Last week I enjoyed a very nice break from the impossible amout of work I am doing at the moment and spent some time at home. As I have two children, spending time at home means that I have to have activities planned every day – like most parents I’ve discovered that there is no force in the universe as perversely damaging as a bored child.
In addition to the day trips to the cinema, museums and a very large owl; I agreed to do a science experiment-a-day with my son. He was given a science kit for Christmas last year and loves any excuse to don his safety goggles. Ever since we tried a few internet ideas out before he’s been dying to do some more ‘science’.
So with that in mind, I dusted off his awesome science book, asked on Twitter for some suggestions, and picked the best to try with the resources available.
Monday – Home made Lava lamp
This experiment was suggested by @Jeew333T and neatly built on from some experiments that we’ve done before, mixing oils and soap. The basic premise is that if you fill a bottle with water and some oil (we used olive oil), the oil will float on the water forming two distinct layers. The separation is from the immobility of the olive-oil and the position on top is because oil has a lower density. If you drop an Alka-selza tablet in to the bottle, when it fizzes it releases carbon dioxide bubbles that rise through the water and the oil taking some of it with them as they float up.
We even had a chat about how tablets dissolve in the water. Although I think it kind of went over the top my 4.5 year old’s head.
Tuesday – Colored Rose
This one was suggested by @mmbtox and came with an amazing photograph of a multi-coloured rose. Allegedly, if you split the stem of a rose 4 ways and put each part into water with different colours of food colouring, you will get this amazing colourful effect. Err… or not.
So after some digging, it turns out that a random photograph from tumblr is not a very good set of instructions to follow. The first photograph from a flower show in the Netherlands in 2010 where the wonder of a flower company Peter Van de Werken showed off his newly produced rainbow roses. The technique used by Peter is not widely known and also not very successfully re-created. Other companies do have their own versions of this but none quite as striking.
So it’s no small wonder that we couldn’t re-create this one in my kitchen over a couple of days.
Wednesday – Naked Egg
This is a much longer experiment as it took a total of about 4 days to get our results. This one also came from @mmbtox (she sent through about 50 in total :D)
Chicken egg shells are made (mostly) from calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate dissolves quite nicely in acids, like vinegar. For this experiment you simply soak an egg in a cup of vinegar for a few days and slowly the shell dissolves away.
It’s visually quite good to watch because as the shell dissolves it produces carbon dioxide (a nice link back to Monday’s experiment) and the shell quickly becomes covered in bubbles. Also over time, the shell appears to come off in layers and you start to see brown scummy layers peal off the side as they thin.
Eventually (after 4 days) we ended up with a shell-less egg held together only in its membrane. This is still slightly opaque but we could clearly see the yolk suspended in the middle of the egg. It looked even better when photographed with some light behind it.
Thursday – Pressure
In preparing for Monday’s lava lamp experiment, we had to buy a huge box of Alka-selza – only about 1/3 of which we needed. So to try and use up some materials, we did another bubbly experiment to show the effect of pressure. This experiment came straight from our science book.
I got a small plastic container with a pop off lid and put in a little water. My son then dropped in one (or sometimes more!) Alka-selza tablets, I slammed the top back on quick and we then waited for it to pop offwith the pressure caused by the extra carbon dioxide.
Given that this was quite a quick experiment and a clear visible reaction, this was by far my son’s favourite! And I was surprised at how much it helped him understand that air was something and not just empty space. I guess water splashing all over the kitchen will do that.
Friday – Caterpillar
I had a night off on Friday. I enjoyed a very nice evening of cocktails and fancy food with a friend, so the science mantle fell to my other half who stepped in expertly and built my son a Terrarium!
One the way home from a trip out, they went investigating some bugs that lived on plants and they found a big hairy caterpillar lost on a wall. So she snapped off a good chunk of the nearby tree and took them both home. Conveniently, my son was given a butterfly cage/net/bag thing for Christmas so that became a wild caterpillar sanctuary.
Hopefully we’re feeding it the right leaves and keeping it happy and we should get to see it develop in to a Grey Dagger Moth. It’s currently living next to my son’s bed and we’re checking it daily. Current status: fat and eating.
UPDATE: Current status: In a cocoon!