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Love in a Test Tube – Fun Valentine’s Day Ideas!

Valentine’s Day celebrates love. Or maybe it celebrates all the kids in your child’s class with the big exchange of small paper postcards. If they’re lucky, they will get a lollipop attached to the paper card. Woo hoo.

The holiday brings doilies, construction paper hearts, paper Valentines and don’t forget the candy. Come on people, Valentines can be more exciting than this.


Last year I decided I was not going to phone in the Valentines. I wanted my daughters’ classmates to get excited when they received their Valentine. I even wanted them to take home the Valentine and learn something from it. Yes, sometimes I get carried away.
How you ask?

I made Valentines filled with science of course!

I purchased Baby Soda Bottles (indestructible test tubes made from soda bottles before they are expanded to soda bottles) from SteveSpanglerScience.com. You can also find plastic test tubes and play test tubes by Googling them.

I filled the Baby Soda Bottles with a mixture of conversation hearts, red hots & M&Ms. I picked one of the many mini test tube experiments, printed out directions on small cards and tied a ribbon around the top of the test tube for extra beauty. And yes, they were a HUGE hit.

I also purchased a package of Goldenrod paper and brought it in for the kids to create unique Valentines during the classroom party. Goldenrod paper looks like regular yellow paper, but the dye in the paper turns bright red when it is exposed to ammonia (a base). If you put an acid like lemon juice or vinegar on the red, it changes back to yellow. The kids went crazy cutting out hearts and shapes and making designs and patterns with the color.

I actually use washing soda in place of ammonia. Washing soda is a cousin of baking soda and isn’t so toxic.

I gave each child a piece of paper, cotton balls and cups filled with washing soda and water and cups filled with lemon juice. Several of the kids missed recess because they were so fascinated with their super cool Valentines.

For more detailed instructions and more scientific Valentine ideas, check out our Valentine section at SteveSpanglerScience.com.

Guest blogger Susan Wells is the mom to two girls. She enjoys enriching her daughter’s education by finding the learning in everything. They especially enjoy science activities. She was the social media strategist for Steve Spangler Science, a Colorado company dedicated to helping teachers and parents get children excited about science.

Spangler Sunday: Four Ways to Make Spooky Halloween Sounds

Halloween is all about things that glow in the dark, things that are slimy, things that bubble and boil, but Halloween isn’t Halloween without spooky, eerie sounds.

If you are planning a Halloween party at school or in your home, here are some ideas to set the sound stage.

Screaming Balloons

**Caution! This experiment uses small pieces, so be very careful if you are doing this activity with young children. Adults should blow up the balloons and tie them off before giving to children.

This is an easy experiment you can do with a balloon and a hex nut. If you are doing this with a large group, make sure to get enough supplies so everyone can go home with a screaming balloon.

balFirst, you’ll need good quality latex balloons (9” to 11” in size) and some ¼” hex nuts from the hardware store.

Squeeze the hex nut through the mouth of the balloon. Make sure that the hex nut goes all the way into the balloon so that there is no danger of it being sucked out while blowing up the balloon. Tilt the balloon down to keep the hex nut inside. Blow up the balloon, but be careful not to over inflate the balloon as it will easily burst. Tie off the balloon and you’re ready to go.

Grip the balloon at the stem end as you would a bowling ball. The neck of the balloon will be in your palm and your fingers and thumb will extend down the sides of the balloon. While holding the balloon, palm down, swirl it in a circular motion. The hex nut may bounce around at first, but it will soon begin to roll around the inside of the balloon. What is that sound? Could the balloon be screaming? Once the hex nut begins to spin, use your other hand to stabilize the balloon. Your hex nut should continue to spin for 10 seconds or more.

More information on the science of the screaming balloon click here.

Screaming Cup

For this experiment, you will need a large plastic cup, a piece of string (24”) and water.

Start by poking a hole in the bottom of the cup just large enough to thread the piece of string. Thread the string through the hole and tie a knot or two at the end of the string to hold the string in place. Wet the string. Holding the cup in one hand, pinch the string between your thumb and forefinger. Squeeze tightly on the string as you slide your thumb and forefinger down the string. With practice, and a little patience, the string will “stick and slide” between your fingers causing a “screaming” sound. Oh, you’ll know when you’ve got it down to a science!

More information on the science of the screaming cup click here.

Whirly Sound Hose or Singing Tube

steveAt first glance, it looks like your ordinary plastic tube. Hold one end of the tube and twirl the other end in a circle over your head. It’s music to your ears! The “Singing Tube” is a popular and inexpensive item in toy stores. There is really nothing to it – a corrugated plastic tube measuring about 3 feet long and 2 inches in diameter. You can also look at the hardware store for different sizes of corrugated plastic tubes.

Spin the tube faster and notice how the pitch of the note goes up. Fast twirling creates high pitch notes and slower twirling creates lower notes. Amazing!

The Bag “Whirly”

Attach a plastic bag, such as a garbage bag or shopping bag to the end of your Sound Hose with tape or a rubber band. With your mouth a few millimeters from the Sound Hose, blow into the open end. The bag will inflate with just a few big breaths. Once the bag is inflated, twirl your Sound Hose. As the “music” plays from the hose, watch the bag deflate!

Not all plastic tubes sing. The tube must be corrugated on the inside. Why? The aerodynamics researchers in Japan put a whirly in a wind tunnel and used very tiny hot wire anemometers to measure the airflow near the corrugations. As the air flows first over one ridge then over a second it tumbles into a vortex. The faster the air flows through the tube, the higher the frequency of the sound produced by the vortex. When the frequency of the vortex matches one of the natural resonant frequencies of the tube it is amplified.

More information on the science behind the Whirly sound hose click here.

Guest blogger Susan Wells is the mom to two girls. She enjoys enriching her daughter’s education by finding the learning in everything. They especially enjoy science activities. She works as a blogger and social media strategist for Steve Spangler Science, a Colorado company dedicated to helping teachers and parents get children excited about science.

How to Make Ghostly Dry Ice Bubbles and a Dry Ice Crystal Ball

Bubbles are fun anytime. Fog is a necessity for spooky Halloween effects. What if you combine them and make smoke filled bubbles? Then bounce and play with the super bubbles and you will be the hit of your Halloween party.

Touchable Boo Bubbles

boobubblesMaterials:

  • Two liter bottle
  • Dry ice (ask the front desk at your local grocers)
  • Heavy-duty glove
  • Funnel
  • Strip of cotton fabric
  • Rubber tubing
  • Dish soap
  • Utility blade (box cutter)
  • Small plastic portion cups (2 oz works best)
  • Towel
  • Bubble gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Adult supervision

Dip the free end of the rubber tubing into the bubble solution to wet the end of the tube. Remove the tube from the bubble solution with one hand while covering the jar with the lid in the other hand. This will take a little practice, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. The goal is to blow a bubble filled with fog. When the bubble reaches the perfect size, gently shake it off of the tubing and it will quickly fall to the ground (it’s heavier than a normal bubble because the bubble is filled with carbon dioxide gas and water vapor). When the bubble hits the ground, it bursts and the cloud of fog erupts from the bubble.

Purchase a pair of inexpensive children’s gloves from your local department store (100% cotton gloves also work well). Blow a bubble about the size of a baseball.

Bounce the bubble off of your gloves. Try bouncing the bubble off of your shirt or pants. As you’ll soon see, some fabrics work better than others. Try bouncing bubbles on a hand towel.

For more information on how to make Boo Bubbles, watch this video.

Dry Ice Crystal Ball

bubbleFor your Halloween science dry ice extravaganza finale, you have to make a Crystal Ball Bubble. Create a soap film on the rim of a bucket. As the bubble expands, it fills with water vapor and carbon dioxide. When the giant bubble bursts, the cloud of “smoke” falls to the floor. This, like the Boo Bubbles, will take some practice to perfect.

Select a bucket or container that has a smooth rim and is smaller than 12 inches in diameter. Cut a strip of cloth about 1 inch wide and 18 inches long. An old t-shirt, strip of cloth or a fat shoelace works well.

Soak the cloth in a solution of Dawn dish soap or use your favorite recipe for making bubble solution. Make sure that the cloth is completely soaked. Fill the bucket half full with water. Have tongs or gloves ready to transfer the dry ice to the bucket.

Place two or three pieces of dry ice into the water so that a good amount of fog is being produced. Remove the strip of cloth from the dish soap and carefully pull the strip across the rim. The goal is to create a soap film that covers the top.

It also helps to have the rim wet before you start. This may take some practice until you get the technique mastered. Remember that a bubble’s worst enemies are dirt, oil, and rough edges. Your patience will pay off in the long run.

If you accidentally get soap in the bucket of water, you’ll notice that zillions of bubbles filled with fog will start to emerge from the bucket. This, too, produces a great effect. If you want to go back to making Crystal Ball Bubbles, you will need to dump the water, clean the bowl and start over.

Place a waterproof flashlight in the bucket along with the dry ice so that the light shines up through the fog. Draw the cloth across the rim to create the soap film lid and turn off the room lights. The crystal bubbles will emit an eerie glow and you’ll be able to see the fog churning inside the transparent bubble walls. Take your bows as the audience erupts in a chorus of ooohs & ahhhs!

For more information and to watch a how to video, check out the Steve Spangler Science website.

Guest blogger Susan Wells is the mom to two girls. She enjoys enriching her daughter’s education by finding the learning in everything. They especially enjoy science activities. She works as a blogger and social media strategist for Steve Spangler Science, a Colorado company dedicated to helping teachers and parents get children excited about science.

Make Bubbling, Spooky Halloween Cauldrons with Dry Ice

I have never been much of a Halloween fan, but after working with Steve Spangler for more than eight years, Halloween has become one of my favorite holidays. I had no idea you could have so much fun with dry ice and warm water. If you are planning a Halloween party this season at home or helping plan a school party, dry ice is a must to create oozing and bubbling fun.

I have brought the following demonstrations into my daughter’s classrooms and performed them at Halloween parties for the past few years. I love to do these activities to watch the excitement and wonder in the children’s eyes. Okay, I also love it myself. The kids give me the excuse to play.

First, some background information on dry ice.

dryiceWhat is Dry Ice?

Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. It doesn’t melt; it turns, instead, into carbon dioxide gas. Dry ice is extremely cold – 110F (-78 C). It can cause severe burns if it comes in contact with skin, so make sure to use gloves or tongs when handling it. When dry ice is dropped into water, carbon dioxide gas and water vapor are released as the dry ice “melts” in the water. The gas you see are tiny water droplets.

Where Can I Buy Dry Ice?

Before you can do any of the activities, you need to head to your local grocery store for dry ice. Not all grocery stores sell dry ice, so you may need to call around. Take a cooler and gloves with you to transport the dry ice home safely. Dry ice sells for around $1 a pound. If you are going to do several demonstrations, plan to purchase around 5 to 10 pounds.

Dry Ice Storage and Safety

Store the dry ice in your cooler, not fridge or freezer. It is at a lower temperature than your freezer and can lower the temperature in the freezer causing it to shut off. Or the dry ice may turn into a gas. The gas can build up inside the freezer and will eventually pop the door open. When doing your demonstrations, keep the dry ice in a closed cooler. I like to keep it on the floor behind my feet. The children (and any adults) will rush the table you are working on and do their best to be the closest to the demonstration. When I have done these activities for my daughter’s classes, I have been surrounded every time. It’s important to keep the dry ice in a safe place. Also keep a small hammer on hand to break apart the blocks of ice.

Disappearing Dry Ice

This is a good demonstration to show why it’s called dry ice. Take two plates, place a regular ice cube on one, and a piece of dry ice on the other. Keep both plates out of reach of the children. Ask the children what they think will happen to both ice cubes if left out. Check back in about an hour. The water ice cube will be a puddle of water. The dry ice cube plate will be empty. What happened to the dry ice? It’s made from some of the air that we breathe… it’s frozen carbon dioxide. The dry ice turned into invisible carbon dioxide gas that disappears into the air.

dryice1Smoking, Bubbling Spooky Fun

You will need a bowl or tall glass filled with warm water for this activity. I like to use graduated cylinders. They are tall, durable and not wide enough to allow a child to put their hand down inside and accidentally touch the dry ice. This is important, as the children will want to touch the water and vapor. Using gloves or tongs, place a piece of dry ice in the warm water. The dry ice will begin to turn into carbon dioxide gas and water vapor. The cloud is safe to touch, just don’t allow the children to put their hands near the dry ice. When the water cools down and the smoke slows down, replace the cold water with warm and add more dry ice. And yes, you will get cheers of “do it again!”

Variations

  1. Add a squirt of liquid dish soap like Dawn or Joy to your warm water and dry ice concoction. The soap in the water traps the carbon dioxide and water vapor in a bubble. The children will erupt into oohs and ahhs when they see the bubbles climb out of the cylinder of warm, soapy water and explode with a burst of “smoke” as they crawl over the edge. The children won’t be able to keep their hands away.
  2. Add a squirt of food coloring or tub tints to the water to make the demonstration more colorful. I love to do this. I set up three or more cylinders with different colors and let them go. This helps if you have a larger group allowing for 3-5 kids at each cylinder. Just make sure you have adult supervision at each station so cylinders do not get dumped over.
  3. To give the water an eerie glow, add a light stick in the water and turn off the lights.
  4. Put the dry ice and warm water in a dish and set it inside your jack-o-lantern.

Carbonate Apple Juice for Witches’ Brew

Fill a bowl or cauldron with apple juice. Use gloves or tongs to add a few large pieces of dry ice. Let the children watch the mixture bubble and burp as it gets carbonated by the dry ice. Wait until the dry ice is completely gone before serving the apple juice.

For more information on dry ice and for more activities head over to Steve Spangler Science.

 

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Last Minute Do-It -ourself Science Christmas Gifts

Have you completed Christmas shopping or do you still have a few gifts to produce between now and early next week? I recently had a mom ask about science-themed gift ideas that her children could easily make. Here are a few crafty ideas that use kitchen science and materials found around the house.

Secret Messages

Build Your Own Black Light Secret Message – Perfect for Trick or Treating!

We are always looking for new and fun science activities at the Steve Spangler Science Labs.This Halloween season we have really outdone ourselves with a new product line that includes Vampire Slime and Vampire Veins. We have also created this simple and easy craft that also teaches a lesson in the science of glow.

Some of the adults in the company may also sneak into Steve’s Playroom, turn off the lights and put together puppet shows with our black light projectors. I won’t tell if you won’t tell.

I’m also prepping to do this activity with 20 Brownie Girl Scouts this Tuesday. I can’t wait to see what they all come up with. I know it will be beyond anything that our Spangler lab rats have created the past few weeks.

This black light projector is perfect to take along Trick or Treating, not as a flash light, but as a fun way to say “Trick or Treat” or flash as you cross streets.

Let’s start with a lesson about Phosphorescence and Fluorescence.

Phosphorescence – Some materials glow after all the lights are turned off. This type of glow is called phosphorescence. “Glow in the dark” toys phosphoresce brightly in total darkness after being “charged” or excited by ordinary white or ultraviolet light. A phosphorescent material absorbs and slowly re-emits energy in the form of light. It will still glow after the lights are turned off. Remember those little stars you stuck to your roof as a kid? Those stars used a phosphorescent material to glow after you turned out the lights.

Fluorescence – Some glowing materials will only work in the presence of some form of radiation like ultraviolet light. These materials have a chemical property called fluorescence. Fluorescent materials absorb energy just like phosphorescent materials, but fluorescent materials re-emit their energy as light much quicker.  For example, fluorescent papers and poster boards glow in the daylight. They may seem to glow even brighter under black light (ultraviolet), but in either case, as soon as the light is removed, the glow stops. Fluorescent things do not glow in the dark all by themselves – they require some other form of energy such as ultraviolet light to “excite” them.

 

Glow Sticks
Glow sticks are yet another way that materials can glow in the dark. Glow sticks create their glow through a chemical reaction between different chemicals. The light that this chemical reaction produces is called chemiluminescence. Just like the other two types of materials, you can see chemiluminescent materials the best in the dark. It’s not a good idea to break open glow sticks to use the liquid inside. Most sticks contain a glass tube inside that shatters to mix the chemicals together. You don’t want to pour glass shards out for children to touch. The chemicals inside the glow stick aren’t incredibly toxic, but can cause eye and skin irritations and will stain.
Highlighters
Some highlighters use ink that contains dyes that are fluorescent. When you draw the designs with a highlighter, it probably looks like those designs will glow when you turn the lights off, but they don’t. The dyes in the highlighter ink require a black light to produce the special glow. Certain colors  and brands of highlighter do not fluoresce underneath the ultraviolet light. These highlighters do not contain fluorescent dyes.

Materials

  • Mini Black Light
  • Glue
  • Sharpie® highlighters (will fluoresce under a black light)
  • Scissors
  • Plastic cup
  • Pen
  • White paper

Instructions

  1. Use a pen to trace the circumference of a plastic cup on a piece of white paper. Don’t use thick paper like card stock or construction paper. Just pull a piece of paper out of a printer… that’ll work perfectly!
  2. Use Sharpie highlighters to create brightly-colored designs within the circle you traced. Try using different colors when creating your design.
  3. Cut the traced circle out with a pair of scissors.
  4. Carefully poke a small hole in the bottom of the plastic cup using the scissors. Try to poke the hole as close to the center of the cup as possible.
  5. Apply a thin layer of glue around the edge of the circle. Make sure the glue is on the back side of the circle, away from your design, otherwise your design or message will be backwards. (Depending on what your design or message is, this could be a big deal!)
  6. Press the mouth of the cup onto the glue-covered edge of the paper circle. We recommend letting the glue dry before moving on to the next step, but hey… we aren’t here to slow you down. (Remember to clean up any glue that squeezed out and onto the table where you’re working. Happy parents make for happy scientists.)
  7. Now that your cup and design are attached, push the Mini Black Light’s bulb into the hole you poked in the bottom of the cup.
  8. Are you ready for this? Turn the lights off and turn on the Mini Black Light.
  9. Whoa! The ink from the highlighters glows in the ultraviolet light!

Thanksgiving Table Tricks –Entertain Your Guests with After Dinner Science

The meal is wrapping up, the dishes are in the sink and everyone is sitting around the table waiting for the pie to come out. Now is the perfect time to stand up and amaze your family with a few science “tricks” using materials found in your kitchen.

Remember that you shouldn’t try these experiments at home…do them at a friend’s home.

Singing Glasses and Move a Match with Your Mind

If you like to annoy all of your dinner guests by running your finger along the rim of a wine glass to make it sing, you’ll soon have your friends convinced that you

Are Parents Desperate for Extracurricular Learning or Just Looking for Babysitting?

Our school’s PTA asked me this fall if I’d be interested in running a science club after school. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, I agreed.

After tossing around the best way to have a science club, we decided to start with a Halloween science club. One that would meet one time in October and share some of the best experiments from my arsenal. I have it easy, because I work at a science toy and education company.

We would gauge response and see if an actual club is viable for the second semester.

I was offering two sessions – one for grades 1-3 and one for grades 4-6. The PTA was sponsoring and providing the opportunity for free. They would fill at 20 and admission would be on a first come first served basis. I hoped someone would think my little club sounded cool and sign up their kids.

The Science of Light Sticks – Liquid Light

Just give the plastic light stick a little “snap” and a shake and the liquid inside begins to glow. Some people call it liquid light. Light sticks are more popular than ever and have become almost required apparel for Halloween to cast an eerie glow on the candy seekers. I always buy them for my girls to wear while trick or treating. Did you know you can learn a little science from light sticks? Light sticks are also a great and inexpensive teaching tool to learn how temperature affects the rate of the chemical reaction.

**Caution! This experiment requires the use of very warm water, which requires the assistance of an adult helper.

Take advantage of the holiday and stock up on some light sticks during the Halloween close-outs. You’ll need three light sticks of the same size and color for this experiment. You’ll also need two glass containers (coffee cups or beakers work well) and a darkened room.

In the following experiment, you’ll observe the differences in the brightness of the light given off from a light stick placed in hot water and and an identical light stick placed in cold water.

Make Your Halloween Party Glow With Easy Ideas From Steve Spangler Science!

Do you love Halloween as much as I do? It is my favorite holiday…gorgeous fall weather, turning leaves, pumpkins, candy and glowing, bubbling activities.

Welcome to Spangler Science Saturdays with Steve Spangler Science at Mile High Mamas. Halloween is highly anticipated at Steve Spangler Science. We have an entire section dedicated to Halloween experiments and activities complete with how-to videos.

Today, we are focusing on activities that glow in the dark.

Halloween is all about spooky, creepy things that lurk in the dark. There’s nothing better than turning off the lights, bringing out glowing, mysterious and slimy materials to touch and watch. The kids will ooh and ahh. Whether you are planning a Halloween party, looking for unique decorations or just want to have some fun with your own kids at home, here are some glowing activities you can do.

Black Lights
Who knew you could have so much fun with a black light? A black light is a must for these activities. Black light is really ultra-violet light, which is naturally present as a component in sunlight. Ultra-violet wavelengths are very long with a very high frequency, and can be used to detect fluorescent material that would remain invisible under normal conditions. When you shine ultra-violet light on fluorescent material, it lights up with a beautiful bluish-green luminescence. Black lights come in all sizes from mini hand-held to large. You can find them in Halloween stores, hardware stores or online.

Glowing Halloween Pumpkins