Summer Science Experiments

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July 1, 2015
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July 6, 2015

According to the National Summer Learning Association, students can experience educational losses in the summer. Most students lose roughly two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills, score lower on standardized tests, and lose more than two months in reading achievement.

By: Cassidy Tyrone

“As an adult, if there are things that you don’t do for a while you forget about it; you get rusty,” says Jennifer Speer, center director of Mathnasium of College Station. “Kids are the same way. If they are not reading and doing math they forget how to do it. So you have to keep them engaged—blowing the rust off.”

According to the National Summer Learning Association, students can experience educational losses in the summer. Most students lose roughly two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills, score lower on standardized tests, and lose more than two months in reading achievement.

Speer says to keep kids from losing what they have learned in the previous year, or to get ahead, parents should engage them in activities that use their reading and math skills.

“It doesn’t take much, just 10 to 15 minutes a day here and there,” says Speer. “It keeps the momentum in their learning instead of having to start all over.”

Activities to keep kids engaged in learning over the summer can include library reading programs, museum visits, game nights, or even easy science experiments you can do at home.

“You just have to turn the TV off and do things with your kids,” says Speer.

Try these simple science experiments to beat the heat and keep your kids learning this summer:    

Bubble Snake

What you will need:

  • Empty plastic bottle (16-20oz)
  • Bowl
  • Bubble liquid (Dawn dish soap can be substituted, but the bubbles may not be as strong)
  • Glycerin (optional, gives the bubbles extra strength)
  • Box cutter
  • Washcloth
  • Rubber band
  • Food coloring
  • Distilled water

How to do it:

  1. The day before, mix the bubble liquid and glycerin in the bowl. Let it sit undisturbed for 24 hours to allow the solution to strengthen.
  2. Have an adult use the box-cutters to cut the bottom off the plastic bottle.
  3. Cover the opening with the washcloth and secure with the rubber band.
  4. Dip the fabric-covered end of the bottle into the bubble solution
  5. Blow into the mouth of the bottle.
  6. To make colorful bubbles, add a few drops of food coloring to the washcloth.

The Science

The bubbles of your bubble snake form because of surface tension. Surface tension results from the hydrogen atoms of one water molecule clinging to the oxygen atom in another water molecule. This clinging is called a hydrogen bond, an attraction between the polar molecules of the hydrogen and the electronegative atoms of the oxygen. You may have noticed that the bubbles stick together as you blow them through the fabric. This is due to hydrogen bonds.

Elephant Toothpaste

What You Will Need:

  • Empty plastic soda bottle (16oz)
  • ½ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • Dawn dish detergent
  • Food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon yeast (dissolved in roughly 2 tablespoons of very warm water)
  • Funnel
  • Foil cake pan (2 inch sides)
  • Smock or apron

How to do it:

  1. First put on your safety goggles and lab smock.
  2. Measure out your supplies.
  3. Place the bottle in the center of the cake pan.
  4. Place the funnel in mouth of the bottle.
  5. Add 3-4 drops of food coloring to the peroxide.
  6. Pour the peroxide into the bottle.
  7. Add a squirt of Dawn detergent to the mixture in the bottle.
  8. Pour the yeast mixture into the bottle and quickly remove the funnel.
  9. Watch the foam spout from the bottle like toothpaste being squeezed from the tube.
  10. Feel free to play with the foam.

The Science

A chemical reaction has taken place between the yeast, which is the catalyst, and the peroxide. Peroxide molecules are made up of two hydrogen atoms connected by two oxygen atoms. During the reaction the oxygen atoms are released from the peroxide molecules producing gas. You may note that the foam feels warm to the touch. This is because the chemical reaction is exothermic, releasing heat energy.

Floating Candy

What You Will Need:

  • M&M ™ candy
  • Water
  • A bowl

How to do it:

  1. Take the M&M’s and arrange them in the bottom of the bowl
  2. Submerge the M&M’s in water.
  3. Notice as the candy color dissolves away, the white “M” on the shell of the candy will float to the top.

The Science

The “M” is made of edible ink. The ink does not dissolve in the water because it is insoluble. The solubility, or ability to dissolve, depends on the physical and chemical properties of both the solute and solvent. The solute is the matter being dissolved and the solvent is the matter doing the dissolving. In this reaction, the solute is the candy shell, which dissolves in the solvent, the water, creating a solution. A solution is a special kind of mixture. Mixtures result from two or more kinds of matter being put together. Mixtures can be separated back into its different parts by using a filter. A solution is homogenous, meaning its parts are mixed together completely evenly. To separate a solution the liquid must evaporate, leaving the solid matter behind.

You can change the concentration of the mixture by adding more M&M’s. If you were to continue to add more and more M&M’s, eventually the solution will become saturated, meaning there will not be enough solvent to dissolve the solute. If you added more water you would dilute the mixture, making it less concentrated.

Homemade Slime

What you will need:

  • Elmers Glue (8oz)
  • Borax
  • Mixing bowl
  • Plastic cup (8oz)
  • Spoon
  • Measuring cup
  • Food coloring
  • Warm water
  • Zipper-lock bag

How to do it:

  1. Empty the entire bottle of glue into the mixing bowl.
  2. Fill the bottle with warm water and shake.
  3. Empty the mixture into the mixing bowl and mix with a spoon.
  4. Add a few drops of food coloring.
  5. Pour ½ a cup of warm water into the plastic cup.
  6. Add a teaspoon of Borax powder to the water and stir.
  7. Slowly stir in the borax solution to the glue in the mixing bowl.
  8. Knead the mixture together.
  9. When you are finished playing with your slime, seal it up in the zip-lock bag to keep it fresh.

The Science

Mixing the glue, Borax, and water produces a polymer. A polymer is the chain of repeated molecules, or monomers, that bind together in a process called polymerization. Polymers can be natural, such as wool and silk, or synthetic, like rubber and silicone. Polymers make up many plastics.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

What you will need:

  • A gallon baggy
  • 2 quart plastic baggies
  • ½ cup Half & Half
  • Crushed Ice
  • 6 tablespoons of Rock Salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sugar
  • Towel

How to do it:

  1. Fill the gallon baggy about half full with crushed ice.
  2. Add 6 tablespoons of rock salt to the ice.
  3. Seal the bag and shake the ice and salt for about five minutes.
  4. You’ll need the towel to hand the bag as it will be very chilly.
  5. Take one quart baggy and mix in ½ cup of Half & Half, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  6. Empty as much air as possible from the bag and seal.
  7. Place the quart bag inside the remaining quart bag, leaving as little air as possible, and seal.
  8. Place the quart bag inside the gallon bag and wrap it in the towel.
  9. Shake for about 15-20 minutes.
  10. Remove the quart bags and rinse to avoid any of the salt water from ruining your ice cream.
  11. Enjoy!

The Science

When the salt is mixed with the crushed ice it causes the freezing point of the ice to be lowered.  Water usually freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but with the 10 percent salt mixture it freezes at 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

This experiment also deals with different states of matter. When the water is in the form of ice it is a solid. When the salt is added, it melts, changing into a liquid. Inversely, the ice cream mixture begins as a liquid and then it is frozen into a solid. When matter changes state it is only a physical change, maintaining its chemical properties.

Steve Spangler Science offers numerous science activities that can be done with products found around the house. Visit www.stevespangerscience.com to keep kids engaged with more simple science experiments.