You might have seen t-shirts or special jewelry (beads) that changes color in sunlight. UV Beads look like ordinary white beads used to make a craft project, but embedded in the plastic is a special pigment that changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light. The color change takes place in just seconds – almost like magic. Mrs. Bratteli’s Third Grade Class from Aikin Elementary School in Paris, Texas, used the beads as a way to see if sunscreen lotion really blocks out harmful ultraviolet light from the sun.
We did an experiment with your UV beads and sunscreen and the types were 10, 30, and 50 SPF. We put them each on a foam plate and had a nothing plate. [control—no sunscreen] They changed colors exactly how they were supposed to, but the 50 you couldn’t see. Read the full experiment write-up.
But, like all good experiments, these third graders discovered something else…
We left them all over the weekend and here are our results. The SPF 50 sunscreen also ate through the Styrofoam plate! The spf 10 did a little eating through the plate, but the 30 did not do a thing and neither did the nothing. Do you think using 50 and 10 SPF is dangerous or would effect us?
Here’s a great example of kids doing real science and making new observations and discoveries. As you might imagine, there’s nothing wrong with the kids’ sunscreen, but what they did discover is that something in the sunscreen reacted with the Styrofoam plate. It’s well known that fingernail polish remover (dilute acetone), spray glue, paints and other household chemicals react with Styrofoam, causing the polystyrene to quickly dissolve on contact. The students discovered something in their brand of sunscreen that caused a similar reaction.
Hats off to Nancy Bratteli and Nicole Sumpter, third grade teachers at Aikin Elementary in Paris, Texas, who do a great job of getting their students excited about science throughout the year. Halloween is especially fun for these two when they host Aikin All-Day Science… and the kids go crazy. One of the prevailing themes in my training seminars is the need for turning ordinary activities into unforgettable learning experiences… and these teachers are doing it. Nice job.
Want to try your own experiment using UV detecting beads? Take a look at these science project ideas and links…