintain their own, they really don’t know how. Plus, why should they? HEY, I need a pencil, gimme one. Not that one, that other one there.    Indeed,

Well, it worked down in the lower grades, with community property. You just get up and help yourself; everything in this room is for me, ain’t it? Gimme that pretty one, I want it.

But guess what, kids, it’s bad enough down in the lower grades,chewed-up pencil from a bin but it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, work at all when you hit the upper grades. I’d like to have a penny for every hand that tried to help itself to things on my desk, because, well, they were there. I’ve even had students who opened my desk drawers, looking for supplies. Not poor kids who didn’t have any; just a kid who didn’t bring any and expected everything to be supplied because, well, down in the elementary, everything WAS.  I have had COLLEGE STUDENTS look around the room expectantly, looking for the bucket of pencils and pile of paper.

Oh good grief, teachers or principals or boards or whoever has the authority, let the little kids keep their own things, put their names on them, and learn how to be responsible for them. Secondary teachers and future employers will greatly appreciate it.

I know that in some cases, it’s not the individual teacher’s decision – it’s a corporate mandate. This is even worse. It’s like a national plot to make future generations needy and dependent and reliant on others to fulfill all their needs. And don’t we already have more than enough of THOSE people?

Let me sum up, as Inigo Montoya would say: Community school supplies are wrong on every possible level. Period.

broken pencil from a community binParents, if I were you – and I am one of you – I’d buy the required community bin stuff at the dollar store instead of the overpriced educational supplies store in the strip mall that the school supplies newsletter instructs you to patronize. Send them to school and let them be dumped into the bins for mass consumption and germ sharing. Then you and your children go shopping and pick out individual supplies – favorite cartoons, personalized, Hello Kitty, Avengers – whatever your child likes. If your school informs you that it’s against their policy for any of the children to have their own supplies, you inform the school that you did your chipping in and now you’re seeing to it that your children have their very own things and that you expect your children’s very own things to harbor no germs except your own children’s germs, which will be considerable, but that’s another topic. What’s more, if your children come home and tell you that their very own supplies are not being respected and are in fact being accessed by others without permission of the owner, please hightail it down to the school and let them know what you think about that.

If I am privileged to supply individual children with supplies, however, I will buy them the best – personalized, if possible.  No child should go without, and each child deserves the good stuff to be kept in his/her own desk to be used by only him/her.  Generic supplies go in the bin; personalized supplies stay in the desk.

But stuff I know is going into a bin?  Dollar store.

School SuppliesI am happy to see to it that all of the children in the room have adequate supplies, but I can’t stress strongly enough that each child needs and deserves to have his/her very own personal private stash of supplies that nobody else can ever touch.  Maintaining one’s own personal things is a life lesson, and will benefit the child for the rest of his life.

Do I seem overly obsessed about this topic? Darn right.  As a parent and as a teacher and as a former child, the very concept of community school supplies makes me so furious I become incoherent. Which is apparently happening right now so. . . .

 

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

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

Science Takes a Summer Vacation – Selfies from the Road

Although our science kits and materials don’t sit on the shelves in our distribution center for long, they are still granted a summer vacation, like all of our human staff members at Steve Spangler Science.

Our science kits are also not exempt from the selfie craze.

Summer Science Selfies - Science Kits from Steve Spangler Science

We gave our science kits a one week summer vacation and let them lose in the world. They traveled from coast to coast and even checked out a little football in South America.

The Larry's Lab Crew Visits Times Square in New York City - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
The Larry’s Lab Crew Visits Times Square in New York City

Our products demonstrated that they can go anywhere and bring learning to everyone. This is road worthy hands-on science!

Saltwater Truck visits the Sand Dunes - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Saltwater Monster Truck visits the Sand Dunes in Colorado

The science kits have returned and are ready to head to your home or school in time for back to school learning.

Growing Creatures visit Washington, DC - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Growing Creatures visit Washington, DC

We want to hear where you like to do science. How did you bring Steve Spangler Science into your summer vacation? Did you make Insta-Snow on the beach in Hawaii? Or grow a lizard in Death Valley? Shoot soda geysers in Millennium Park? We want to see your summer science selfies.

6 Test Tube Experiments in a Rack visits the St. Louis Arch - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
6 Test Tube Experiments in a Rack visits the St. Louis Arch

Share your science selfies on InstagramFacebookTwitter or email them to us. Use #SpanglerSelfie so we don’t miss them.

Magic Sand visits Rio and the World Cup Soccer - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Magic Sand visits Rio and the World Cup Soccer

If you haven’t celebrated summer with science yet, what are you waiting for?  Get colorful, get geyser soaked,  slime it up,  wear growing gators as a mustache or whatever your heart desires.  Just make sure your selfie makes you smile!

The Growing Lizards Visit the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
The Growing Lizards Visit the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Send us your selfie by August 1st. Our team of science selfie experts will choose four favorites and notify the winners by Aug. 5th. Winners will have 24 hours to respond with email, phone and address. If they fail to do so in the time frame, another winner will be chosen in their place. Kits will be sent out after Aug. 6th.

Beaker and Instant Snow Day visit Mount Rushmore - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Instant Snow Day and Beaker visit Mount Rushmore

Our favorite four #SpanglerSelfies will win a science kit that you can take wherever you’d like.

Geyser Rocket Car visits the Beach - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Geyser Rocket Car visits the Beach

We also need your vote -

The products have a bet going on whose vacation was the best. What is your favorite #SpanglerSelfie? Is it Magic Sand at the World Cup or Larry’s Lab in Times Square or one of the others? Share it socially or leave us a comment below with your vote. Help us settle the bet and calm down our disputing product line. Those products can get unruly after returning from some down time.

Instant Snow visits the Grand Canyon - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Instant Snow visits the Grand Canyon