Monday, July 8, 2013

Trees, trees, trees

I was reading Charlotte Mason's book series on home education and came upon a section about identifying trees in your area.  This lead me to think of an experiment or activity of the such.  So here goes.

Appropriate Age Level
5-10, though younger ones can help collect leaves and learn verbally

Materials Needed
1.) Download or use some sort of tree identifier like so:

     Ohio Tree Identifier 

     Identify 50 Most Common North American Trees 

    Or check out a book on common trees in North America at your local library such as

    Trees of North America

    National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America

2.) 10-20 sheets of paper

3.) Glue or paste 

4.) Pen

Science Learned

Different types of trees

The ability to differentiate how species vary


1.) Choose an area to identify the trees in, whether it be your yard, your block, or a certain section of a local park. 

2.) Collect a leaf or two from each tree. 

3.) After all the leaves have been collected, paste them to the blank pages.

4.) Identify the leaves of the trees by using the identifier or book and write underneath the leaf what each tree is.

5.) Bind your book together somehow, and then use it to go around the same space and have your child point out which tree is which now with his homemade tree identifying book.

Time Allotted

1-3 hours

Monday, May 20, 2013

All about bubbles

Learn about bubbles while having fun in the yard   

Appropriate Age Level
5+ vocabulary might be 8+ 

Materials Needed
bubble wand
container full of bubble solution or variant of it 

Science Learned
hydrophoric - a particle that is water loving

hydrophobic - the ability of a particle to repel water

hydrocarbon- an organic compound consisting entirely of carbon and hydrogen

surface area - the sum of area of the faces


1. Get out your bubble solution

2. Begin blowing bubbles, have the kids catch the bubbles if they would like.

3. Talk about the science of the bubbles to the child or children you want to teach in something like so:
-> What do you think bubbles are made out of? Bubbles consist of three layers, one is water and two are soap molecule. The soap molecule has two parts to it, a hydrophilic part and a hydrophobic part.  What do you think these two words mean?  Hydrophilic means water loving, while hydrophobic means water repelling or water hating.  The hydrophilic end of the soap molecule faces the water, while the hydrophobic end extends away from the water layer and is made of a hydrocarbon. 
-> What shapes are bubbles usually?  Spheres or ball shaped right?  What is super fascinating is that a bubble will always try to become a sphere.  Why do you think that is?  This is because it minimizes the surface area of the the structure, the bubble.  What is surface area and why would it want to do that? Surface area is the amount of area or surface space that an object has.  A sphere is the smallest for a bubble and so it will always want to be this shape because it  requires the least energy to make or achieve.  Kind of how when you are running after a ball you run in a straight line instead of a loop to get it because you will use less energy to do it right?

4.  Enjoy bubble blowing!
Time Allotted

As long as you want to blow bubbles, the science shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.

References -

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bernoulli's principle with a Garden Hose

Learn Bernoulli's Principle while watering the backyard.   

Appropriate Age Level

Materials Needed
Garden Hose
Water Pressure
Something to Spray with Water, preferably plants, not your mom or dad. 

Science Learned
Density - mass per unit volume or the measure of how tightly passed stuff, aka mass, is. (1)

Bernoulli's Principle- states that increase in the speed of moving air or a flowing fluid is accompanied by a decrease in the air or fluid's pressure. (2)

Pressure- the measure of force applied over a unit area.(3)


1. Gather a garden hose, and hook it up to a spout.

2. Turn on the hose. Note the speed at which the water is exiting the end of the hose.

3. Now put your thumb on the end of the hose, to create only a small slit for the water to exit. The water should now exit the hose at a faster speed.  This is demonstrating Bernoulli's Principle. (4)

4. While watering plants, explain: You have to press your thumb hard against the end of the hose because the water in the hose is under greater pressure in the hose than outside of it.  The pressure in the hose is definitely greater than that of the atmosphere outside the hose.

5. You can make the hole on the end of the hose increase or decrease in size and as the hole decreases in size the speed of the water will increase because there is a larger pressure differentiation and the water wants to get to the lower pressure state as quickly as it can.

6. Enjoy your nicely watered garden all thanks to Bernoulli's Principle!

Time Allotted

5-10 minutes

4. Serway and Beichner Physics for Scientists and Engineers 5th Edition. 2000. p. 471. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Science in the car: TMBG

Sing along to science related songs in the car

Appropriate Age Level

4+ (at least my 3yo wasn't into it)          

Science Learned
How Blood Works in the Body
Hydrogen Cars
Colors of the Rainbow etc.

Materials Needed

They Might Be Giants - Here Comes Science CD, usually found at a local library but can be found here on Amazon.

1. Play the CD on the go in the car to expose the kiddos to science concepts such as the one listed above.

2. Disclaimer: Tracks 1 and 6 are of the secular humanist view point, so disregard these tracks if this is something that conflicts with your faith.

3. Quiz the kids when getting out of the car on some of the science facts they could have learned while listening. Here are some example questions: 
     a. Can you name some elements?
     b. What are some or all of the colors of the rainbow?
     c. Why is pluto no longer a planet?
     d.  How does hydrogen power a car?
     e. What is the sun made out of?
     f. What life forms participate in photosynthesis?
     g. How does the scientific method work?
     h. What dinosaurs can you name?
     i. What are some of the states of matter?

4. There is also an accompanying DVD that you could play at home and do the same thing at home.  Here is a video from the DVD.

Time Allotted
5 or more minutes depending on how many songs you want to listen to and discuss. 


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Winter Ice Melt Palooza!

Learn why salt helps to melt ice using different types of salt. 

Appropriate Age Level
5+ (some concepts can be 3+)

Science Learned
Freezing Point - The temperature at which a liquid becomes a solid
Temperature - a physical measurement of the hotness or coolness of something
Freezing Point depression - when the freezing point of something is lowered by a solute
Colligative Property - a property of a substance that depends on the number of particles present instead of type of particle.
Solution - a homogeneous mixture of solute and solvent that is in one phase (liquid, solid, gas)
Solvent - A substance that dissolves a solute.
Solute - A substance, usually a solid, dissolved into another substance, usually a liquid. 
Liquid- a state of matter that is characterized by taking up a definite volume but having no particular shape
Solid - state of matter that is characterized by being structurally rigid and resistance to change

Materials Needed
Ice Block
Table Salt - NaCl
Magnesium Chloride MgCl2
Calcium Chloride CaCl2

1. Either find a block of ice outside, or freeze some water in a plastic container. 

2. Explain how ice is frozen water and a solid and how its freezing point is at 32F or 0C.  When water is not frozen it is in the liquid state. 

3. On a surface that you don't mind getting wet, take some table salt and add it to the block of ice in one area. Attempt to stir in the salt into the ice.  Notice how the salt, the solute, melts the ice, the solvent. It essentially lowers its freezing point of the ice.  (If the student wants to know more, it essentially breaks the hydrogen bonds required to keep the ice in solid form by the salt molecules coming in and wanting to share the same space and transferring electrons.)

4. If you have Magnesium Chloride and/or Calcium Chloride on hand you can add a spoonful of each to other parts of the block.  (You could probably add some different food colorings to differentiate the different materials if you would like more wow!) If you have a thermometer on hand you can check out the differences in temperature of the solution melts.  The MgCl2 will depress the freezing point of ice to 5F.  While table salt only depresses it until 15F. Calcium chloride depresses it until -20F. While if you are doing this experiment inside the temperatures gotten will not be at these exact levels you should be able to see some difference. 

5.  Explain that the differences of the freezing points arrise from freezing point depression being a colligative property and the differences in size of the molecules, where NaCl is the smallest, CaCl2 is the largest, makes a difference in melt points. 

Time Allotted
20 minutes


Friday, January 25, 2013

Grow tomatoes, grow!

 Grow some tomato plants to later plant outside and learn about germination and photosynthesis in the process.

Appropriate Age Level
3+ for the actual experiment
5+ for concepts

Materials Needed
Planting pot(s) or plastic cups
Tomato seeds
Camera to take growth pictures with

Science Concepts Learned
Germination (1) - (see picture below) the process where a seed grows to become a seedling. For a seed to do this it needs water, oxygen and to be at certain temperature. 

1.The root emerges through the seed.
2.The part of the seed called the hypocotyl pushes it way out of the soil.
3.The hypocotyl straightens itself out.
4.Leaves begin to form.

Photosynthesis -  (see photo below) the process where plants convert energy from light from the sun into chemical energy that can be used by the plant.  

The reaction is the following (3):

carbon dioxide + water  ------->    sugar + oxygen 


1. Set out cups or pots and fill the pots with dirt (a starter mix for plants is recommended) as many as you want though think about seed crowding.  

2. Plant tomato seeds 1/4 inch deep in the dirt (2).

3. Water the seed/dirt mixture to make it soggy but not swampy.

4. In 5 to 10 days germination should occur. Take a picture of the potted seeds each day in this range and discuss the germination steps listed above in the terms section. 

5. After germination has occurred, weekly take pictures of the plants.  

6. After a few weeks compare the size of the plants with the pictures taken and from them you can talk about photosynthesis and how the light and water has helped the plant to grow. 

7. Continue growing the plants, and you can either transfer them to larger pots and keep them inside or you can transfer them outside if it is the right time of year. 

8. Enjoy the fruit you get from this practical example of science!

Time Allotted 
5-10 minutes weekly


Monday, January 7, 2013

Cleaning Reaction: Acid Base Chemistry

Appropriate Age Level
3+ (more depth for older children) 

Science Concepts Learned

Acid Base Reaction - a neutralization reaction where enough base is added to an acid to neutralize it into a salt and water

The following acid base reactions occur when vinegar(CH3COOH) and baking soda(NaHCO3) react:

A. CH3COOH + NaHCO3 ===> NaCH3COO + H2CO3

      (vinegar)    (baking soda)  (sodium acetate)  (carbonic acid) 
B. H2CO3 ===> CO2 + H2O
(carbonic acid)  (carbon dioxide) (water)
Overall:  CH3COOH + NaHCO3 ===> NaCH3COO + CO2 + H2O

                (vinegar)    (baking soda)  (sodium acetate) (carbon dioxide) (water)

Compound Reaction - reaction where there are intermediates that are not in the products or reactants

Decomposition Reaction  separation of a chemical compounds into elements or simpler compounds

Exothermic Reaction - a chemical reaction where energy is released in the form of heat or light.   

Materials Needed

1/2 cup White Vinegar

1/2 cup Baking Soda
two containers for each substance
optional: liquid measuring cup


1. Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into a container, one with a lid for smaller children.  Measure out 1/2 cup of baking soda and put into another container. 

2. Now, this is your choice.  You can either carry out the experiment this in a bowl or on a spot that needs some cleaning. For more containment use the bowl, but if you want something cleaned along with science being learned then by all means be creative.

3. Add a tablespoon of the baking soda to the container or designated spot.  Spread it around evenly.  Add a tablespoon of vinegar on top of the baking soda and watch it react.

4. Rinse out and dry the container, or choose a different spot to clean and repeat, this time explaining the reaction happening :

A. CH3COOH + NaHCO3 ===> NaCH3COO + H2CO3
      (vinegar)    (baking soda)  (sodium acetate)  (carbonic acid) 
B. H2CO3 ===> CO2 + H2O
(carbonic acid)  (carbon dioxide) (water)
Overall:  CH3COOH + NaHCO3 ===> NaCH3COO + CO2 + H2O

                (vinegar)    (baking soda)  (sodium acetate) (carbon dioxide) (water)

5. Depending on the age of the student you can go into as much detail as you want, you can add in the stoichiometry with the associated compounds, you can explain how this is a compound reaction versus a one-step reaction, you can explain how this is a decomposition reaction and go into detail about what an acid and a base means.

Time Allotted 

10-15 minutes