ChemShorts

    Cartesian Diver

    May 2018: Materials: • Plastic drinking bottle (1 or 2 L) with lid• Water• Ketchup or soy sauce packet or pen cap with modelling (or Sculpey) clay Experiment: Fill with water nearly to the top of the bottle. Add the ketchup packet (or if using the pen cap, add about a pea-size p...

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    Baby It’s Cold Outside!

    February 2018: Materials: Two different sized ziplock bags; Water; Calcium Chloride ice-melt pellets Experiment: In the large bag, put the ice-melt pellets in so that it is about one-fourth full. Fill the small bag about half full with water and make sure that it is sealed well. Place the wat...

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    That’s Some Spicy Water!

    January 2018: Materials: Glass, Water, Pepper, Dish Soap Experiment: In a glass of water, lightly sprinkle a little pepper onto it. What do you see happen? Maybe some of the flakes sank and some of them floated? Now, touch your fingertip to the dishwashing soap and then using that finger, touc...

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    Chasing Puddles

    November 2017: In the February 2017 edition of ChemShorts For Kids you investigated some unique properties of water like cohesion. I want to take a look at that again using a different experiment. Materials: Wax paper, Water, Food coloring, Toothpicks, Dropper, Dish soap Experiment: Have differ...

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    Cloud in a Bottle

    June 2017: Have you ever laid out in the summertime looking up in the sky at the clouds and imagined what animal shape the cloud has made? What is a cloud and can I make one? Materials: 2 L empty transparent plastic bottle with a lid matches warm water Warning! When using matches make su...

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    Bath Bombs

    May 2017: What is a bath bomb and why does it fizz when it goes into water? A bath bomb is a solid, powdery substance which can take many shapes. Here is one pictured below. As it's submerged in water, it bubbles. This is the result of the release of CO2 also known as carbon dioxide. This is the...

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    Water, Water, Everywhere

    April 2017: Materials: Paper or Styrofoam cups Ink pen Pencil Water bottle with cap Push pin Experiment: A) Begin by pushing the pen into the cup about 1 inch from the bottom and follow with two more holes, each 1 inch above the previous one. Above the sink or a tub, plug the holes w...

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    So Much Pressure!

    March 2017: As a kid doing dishes (does anyone do those anymore?), I was always fascinated when I had a glass filled with water and if you put a small plate on top of it and tipped it over, the water would stay in the glass. Back then it never made sense to me how this happened. Materials: - Pa...

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    My Cup Overflows

    February 2016: Here’s the challenge: Fill a glass with water as full as you can without it spilling over. How many paperclips do you think you can add before the water spills over the rim of the glass? Materials: - Box of paper clips or a lot of pennies- Drinking glass- Dishwashing soap ...

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    Windows on a Soda-pop Can

    January 2017: Have you ever seen a can crushed? How about one that has been ripped apart? Crushing an aluminum can may not take that much strength but ripping one apart would be very difficult to do. That is unless you’ve had a little chemical help. Materials: Copper Sulfate (can be fou...

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    You have to try it to believe it!

    December 2016: After taking last month off of writing ChemShorts for Kids, I thought I’d add another little trick from the Illinois State Fair that Frank Salter shared with many attendees. Materials: Coke bottle (or any bottle that narrows to the top but has a pronounced neck) A pen ca...

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    They Say the Water in Rio de Janeiro was Bad!

    October 2016: I just got back from the Illinois State Fair where the ACS had their tent set up. Frank Salter did many of the demonstrations at the fair and shared this one with me. Apparently back during the Vietnam Conflict, our troops did not always have access to clean, pathogen free water. To...

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    Packing Peanuts

    September 2016: Have you noticed that packing peanuts look different? Sometimes they are different colors (but that’s just because they add some color to the material in the peanut). The ones that are really different exist because they are made out of two very different materials. The orig...

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    Hot Steel Wool - Part II

    May, 2016: Kids, back in 2010, we looked at the reaction of iron in steel wool with oxygen by combining the wool with vinegar to remove the protective coating on it and saw the temperature rise as the wool is wrapped around a thermometer - http://chicagoacs.org/articles/212. The temperature...

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    Underwater Volcano

    April, 2016: Kids, this is a demonstration of what occurs in the ocean and what would have occurred in the formation of some islands like Hawaii. This was inspired by the “3 Scientists Walk into a Bar” Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/3Scientists/videos/614648762010171/ ...

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    Density of Water

    March, 2016: Kids, this is an experience that you may have noticed before, particularly if you go swimming in the summer. Fish take advantage of this principle in the winter time. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be per...

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    Colorful Valentine's Flowers

    February, 2016: Kids, Valentine’s day is right around the corner and the people who sell flowers look forward to this day all year long. If you think about the colors of flowers you think of red, yellow, orange, pink, and white but other colors of the rainbow are not prevalent like green...

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    Maple Syrup Crystals

    January, 2016: Kids, making maple syrup crystals is a fun project! They are an alternate flavorful sweetener in drinks or other treats because maple syrup crystals have a more complex flavor than sugar crystals or rock candy. Here are two methods for making maple syrup crystals. Note you must use...

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    Colorful Ice Sculptures

    December, 2015: Kids, how can you trap colors inside ice? In this melting ice experiment you'll make a colorful ice sculpture while learning about freezing point depression and erosion. You can use many types of salt for this project. Table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) is fine, as are coarse sal...

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    Dancing Worms

    November, 2015 Kids, in a variation of Dancing Raisins (ChemShorts for Kids, Feb. 1992; http://chicagoacs.org/articles.php?id=30), let's make some colorful Dancing Worms! You'll need gummy worms, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), water (H2O), vinegar (dilute acetic acid), 2 glasses, and scissors. ...

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    Painting with Water

    October, 2015 Kids, did you know that October 19-24 is National Chemistry Week? This year's theme is "Chemistry Colors our World" and here is one of their activities. Read to the bottom for a bonus activity for Halloween! Some artists use the absorbent property of canvas to create interesting shap...

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    Turn a Smartphone into a 3-D Viewer

    September, 2015: Kids, would you like to tinker with hologram-like images in the comfort of our own home? You can create amazing 3D visions that can be projected from your smartphone. Here is what you'll need: Graph paper CD case Tape Pen Scissors Smartphone Box cutter (for an adult par...

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    Purple Cauliflower Indicator

    June, 2015: Kids, did you know that cauliflower also comes in orange and purple colors? And that you can make designs using purple cauliflower and lemon juice? Make a quick trip to the grocery store with an adult partner and find out how! First, a little science. The deep purple color of purple ca...

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    A Peep Into the Speed of Light

    May, 2015: Kids, did you know that you can calculate the speed of light using common materials in your kitchen? The speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second, or 670,616,629 miles per hour. According to an entertaining NPR video from Skunk Bear, the speed of light is easy to calculate using P...

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    Making a Salt Saline Solution

    April, 2015: Kids, did you know that a "saline" solution refers to a salt solution, which you can prepare yourself using readily available materials. The solution can be used as a disinfectant, sterile rinse, or for labwork (although not for contact lenses - see a note below about that). This recip...

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    A Sugar Water Density Tower

    March, 2015: Kids, you can use simple kitchen materials to make a colorful density column. This project uses colored sugar solutions with different concentrations. The solutions will form layers, from least dense, on top, to most dense (concentrated) at the bottom of the tower. You will need a tal...

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    Eggy Bubbles

    Kids, do eggshells have tiny holes? This easy science experiment focuses on some of the interesting characteristics of eggs. Prove the existence of a small air pocket inside an egg as well as thousands of small holes in the shell, called pores, all while learning what air does as it is heated. W...

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    Poinsettia pH Paper

    Kids, here's a way to use holiday plants for science! Many plants contain pigments that are responsive to changes in acidity. An example is the poinsettia plant, which has colored leaves called bracts (they aren't really flowers). You can extract the red pigment from bright-red colored poinsettias a...

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    Homemade Vinegar

    Kids, what is vinegar? Vinegar is a product of the fermentation of alcohol by bacteria to for the purpose of producing acetic acid. Acetic acid has a tangy taste and it is also useful for household cleaning. Vinegar can be produced slowly from fruit juice or fermented juice. It can be produced quic...

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    Powdered Olive Oil

    Kids, what is molecular gastronomy? It's food science that seeks to understand the chemical and physical transformations that occur during cooking. It uses chemistry to put a modern spin on traditional foods. In this experiment, you will combine maltodextrin powder with olive oil to make a powdere...

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    Ice Art

    Kids, make a colorful ice sculpture while learning about freezing point depression. All you need is ice, salt, and food coloring! You can use any type of salt. Coarse versions like rock salt or sea salt work great, as does the finer-grained table salt (all of these are sodium chloride, NaCl). You ...

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    Kool-Aid® Powder Chemistry

    Kids, can you make a fizzy reaction without using vinegar? Yes you can! There are many experiments where the trick is to mix baking soda with vinegar, creating carbon dioxide fizzy gas and water. But if you don't happen to have vinegar around, here is another way to, for example, make that scienc...

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    Honeycomb Candy - Cooking with CO2

    Kids, honeycomb candy is easy to make and has an interesting texture that is caused by carbon dioxide bubbles trapped inside it. The carbon dioxide is produced when baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is added to a hot simple syrup. The bubbles in the candy make it light and give it a honeycomb appeara...

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    Regular Salt to Rock Salt

    Kids, have you ever seen a chef cook with pink salt or put their food on a big pink slab that looks like a large marble cutting board? Rock salt is a natural, unrefined salt consisting of large crystals containing mineral impurities. Sometimes the impurities give color to the salt. Therefore, natu...

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    Make a Color Wheel from Milk

    Kids, if you just add food coloring to milk, not a whole lot happens. However, it only takes one simple ingredient to turn the milk into a swirling color wheel. Here is what you do.Materials: 2% or whole milk food coloring dishwashing liquid cotton swab plate Instructions: Pour enough m...

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    Blow Frozen Bubbles

    Kids, there are some incredible frozen bubble photos on-line that are amazing. You too can blow bubbles that freeze into delicate frost patterns. You can even pick up the bubbles and examine them before they pop. All you need is bubble solution, a bubble wand, and a cold winter day (below freezing, ...

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    Be An Amateur Antiques Detective!

    Kids, do you like using a black light to check for glowing objects? Do you like to solve clues and riddles? Are you curious about how things are made? If you answered yes to all of these questions then you might like this activity. Some antiques, collectibles and memorabilia have value if they're au...

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    Marbled Christmas Gift Wrap

    Kids, it's really easy to make your own gift wrap which can then be a part of your holiday gifts! You can even add a holiday scent to the paper for an extra special touch. MATERIALS. You'll need paper (regular printer paper is fine), shaving cream, food coloring or water-soluble paints, silverw...

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    Make Dry Ice Bubbles

    Kids, you can use sublimating dry ice to produce carbon dioxide gas to fill bubbles. Here we will give you three variations for this experience, beginning from simple and gradually getting a little more complex. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no exper...

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    Quick Cups of Crystals

    Kids, this is a great way to quickly make a large amount of crystal needles! Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. In a cup or a small, deep bowl, mix 1/2 cup of Epsom salts (magnesium sul...

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    Supercooled Slushy Science

    Kids, here’s a way to cool off and amaze your friends by making a soda turn into a slushy on command. And all you need is some soda and a freezer! The slushy project works especially well with 16-oz or 20-oz carbonated soft drinks in plastic bottles. Please note: All chemicals and experiment...

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    Best Bubble Recipes

    Kids, how often have you felt like blowing bubbles but couldn’t find a bottle of them around the house? And are you tired of bubbles that pop as soon as you blow them? A soap bubble consists of a thin layer of water trapped between two layers of soap molecules. The tricks to longer-lasting,...

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    Glowing Petroleum Jelly

    Kids, what makes certain things glow under black lights? First, let’s talk about the light. The reason black lights are called "black lights" is because they give off very little light that our eyes can see. Visible light contains the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, and bl...

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    Make Fake Glass

    Kids, why aren’t people really hurt in movies when they appear to be thrown through glass windows? To discover their secret you can make stage "fake" glass by heating sugar and spreading it onto a cookie sheet. Be sure to have adult supervision when you do this activity! Please note: All ...

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    Water Balloon Ice Gems

    Kids, this is an easy way to make some decorations for your house if you live in a cold climate. You'll need water, balloons, food coloring, and outside temperatures below 25°F for at least two days. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments ...

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    Homemade Essential Oil Air Fresheners

    Kids, have you heard that necessity is the mother of invention? For those of you with asthma who can use some help in the room-deodorizing department, there is hope. The answer is homemade, all-natural, essential oil powered, gel based air fresheners. They smell great. They last a good long time....

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    Crystal Snowflake Ornaments

    Kids, learn how to cover a paper snowflake with crystals to make a glittering crystal snowflake decoration! You will crystallize borax onto homemade paper snowflakes, in any size you like. You will need: round paper coffee filters, borax, water, scissors, and food coloring (optional). Please not...

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    Rainbow in a Glass

    Kids, can you imagine drinking a rainbow? In this example of the principle of density, you can! All that you’ll need is four glasses of the same size, sugar, water, and food coloring. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be perf...

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    Burning Your Candle from Both Ends

    Kids, the “seesaw” candle is a fire science trick that teaches how combustion and Newton's Third Law of Motion work. A candle, balanced between a pair of glasses, seesaws up and down on its own as it burns. The most important thing you’ll need to try this trick is an adult partner....

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    Newspaper Nails

    Kids, how did your friend get that newspaper text on her fingernails? Here you will learn how to do it and why it works. This activity gives new meaning to having the latest information at your fingertips! You will need: pieces of newspaper, top and base coat nail polish, grey/nude/white/light pink ...

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    Rochelle Salt – Part II

    Kids, you can make a large single crystal of Rochelle salt and with that make your own piezocrystal-based circuit. You made your own Rochelle salt granules in the July 2012 ChemShorts edition. Piezoelectric crystals make very accurate and stable electronic vibrations. Clocks, radios and computers ...

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    Rochelle Salt – Part I

    Kids, did you ever hear of a crystal radio kit? More on that in Part II of this activity, but here we will make an essential ingredient. Rochelle salt can be used to grow very large single crystals that exhibit piezoelectricity. This property means the creation of electricity resulting from press...

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    Wax Volcano in a Cup

    Kids, a baking soda and vinegar volcano is fun but there are better models for how a volcano actually works. In this activity, wax "lava" forms a volcano in sand, eventually erupting into the atmosphere, which is water in this model. A real volcano forms and erupts because molten rock (magma) and h...

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    Clementine Candle

    Kids, did you know that you don't always need a wick and wax to make a candle? All you need for this alternative is a clementine and some olive oil. The clementine acts as a natural wick for the oil. A candle works by vaporizing wax or oil by burning, via a chemical reaction that produces water and ...

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    Chameleon Eggs

    Kids, have you seen those drinks with the floating edible eggs or beads in them? You can apply chemistry to make edible eggs or beads, and you can even make them change color. You’ll need: 1 tablespoon sodium alginate 1 tablespoon sugar 1-2 teaspoons baking soda 1 can frozen concentrat...

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    Bio-Bag Experiments

    Kids, what kind of trash bag breaks down fastest? As you probably know, trash is a weighty (pun intended) topic in this country. With only so much landfill space available, chemists and environmentalists are looking to other means of disposing trash. Most of the plastic bags in landfills are not env...

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    Make Fake Snow

    Kids, did you ever wonder why the snow in movies never seems to melt? You too can make a version of fake “Hollywood” snow using a common polymer. The fake snow is non-toxic, feels cool to the touch, lasts for days, and looks similar to the real thing. All you need is water and the poly...

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    Magical Microfiber

    Kids, what makes a microfiber cloth so good at picking up dust and water? Believe it or not, it’s chemistry behind the magic. Here are some tests to determine the quality of a microfiber towel or cloth. All you need are some different brands of microfiber cleaning cloths, a paper towel, and...

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    Slime Gone Wild

    Kids, what is it about slime that captivates everyone? There are so many slime varieties available now that I challenge you to create your very own. Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no exper...

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    A Glowing Skull

    Kids, Halloween is the perfect time of year to try out spooky mad scientist projects. With some laundry detergent you can make a glow-in-the dark skull that you can put on your sidewalk or window that will be invisible during the day but will glow at night. Materials liquid laundry detergent or ...

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    International Year of Chemistry

    Kids, The International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011) is already half over! It’s been a great year so far and there’s more to come. This recognition for chemistry was made official by the United Nations in December 2008. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element o...

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    MicroMeteorites

    Kids, can you test for little bits of space in your own backyards? Every day, 500 tons of dust and rock from space collide with Earth. Much of this burns up in the atmosphere as ‘shooting stars’. However, particles smaller than a millimeter sometimes slip through the air without burni...

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    Sugary Nanoscience

    Kids, which will dissolve more quickly, a Tic-Tac™ mint or a mouthful of cotton candy? The answer may seem easy but why does it happen? Exploring this can also help you to understand why, in the world of nanoscience, nanoparticles are so unique. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 60,0...

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    Mineral Paint

    Kids, what do you think makes the vivid color of paints stay bright for years and years? Unlike paints made from plants or other sources, paints made from minerals hold their color well over time. But they can be hard to make when the minerals are rock-hard. Soft minerals, like chalk (also known as ...

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    Molasses Lava

    Kids, imagine rocks getting hot enough to actually melt and flow like molasses! Let’s find out how viscosity affects the way lava flows and volcanoes grow. When lava is very hot it’s thin and runny, but as it cools down it gets thicker and stickier. Temperature, along with the specific m...

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    DNA Extraction

    Kids, would you like to see DNA extracted from your very own mouth? Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is present in all living things from bacteria to plants to animals. In animals, it is found in almost all cell types: muscles, reproductive cells, hair roots, and skin cells -- anything that has a nuc...

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    Get a Grip

    Kids, do your parents or other adult friends enjoy coffee? Here is something to try with their bag of vacuum-packed coffee grounds. Before opening a new bag, notice that it is rather solid. Cut off a corner of the bag and what happens? The coffee grounds will become instantly fluid-like. Wikipe...

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    A Crystal Christmas Tree

    Kids, this crystal Christmas tree project works quickly from a paper or sponge tree that “grows” crystal foliage. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. An adult partner will n...

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    The Color of Gemstones

    Kids, did you ever wonder about the color of certain minerals, gems, or birthstones? Gemstones are minerals that can be polished and cut for use as an ornament or jewelry. The color of a gemstone comes from tiny, trace amounts of transition metals present in the main rock or mineral. Transition met...

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    Biodegradeable Bioplastic

    Kids, how would you like to make a bio-friendly corn-based plastic that was also biodegradeable? Grab your nearest adult partner along with these materials: 1 tablespoon cornstarch, a zip-seal bag, 1 tablespoon water, 2 drops corn oil, food coloring, and a microwave oven. Please note: All chemica...

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    Refrigerator Magnet Microscopy

    Kids, how are the north and south poles of a refrigerator magnet arranged? How are chemists able to “see” the atoms that they work with? In this activity you will discover how to answer these questions and also gain an understanding of a cutting-edge imaging technology. Please note: ...

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    Sunscreen Savvy

    Kids, now that summer is upon us would you like a way to prove that a sunscreen works without using your own skin as the test? For this activity you will need a sheet of black & white newspaper or construction paper (red or dark blue work best), four zip-seal sandwich bags, two sunscreens (one l...

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    The Brazil Nut Effect

    Kids, why is it that the largest nuts in a can of mixed nuts always seem to be on the top when you open the can? The “Brazil nut effect” is a phenomenon in which the largest particles end up on the surface when a granular material containing a mixture of objects of different sizes is s...

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    Chemiluminescence - A Cool Light

    Kids, will a Lightstick glow longer in hot or cold weather? Many chemical reactions produce both light and heat, such as a burning candle. When a candle is lit, its flame glows and becomes hot. It is much less common for a chemical reaction to produce light without heat. The light from such reaction...

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    Hot Steel Wool

    Kids, what kind of chemical reaction makes heat? Exothermic chemical reactions produce heat. In this reaction vinegar is used to remove the protective coating from steel wool, allowing it to rust. When the iron combines with oxygen in this chemical reaction, heat is released. What You Need: Ther...

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    Rubbery Flubbery Fun

    Kids, this is a procedure for making the non-sticky sort of rubber, or gelatinous slime, that is known as “flubber”. It is a completely safe substance that is not sticky and is non-toxic. You will need an adult partner for handling the heating steps. Please note: All chemicals and exp...

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    Popcorn Experiments

    Kids, what makes popcorn pop? This activity requires a bag of unpopped popcorn kernels divided in thirds. Two days prior, place 1/3 in a plastic container with two tablespoons of water. Put the lid on and shake the kernels so that they are all coated with water. Shake from time to time. After 2 days...

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    Peachy Keen

    Kids, did you ever think of freezing a whole peach or even one cut up into pieces? Why not? If you tried it, you'd find that all of the flavor was gone and that the perfectly peachy texture became mush upon thawing. So what can be done to save peaches beyond their growing season? Please note: A...

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    Graphene 101

    Kids, every time someone writes a line with a pencil, the resulting mark includes bits of the hottest new material in chemistry and nanotechnology: graphene. What do graphite, diamond, and fullerene (aka buckyball) have in common? They are all made of pure carbon! In chemistry terms they are calle...

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    Trading Places – Liquid Magic

    Kids, here is a chance to use the scientific phenomenon of density and make a “magic trick”. Take two glasses of different-colored liquids and watch the liquids switch places in the glasses! Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments ...

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    Crystal Rings and Ferns

    This is a quick and easy crystal growing project. All you need is a bit of table salt, water, a steel pan, and a stove to produce interesting salt crystal rings, ferns, and other shapes. Specifically, get these materials together along with an adult partner: steel or iron pot - don't use a non-s...

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    Goldenrod Paper

    Kids, learn how to use a special color-changing paper to develop a hidden message! Certain brands of goldenrod (golden yellow) paper contain a special dye that turns bright red in solutions that are basic like ammonia or baking soda. The paper turns back yellow with an acid like vinegar or lemon jui...

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    Invisibility Demos

    Kids, how can you make crystals and spheres disappear? Start with ones that are made from polyacrylamide! Superabsorbent polyacrylamide crystals (e.g. Soil Moist Crystals®, among other brands) are small grains which, when placed in water, seem to disappear. To your friends, you can cast an &ld...

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    Dry Ice Crystal Ball

    Kids, how can you make a bubble as big as a crystal ball and filled with a smoky haze? All you need to make such a large bubble is dry ice, bubble solution, and a little water. Dry ice sublimes to form carbon dioxide gas, which in turn is used to form and expand the bubble. Please note: All chemic...

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    Bubble Prints

    Kids, let’s pop colored bubbles onto a piece of paper to make bubble prints. Bubble prints are like fingerprints except made with bubbles. You can make bubble prints and learn about how bubbles are shaped and how pigments combine to make different colors. Please note: All chemicals and expe...

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    Fried Green Egg

    Kids, how can adding something purple to something white make something green? Red cabbage juice contains a natural pH indicator that changes color from purple to green under basic (alkaline) conditions. You can use this reaction to make a fried green egg. First, with the help of an adult partner, p...

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    Carbonated Fizzy Fruit

    Safety Tips * Dry ice is very cold so don't touch or eat it; leave all handling to an adult partner who should wear non-plastic gloves and use tongs. * Don't ever seal dry ice into a closed container. * Freshly frozen fizzy fruit is the same temperature as dry ice (around -109°F) so a...

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    Soap to Foam

    Kids, what could make a piece of soap change to a ball of foam without using any liquid? Small pieces of Ivory™ soap, when microwaved, will expand into a foam that is more than six times their original size! It's a fun trick that won't hurt either your microwave or the soap. The causes are fro...

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    A Simple Weather Barometer 

    Kids, it's easy to make your own weather barometer! Using simple instruments, people predicted weather back in the good ole days before Doppler radar and GOES satellites. One of the most useful instruments is a barometer, which measures air pressure or barometric pressure. You can make your own baro...

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    Evaporation Envy

    Kids, when you’re ready to play your favorite sport do you consider what you’re wearing? Cotton clothes get wet, sticky, and heavy because they hold onto sweat. New high-tech fabrics are different – they pull moisture away from you and through the fabric where it evaporates qui...

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    How an Ice Cream Float Works

    An ice cream soda or ice cream float is made by adding soda pop or seltzer to ice cream. Some people add flavoring, like chocolate syrup, or a little milk. However you make it, as soon as the soda hits the ice cream you get fizzy, frothy, tasty bubbles. Please note: All chemicals and experiments c...

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    Heat-Activated Invisible Inks

    Kids, how can you send an invisible message? Some science projects don't require any chemicals that you don't already have around the house, and a great example is invisible ink. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed witho...

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    Panoply of Periodic Tables

    Kids, what is the most popular chart used by chemists? Elements are the building blocks of all matter, and currently there are about 117 different and unique atoms comprising the elements. There are many ways to arrange the chemical elements into a chart. Mendeleev arranged rows and columns so that ...

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    Soda Can Shakeup

    Kids, why does shaking a can of soda make it burst out when you open it? And does tapping on the can stop it from doing this? Contrary to popular belief, shaking a can of soda does not increase the pressure inside the can. Shaking takes one single pocket of carbon dioxide gas at the top of the can ...

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    Flower Food

    Kids, what’s up with those little cellophane packets of powder that come with cut flowers? They have three components: Food: Sugar is needed to continue development of a bud into a flower, and the flower will perform better in terms of size, color and vase life. Hydration: A wilted flower ...

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    Glow-in-the-Dark Geode

    Kids, how can you make a geode glow in the dark? It's very easy in this experiment. The 'rock' is a natural mineral (in this case an eggshell). You can use one of several common household chemicals to grow the crystals. And the glow comes from paint that you can get from a craft store. Please note:...

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    Glow-in-the-Dark Slime

    Kids, this recipe is for a clear slime that glows in the dark after you expose it to light. The main ingredients are: Elmer's glue gel, (saturated) borax solution and glowing paint. You’ll also need measuring cups/spoons, a bowl or Ziploc baggie and a spoon. Please note: All chemicals and e...

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    Mustard Mystery 

    Kids, is there really silver in that silver coin? Even though our dimes, quarters, half dollars, and "silver" dollars are silver in appearance, those minted after 1971 actually have no silver in them. Silver was completely removed from dimes and quarters in 1965 and replaced with an outer layer of ...

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    Thermometer Thoughts

    Kids, how would you like to make your own thermometer? All you will need is some water, rubbing alcohol, a clear, narrow-necked plastic bottle, food coloring, a clear plastic straw, and tape or modeling clay. Here is what you do: Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of ...

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    A Chemistry Scavenger Hunt 

    Kids, tell your teacher that you would like your class to do a chemistry scavenger hunt! These are really popular assignments where students are asked to identify or bring in items that fit a description. Examples of scavenger hunt items are below. Many of these topics have been tackled in our previ...

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    Static Power 

    Kids, can you imagine being able to bend water with static electricity? When two objects are rubbed against each other, some of the electrons from one object can jump to the other. The object that gains electrons becomes more negatively charged; the one that loses electrons becomes more positively c...

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    Super Sorting Challenge

    Kids, how do you think recyclers separate all that stuff they get in their bins? Materials can be grouped or separated by how they look and/or by the material of which they are made. These qualities are called properties of the materials. Some recyclers use special properties of materials to grou...

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    Homemade Floam

    Kids, what is like slime with polystyrene beads in it that can be molded into shapes? It’s a really fun toy called Floam™. You can sculpt with this colorful goop or use it to coat other objects. You can store it to reuse it or allow it to dry, if you want permanent creations. It's a lot ...

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    Reaction Rates

    Kids, do you think that temperature will have an affect on how fast or slow a reaction might take place? In order for a chemical reaction to occur, the molecules, which are REACTANTS, must physically come into contact with one another. Anything that increases the frequency of these encounters will ...

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    Alka-Seltzer Surface Area

    Kids, did you know that the rate of a chemical reaction can be affected by the physical size of the reactants? When decreasing the size of particles that weigh a certain amount, you will increase the number of particles. Here you will test the hypothesis that smaller particle size can increase th...

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    Cooking with Copper Chemistry 

    Kids, did you know that whipping eggwhites in a copper bowl gives different results from beating them in a glass, ceramic, or steel bowl? One common technique used in baking is to whisk egg whites in order to make especially light, airy or fluffy delicacies. When air is whisked into egg whites, the ...

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    A Dry Ice Demo

    Kids, what causes the “smoke” from bubbling beakers and flasks in TV shows and movies? Dry ice is another name for the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2). It is colder than water ice but can be handled safely for short periods of time with insulating gloves. There is a video of the cla...

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    Christmas Tree Preservative

    Kids, do you have a real Christmas tree for the holidays? How would you like to be in charge of feeding and watering your tree? Yes, your tree needs food and water just as much as you do! Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be perf...

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    Leafy Chromatography

    Kids, did you ever wonder about the chemistry of autumn leaf colors? Most plants contain several pigment molecules. If you experiment with different leaves in this activity you will see the wide range of pigments. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no exp...

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    Some Like it Hot — Some Like it Cold

    Kids, would you believe that when something rusts, heat is produced? Or that when some compounds are mixed the temperature can go down? A chemical reaction that produces heat is called “exothermic” and one that needs heat, where the temperature decreases, is “endothermic”. ...

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    A Silver Tarnish Dip

    Kids, how would you like to make your own silver polishing dip? Ask your adult partner if they happen to have some older silverware, trays, servingware, jewelry etc. around the house. Is it nice and shiny or is it dull and dark? As silver (element Ag) is exposed to the small amounts of hydrogen su...

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    Pepper Tension

    Kids, can you make pepper flakes, paper clips, and needles “walk on water”? Indeed you can, and here are the things you will need to make it happen: a bar of soap or liquid detergent, water, three shallow bowls or dishes, pepper flakes or talcum powder, a small string, paper clip, fork,...

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    Fudge Factor

    Kids, what is it about the texture (the “mouth feel”) of fudge that just makes it taste so good? Did you know that this texture can be defined by crystals? Little teensy sugar crystals that are completely surrounded by a very concentrated sugar syrup. So, in making your own fudge, you...

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    Metal Mania – Part II

    Kids, have you ever seen a copper-colored nail? In this month’s activity you will make one of your own. First you will need the solution left over from last month’s experiment (Metal Mania – Part I). If you didn’t save the solution or if it has degraded, have fun repeating...

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    Metal Mania – Part I

    Kids, do you think you could make pennies change from dull to shiny to green right before your eyes? Over the course of two months, we’ll learn about metals using pennies, nails, and a few simple household ingredients to explore some of the properties of metals. Please note: All chemicals ...

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    A Borax Snowflake

    Kids, do real snowflakes melt a little too quickly for your full enjoyment? How about growing your own out of borax, coloring it blue if you like, and enjoying the sparkle all year long! Here is what you need: string, a wide-mouth pint-sized jar, white pipe cleaners, borax (see tips), a pencil, bo...

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    A Kid’s Lava Lamp

    Kids, did you ever want to try to make your own lava lamp? While real lava lamps rely on materials and chemicals for a more advanced age group, you can get a similar effect with simple household ingredients. Here is what you need: vegetable oil or baby oil, water, food coloring, glitter or small b...

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    A Chemical Artist

    Kids, in this activity you can use some chemistry, your creativity, and a little muscle power to make a unique piece of artwork from a newspaper. You will need a newspaper with color pictures (like USA Today), scissors, vinegar, cotton swabs, a popsicle stick, white paper, and paper towels. Please...

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    Science Fair Project Resources

    Kids, it’s that time of year again, right? When your teachers are asking you to think of science fair project ideas? One of the most common questions that I am asked is to provide ideas for science fair projects. Since we are all about chemistry here, this article is going to concentrate on ...

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    T-shirt Chromatography

    Kids, how can you use chromatography to create your own colorful T-shirt design? In this activity, you will separate the ink from permanent colored markers to make a rainbow of colors on your T-shirt! Chromatography is a technique used to separate mixtures and can be used by chemists in fields as ...

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    Stained Glass from Glue

    Kids, how would you like to combine elements from both science and art to make a simulated stained glass? For artists, creating the right material (whether it is a painting or a sculpture or whatever) requires much experimentation until the result is exactly what they want. For some scientists thi...

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    Making Sandstone

    Kids, how would you like to make your own rock? There are three major types of rock: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous. This particular activity concerns sandstone, which is a type of sedimentary rock. You will need ½ cup (118 ml) of water, 2 paper cups, 2-1/2 tablespoons of Epsom salts...

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    Making Sandstone

    Kids, how would you like to make your own rock? There are three major types of rock: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous. This particular activity concerns sandstone, which is a type of sedimentary rock. You will need ½ cup (118 ml) of water, 2 paper cups, 2-1/2 tablespoons of Epsom salts...

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    The Measure of A Molecule

    Kids, is there an easy way to compare the sizes of gas molecules? Yes there is, and all you need are two regular balloons and some helium. Have one of the balloons inflated with helium (you can go to a store and ask them to inflate a regular balloon for you). Then inflate the second balloon with ...

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    The Nose Knows!

    Kids, everyone knows that a day or two after you blow up a balloon it gets smaller. This is because some of the air leaks out through microscopically small holes in the balloon’s wall. In this activity, you will test how the molecules that we can smell from a flavoring extract can move throu...

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    Bath Bubblers

    Kids, “bath bubblers” or “bath bombs” are fancy bath bars that can be found at bath & body stores. But even better, they are easy to make with materials found in the home. A chemical reaction occurs when a bath bubbler comes in contact with water which involves citric aci...

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    Glitter Slime

    Kids, want to do an experiment than can be considered as more on the icky side? While “Glitter Slime” doesn’t sound so bad, we are going to use it as a model for trapping allergens. One way that our noses keep allergens like pollen, spores and dust from our lungs is to use a stic...

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    Aspirin Tummy Test

    Kids, we all know that aspirin is a medicine, but did you know that it is also a chemical? It’s name is acetylsalicylic acid. You have probably heard that it can cause stomach discomfort in some people – maybe even yours, too. One way to lessen this is to combine the aspirin with an a...

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    The Power of Tiny Bubbles

    Kids, can you make popcorn kernels dance? This particular dance will be up and down rather than side to side. You will need two clear glasses or containers, water, clear soda water, and several uncooked popcorn kernels. Fill one glass with water and the other with soda water, then drop a few popc...

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    A Chemistry Pie

    Kids, we have cooked up a treat for you just in time for Thanksgiving. This activity will involve the baking of an unusual apple pie, one that needs no actual apples. It tastes and looks like apple pie because some tricks of chemistry are used to reproduce the taste of apples, and other ingredient...

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    Parts Per Million Lab

    Kids, have you ever heard the term “ppm” or parts per million? Sometimes a scientist will have to discuss what is in water or air at very low levels, and they use the term ppm because the amounts are so small. Even parts per billion (ppb) is used sometimes. One ppm means that one pa...

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    Mentos Mayhem

    Kids, why do Mentos mints dropped into a can of soda make a foamy fountain? One might guess that the acid in the soda might be reacting with some kind of carbonate in the mint coating to create CO2 carbon dioxide fizz. Mentos have a strange chalky color and texture and they do taste a bit like an...

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    Ripening Fruit

    Kids, is a tomato a vegetable or a fruit? Tomatoes are a fruit and, in fact, they are more like berries than any other fruit. Like all berries, they are wonderful when in season but mediocre when not. The problems with tomatoes are that their season is very short and that they don't like to travel...

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    Gooey Worms

    Kids, do you want to make some slimy, gooey worms for you and your friends? Of course you do! Here is what you will need. Have an adult partner buy some Gaviscon™ liquid antiacid and some calcium-fortified orange juice. Then all you need is some optional food coloring, a squeeze bottle wit...

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    Fun with Ferrofluids

    Kids, do you want to make a solid-liquid combination that can morph into weird shapes right before your eyes? All that you will need is some corn syrup, a thin, flat-bottomed dish (a Petri dish is perfect, but even plasticware will work), iron filings, and a strong bar magnet. Here is what you do wi...

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    Black Lights & Phosphors

    Kids, did you ever wonder why is it that under a "black light" some white objects appear to be so bright that they glow? Or even how black lights work at all? The answer to both of these questions involves phosphors. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and ...

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    Stinky Chemistry

    Kids, want to see how some basic chemistry can help go a long way with making good food? We'll bet that you have never tried cabbage, but this experiment might change that. First, never buy a cabbage that has yellow spots. Where does the yellow come from? Green vegetables have two types of chlorophy...

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    Honey, it's Chemistry!

    Kids, what is both a sweetener and an antiseptic, is the most mentioned food in the Bible, and is the only food manufactured for us by animals? Believe it or not, the answer is honey. Honey comes in many forms. Extracted honey is a liquid that has been removed from the honeycombs using a centr...

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    Food Wraps

    Kids, did you ever wonder what the difference is between all those long, rectangular boxes of foils and wraps in your kitchen? This month we are going to have fun by making something tasty and then testing how best to keep it that way. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an eleme...

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    Candy Clouds

    Kids, did you know that October 19-25 this year was National Chemistry Week? The theme this year was "The Earth's Atmosphere and Beyond". All kinds of fun activities were developed for that week to highlight the chemistry going on in the air that we breathe. Here we are going to highlight one ...

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    JELL-O: Chemistry in a Box

    Kids, the ingredients list on a box of JELL-O® tells us that it is sweetened, flavored, and colored gelatin (take a look yourself). A box of strawberry JELL-O has sugar, gelatin, adipic acid (for tartness), artificial flavor, disodium phosphate and sodium citrate (to control acidity), fumaric ac...

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    Thermite - A Solid Reaction

    Kids, can you imagine doing chemistry with just aluminum foil and some rust? By using these compounds in just the right way, you can perform a simple yet rather spectacular process that is one example of the so-called "thermite" reactions. A full-scale thermite reaction is much too dangerous for...

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    Helium vs. Air Balloons

    Kids, did you ever notice that helium balloons made using a regular balloon (not a Mylar balloon), do not last very long? This column provides a way to measure the diffusion of helium out of a balloon, and compare the results to a balloon filled with air. Please note: All chemicals and experimen...

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    Ink Chemistry

    Kids, did you ever wonder why newspaper ink comes off all over your fingers? Okay, maybe you haven't read too many newspapers yet, but now is a good time to start. Open up a newspaper, read the headlines, flip every page, and re-fold every section. By now you should be good and covered with black in...

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    Pencil Chemistry

    Kids, did you ever wonder why everyone calls that stuff in pencils "lead" when it isn't really lead at all? Instead, it is a nontoxic mixture of graphite and clay (more on that later). Way back in the days of the Roman Empire, actual lead rods were used to write on papyrus. But more recently, in the...

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    A Chemical Counterfeit Test

    Kids, what's so special about the paper that money is printed on? First of all, it isn't really paper at all. Rather, at a blend of cotton and linen, it is more like fabric material. The blend is about 3/4 cotton and 1/4 linen but the precise amounts are kept very secret. Please note: All chemical...

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    Silly Putty

    Kids, did you know that Silly Putty®, in addition to being the pinkish, bouncing, stretchy stuff, is also a "dilatant" chemical compound? Silly Putty is a unique material. It stretches without breaking, yet it can be "snapped off" cleanly. It bounces higher than a rubber ball. It floats if you s...

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    Hard Water Test

    Kids, in this experiment you will make "hard" water from distilled water, which contains no minerals, and is therefore "soft" to start with. Tap water in many parts of the country (including Chicagoland) is hard and contains minerals that can interfere with the cleaning ability of detergents. Water ...

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    Water Water Everywhere

    Kids, did you ever wonder how much of the water on the planet is available to drink? Although 75% (three-quarters) of the Earth's surface is covered with water, 97% of it is too salty to drink. Another 2.5% is either frozen or too deep to reach, leaving just 0.5% of Earth's water for drinking, washi...

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    Salt Crystal Garden

    Kids, in a glass or plastic bowl put 1-3 small pieces of porous materials such as coal, charcoal, brick, tile, cement and/or sponge. On day 1, pour two tablespoons each of water, table salt, and Mrs. Stewart's Bluing (MSB) solution (more on this later) directly over the porous materials. On day 2, s...

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    Cookie Coal Mining

    Kids, there are many things that we use every day that are mined from the ground. Things you may never think of such as portland cement which is used to make concrete, or sulfur, or salt, are mined. Illinois mines provide primarily crushed stone, portland cement, sand, gravel, and coal. The website ...

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    A Potato Power Plant

    Kids, this activity uses a common potato and two different metals to make enough electricity to run a small digital clock. Try this activity then attempt to expand on it to make a science fair project. You'll need a large raw potato, 2 pennies, 2 large galvanized nails, 3 pieces of 6" long wire, and...

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    Chalky Chromatography

    Kids, do you think you can unmix your favorite marker color? Some of the bright colors in your watercolor marker set are not made from a single pigment. Rather, just the right amount of different pigments is often mixed together. You can unmix, or separate, all of these pigments using a process call...

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    Lightening with Lemons

    Kids, how much do you know about lemons? Here is a very quick and easy test of the power of lemon juice. Have an adult partner make a mug of hot tea for you from a teabag. Use a white or clear mug so that you can easily see the color of the tea. Now take a fresh lemon wedge and squirt in a few drops...

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    Heat Packs and Supercooling

    Kids, there is a cool (okay, not really) product available on the market for a reusable heat pack/handwarmer that is loaded with chemistry-in-action ability. It's called a "Zap Pac Heat Pack" (contact info below). While a monetary investment is required, it dramatically and safely showcases the phen...

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    Soda Science

    Kids, here you'll be dabbling in the science of drinkable bubbles by making your very own root beer soda pop. Most sodas use pressurized carbon dioxide for the bubbles, but that would be very difficult to mimic at home. So instead we'll be using yeast to carbonate the brew. Last year we discussed th...

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    Penny Popper

    Kids, this column is for you really young ones, ages 5-7 or so. It is about something called surface tension. We will concentrate on water here, because water molecules really like to stick together. An electrostatic-like force attracts them. When they are near each other, they will try very hard to...

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    Icy Explorations

    Kids, let's try to take advantage of the cold weather here in the Midwest. You know that a backyard pond or lake in winter can be a magical place. It is also filled with many scientific wonders. These bodies of water freeze from the top down, and they do so for two reasons. The top is closer to the ...

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    Christmas Chemistry

    Kids, did you ever think of the Christmas tree as a chemical kind of plant? The wood of most any tree can be separated into two major components. They can be thought of as the "hard" and "soft" parts, which are the fiber (hard) parts and the oils and other soluble parts (soft). The hard or structura...

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    Chemistry & Art - Frescoes

    Kids, a fun event called National Chemistry Week will take place this year Nov. 4-10, 2001. Check other articles in the Bulletin and the Chicago Section web page for details in the Chicago area. The theme this year is "Celebrating Chemistry & Art". One of the related activities suggested on the ...

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    An Elementary Game

    Kids, did you ever think about building your own collection of chemical elements? This can be a fun science project and a great "Show & Tell" classroom session. Look back at our previous article on the periodic table (June 1998) and also at http://pearl1.lanl.gov/periodic/ for great sites that d...

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    Proteins and Hard Boiled Eggs

    Kids, did you ever wonder why eggs get hard when you boil them? It’s because they have lots of protein, especially in the egg whites. Here’s how it works. Protein is a polymer chain of amino acids that is flexible enough to fold up on itself in different ways based on their chemistry. It...

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    A Magnesium Marvel

    Kids, have you ever wondered how those trick birthday candles work ­ the ones that keep re-lighting themselves after they are blown out? All you need for this month¹s experiment is a regular birthday candle, a "trick" birthday candle, matches, and an adult partner to light the candles for y...

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    A Medical Membrane Mimic

    Kids, have you ever heard of kidney dialysis? Kidneys are essential for keeping the proper chemical balance in our blood. They perform a wonderful balancing act of filtration and osmosis that is not only essential to life, but is extremely complicated. In very simple terms, the kidneys filter blood ...

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    ChemLinks for Kids

    Kids, in this column we¹ll put together some of our favorite internet sites for chemistry experiments and learning activities at the elementary school level. This is so that you have something to do in between our monthly columns! One of our favorite resources through the years has been the Ame...

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    Fizzy Fun

    Kids, baking soda and/or baking powder are added to cooking batters to produce the gas bubbles that make cakes and muffins rise (this is called "leavening"). It is caused by the action of baking soda plus a liquid acid. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). When mixed with a liquid acid it rel...

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    Experiments with Yeast ­ Part III of III

    Kids, did you make your own bread from yeast according to the last few columns? We hope you did, but if not you can still do quite a few experiments with store bought yeast. The first experiment here tests how sugar effects the growth of yeast. Fill two 1-cup glass measuring cups with 1/2 cup warm w...

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    Yeast to Bread ¬ Part II of III

    Kids, did you make your own yeast according to last month¹s column? It is really fun chemistry to do hands-on and it has a biological slant (in a word, "biochemistry"), so we hope that you did. If you had to refrigerate your starter yeast in order to wait for this column to appear, remove one c...

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    Yeast Chemistry - Part I of III

    Kids, did you know that yeast is a tiny living fungus and that, like all living things, they need to eat? Here you will make your very own bubbly, gooey yeast for baking bread. The biochemical process is called fermentation, which begins as yeast eats the sugars in fruit and grain. This releases enz...

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    A Silicate Garden

    Kids, have you discovered the colorful rocks that grow into underwater stalagmites yet? The ingredients for making your own silicate or crystal garden are a bit too exotic for you to find around the house or in the grocery store. Your best bet is to go to your favorite toy store and look for a produ...

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    The Science of Money

    Kids, chemistry is so common that it can even be found in money. Here we'll learn some science about coins and bills. Let's talk about coins first. Pennies obviously look different by their color while all the rest appear to be the same silvery color, until the new 2000 "golden" Sacagawea dollar coi...

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    Testing the Texture of Toothpaste

    Kids, chemistry is so common that it can even be found in toothpaste. Chemists have worked hard to come up with the perfect stuff. Read the labels – you'll find out all kinds of interesting things. Here you'll find some information plus learn some tests you can do to compare different brands. ...

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    Pictorial Guide to Molecules

    Kids, here's a really cool guide to what some common atoms and molecules look like when we have a whole bunch of them together, and see their everyday appearance. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult s...

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    A Shape Memory Metal

    Kids, did you ever imagine that there might be chemistry involved in braces? How about eyeglass frames? There is a special metal alloy called Nitinol that is often involved in both of these applications. It is a nickel-titanium (Ni-Ti) alloy developed by chemists at the Naval Ordinance Lab (NOL) &sh...

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    The Chemistry Behind "Magic" Pens

    Kids, let¹s look at the cool chemistry that makes color-changing markers work. These special colored markers are used to make colorful masterpieces, and when they are drawn over with a special white marker the colors change. Let¹s be investigative about this and look at the science of this...

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    Crayon Chemistry

    Kids, did you ever wonder what crayons are made of and how all those different colors arise? You probably know that they are "wax" crayons, but let¹s go a little bit deeper than that. Waxes are a mixture of chemicals called esters, fatty acids, alcohols and hydrocarbons. They are for the most p...

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    Kevlar: The Millennium Molecule

    Kids, last month we learned about teflon and this month we'll learn about another amazing polymer (which is actually a really, really big molecule) called Kevlar. Kevlar is also called the "fabric of steel" because of its outstanding strength. Underwater, it is 20 times stronger than steel! Since it...

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    Teflon: A Guiness Record Holder

    Kids, did you know that teflon is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the slipperiest material in the world? The secret lies in its highly stable covalent bonds. Let¹s learn more about teflon's chemistry and do a little test of its amazing properties. Please note: All chemicals and...

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    Egg Engraving

    Kids, let's use some chemistry to engrave your name on a hard boiled egg. It's actually a process of reverse-engraving, because we'll make all of the shell disappear EXCEPT for your name Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performe...

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    Clearly it's Vitamin C

    Kids, which has more vitamin C in it: Tang® drink mix or orange juice? Let’s use some chemistry and a color test to find out. Have an adult make an iodine solution by adding 1 teaspoon of tincture of iodine to 1 tablespoon of water in a labeled plastic cup. Please note: All chemicals and...

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    The Incrediblob

    Kids, now it's time to use chemistry to make your own plastic ball. Cover a work surface with two layers of paper towels. Into a small plastic cup put one tablespoon of white liquid glue (like Elmer's®). Into another small cup put 1/2 teaspoon each of Epsom salts and water. Swirl the cup until n...

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    Epsom Salt Towers

    Kids, can you say "super-saturation"? This is a big word but by using the principle behind it, you can make some cool formations. Follow me... Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. You'l...

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    Cabbage Chemistry - pH Tests

    Kids, let's make your own acid/base pH indicator by doing a little cooking - just by boiling red cabbage. The juice is used to test the pH of different liquids. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult su...

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    Color Drops

    Kids, let"s watch the ways in which food coloring can move through different liquids. You"ll need 3 clear plastic cups, water, 4 teaspoons of salt, seltzer water, and food coloring. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed wi...

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    A Viscosity Race 

    Kids, do you know what lubricants are? They help reduce friction, or wear and tear, between moving parts. They can be solids such as graphite, soap, or talcum or they can be liquids like oils and greases. An important feature of a liquid lubricant is its thickness or ability to flow. This quality is...

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    Density Displays

    Kids, here you will be introduced to the concept of density, which is one property used by chemists to help identify unknown substances. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. Let's first m...

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    "D" is for Dissolve

    This column is for you real little ones - those of you who have just begun school and are learning your letters. You will learn the letter "D, d" with the basic scientific concept of dissolving something. Get a clear plastic cup, water, a pencil, a paper towel, a twist-tie, and a kool-aid packet. P...

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    Dinosaur Science

    Kids, dinosaurs didn't write memoirs or take family photos. But scientists can dig up the real dirt about dinosaurs, thanks to fossils. The only proof scientists have of dinosaurs is their fossilized bones. Original bones are relatively soft and fragile things that cannot survive the test of time, e...

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    Chemistry in a Teabag

    Kids, there are all kinds of interesting things to think about when someone dips a teabag into a cup of hot water to make their hot tea. Inside a teabag are the crushed up dried leaves of the tea plant. Most of a tea leaf is cellulose, which is the major structural material of all plants. Cellulose ...

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    Compounds vs. Mixtures

    Kids, sometimes it can be hard to figure out what someone means by a pure compound versus a mixture. Let's try to clear this up with an easy explanation and experiment. First, pure elements are what you see on the periodic table, and some materials exist naturally in their pure elemental form, like ...

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    Food for Thought

    Kids, have you heard of Bill Nye, The Science Guy? He has a fast-paced television show that we can highly recommend. Here we are going to summarize the show on nutrition. Both this column and Bill Nye stress that not all chemicals are necessarily "bad", and quite often they are absolutely essential....

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    Magic Sand

    Kids, have you ever built a sand castle at the beach? The sand "wets" easily with water to make a nice packing mud. Beach sand is mostly made of the mineral quartz (a form of silica, SiO2) that is broken into tiny pieces. In the jargon of chemistry, the surface of sand is said to be hydrophilic, or ...

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    Wax 'n Wash

    Wally had a secret thought That he just had to tell. Wendy sat four desks away - He did not want to yell. How did our Wally do it So no one else could see? To send a secret message, Some candle wax is key! Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experime...

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    Fantastic Plastic

    When Pam the great magician Was eating lunch one day, Some magic fans came over And would not go away. The people wanted magic, But what was Pam to do? She had her plastic lunch bag But knew some science, too. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no expe...

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    Floating Peanuts

    Fern the Duck catches peanuts She eats them in a wink. She has to catch them quickly, Or else the peanuts sink. Fern can give some good advice That slower ducks should note. Moving to saltwater helps, 'Cause there the peanuts float! Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an eleme...

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    Apples with Appeal

    When Archie cuts up apples, The slices all turn brown. They don't look very yummy, Which makes his buddies frown. But Archie is a good cook Who knows a special way To stop the color changing At any time of day! Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no exp...

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    Homemade Lemon-Lime Soda

    Kids, you can make a bubbly lemon, lemon-lime, or orange soda that is actually pretty tasty. You'll need a lemon, lime, or orange, and a glass, water, baking soda, and sugar. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without p...

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    What's the Matter? 

    Matter is another word for the material that makes up all the stuff in the whole world. The three forms, or states, of matter are solids, liquids, and gases. One very useful thing about matter is the way it can change between it's forms. In this activity you'll watch matter change from one state to ...

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    A Do-It-Yourself "Milk" Shake

    Kids, in this activity you will learn how to make a thick - a very thick - liquid. It will be non-toxic, non-corrosive, cheap, and edible. It will, in fact, in many ways resemble a typical fast food restaurant milkshake. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and...

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    Periodic Table Fun

    Kids, have you ever seen an arrangement of small white boxes containing a collection of one- or two-letter symbols and bunches of small numbers? Chances are that, if you have, it was something that chemists use called the periodic table. You might even have one in your house if someone you live with...

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    A Rock Tester

    Kids, in this activity you can pretend to be a geologist and test some rocks and other natural materials using a common chemical method. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. You'll need...

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    Spicy Perfume

    Kids, how would you like to make your own bottle of perfume? If you don't use it yourself, it would make a nice Mother's Day gift... Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. You'll need a s...

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    Lemon Battery

    Kids, how would you like to make electricity with a lemon? You'll need a lemon, a galvanometer, 2 stiff copper wires, a large paper clip, and scissors. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision....

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    Making Paper

    Kids, how would you like to make your own paper? You'll need two full newspaper pages, water, a coat hanger, an old pair of panty hose, two spoonfuls of white glue, a wad of dryer lint, a blender or food processor, and a kitchen sink. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an eleme...

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    An Active Volcano

    Kids, how would you like to make your own version of an erupting volcano? These directions are for a rather large one, so you can scale it down if that is more convenient. You will need a large quantity of modeling clay, 1 tablespoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), 1 cup of vinegar (acetic acid...

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    It's Glass-Time

    Kids, what does the word "glass" make you think of? Glass objects can come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. List all the objects you come across in one day that are made out of glass. Where does glass come from? One example is window glass, also called "soda lime" glass. It is made mostly from a ...

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    It's Clay-Time

    Kids, so what do you know about "clay"? Clays are layered minerals found naturally in the ground. Often the layers are much too small to see, but sometimes the minerals crystallize in big enough pieces to see them by eye. Two examples are mica and vermiculite. Did you ever peel apart the shiny, th...

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    The Bends

    How do scuba divers get "the bends", and just what are they? Kids, you can feel some of the effects of pressure in a swimming pool. Down just a few feet underwater your ears begin to hurt. This is caused by pressure on your eardrums. Where does that pressure come from? At the surface of the wa...

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    The Fungus Among Us

    Kids, our planet is made up of millions of different species which try to live together. Man is a species, just as animals like dogs, cats and fish are. Some species are so small that you can't even see them. Today you'll learn about fungus and microbes ("small life") Please note: All chemicals ...

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    Light on a Stick

    Kids, you have probably seen a Light Stick, a plastic tube that is often stored in an emergency survival kit instead of a flashlight. Once activated, the Light Stick glows brightly for many hours. Did you ever wonder how it can do this? The process is called chemiluminescence. Fireflies and light ...

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    The Art of Bleaching

    Kids, people use liquid laundry bleach to remove unwanted color, in other words stains, from clothes. This bleach is a 5% solution of sodium hypochlorite in water. It also removes color from other materials and we will use this today to produce some interesting effects. First of all though, you mu...

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    Leak Busters

    Kids, today we'll prove that helium leaks out from regular balloons and what can be done to stop it. Did you ever buy a balloon bouquet for someone? You probably know that you can't just make one yourself, because balloons filled with normal air don't float like the ones with helium do. And you m...

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    Sugar and Spice

    Kids, in these activities you will be making some home-grown sugar gems into rings and also modifying some spices to make necklaces or bracelets. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. ...

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    Bubble Gum Chemistry

    Kids, all you really have to do in this "experiment" is chew your favorite kind of gum for a while. Think about what you learn here while you are chewing... Bubble gum is a mixture of several chemicals, but rubber is the most important. A good bubble gum must be strong enough to stretch to a thin...

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    Indigo Imprints

    Kids, in this experiment we will be making imprints of objects and then coloring them "chemically" to a beautiful blue-purple (indigo) shade. You will need a 3-inch square piece of architect paper, any solid object to imprint (key, coins, paper cut-out letters, etc.), an empty, clean peanut butter j...

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    The "Bad" Taste of O.J.

    Kids, does orange juice taste awfully bitter to you right after brushing your teeth? If so, you are one of about 2/3 of the population who has a taste gene on your tongue that allows you to detect certain bitter compounds. The other 1/3 of you lacks this gene. When one of you who has the gene brus...

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    Science of Soap Bubbles

    Kids, did you ever wonder what a turtle shell, a bee's honeycomb, a soccer ball, a chicken wire fence, and a bag full of bubbles have in common? All you will need to find out is a quart size zip-lock bag, a plastic straw, and a bubble solution. To make the bubble solution, mix 4 parts of water to ...

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    A Real Lifesaver

    Kids, did you have any idea that crushing certain lifesavers in your mouth can set off sparks? This experiment will demonstrate how light can be given off by a simple chemical reaction. All you need is a roll of wintergreen mint Life Savers® with the green-speckled centers, a very dark room, ...

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    The Colors of Light

    Kids, why does the light from the sun make rainbows some of the time but not all of the time? It is because raindrops in the air can break up the sun's light into the different colors of light that we can see in a rainbow. You may have seen a rainbow on a day when the sun came out while rain was s...

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    Ecofoam vs. Styrofoam

    Kids, have you ever seen the packaging peanuts that are made of foam? Have you ever noticed two different kinds of these peanuts? One kind is bright white and sort of S-shaped, while the others are not so white and not so curved. In this experiment we will find out the differences between the two ...

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    "Tearible" Tissues

    Kids, did you ever spill something on your furniture or carpet and be surprised when it was easy to clean up without leaving a stain? Some fabrics are treated with a very thin coating that repels liquids somewhat. In this experiment you will test such a coating by studying the absorbency of tissue...

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    Popcorn Science

    Kids, have you ever wondered exactly what's behind the popping of popcorn? Here we will demonstrate that both heat and the moisture inside popcorn kernels are necessary for making a perfect bowl of popcorn. You will first need to have an adult partner dry out 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels by placing ...

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    Bubble Trouble with Hard Water 

    Kids, you may have heard that the chemical element CALCIUM is very important for strong bones and teeth. Terrific sources of calcium in our diets include milk, broccoli, salmon and sardines. Along with bones and teeth, calcium is also a major part of things like cement, seashells, limestone, chalk...

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    Candy Chromatography 

    Kids, there are many different ways to separate the components of a mixture. This time we will separate the substances used to color candy by using a technique called chromatography. The candy you will need is the brown color of M&Ms©, Reeses's pieces©, and Skittles©. Please no...

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    Homemade Ice Cream

    Kids, the scientific concept to be learned in this experiment is lowering the freezing point. The fun to be had is in making and eating your very own ice cream. The recipe is actually more like a well-known Wisconsin treat called frozen custard. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entai...

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    ACK - IT'S GACK

    Kids, a while back we learned how to make slime in this column. Now it is time to make GACK, a similar material that is made from easy-to-find ingredients. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult s...

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    YUK! Chemical Reactions in Your Mouth

    Kids, did you know that chemical reactions are going on all the time right in your mouth, especially when you chew? Let's see what happens to starch in our mouths. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adul...

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    Green Blobs from Steel Wool

    Kids, our purpose in this experiment is to make a green, jelly-like blob from mixing two liquids. One liquid is made by dissolving steel wool. You will need vinegar, steel wool (pure - no soap), household ammonia, and 2 small baby food jars. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail ...

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    Recreational Recyclables

    Kids, while you were enjoying the outdoors this summer, we hope that you were on the lookout for recreational products made from recycled materials. If not, try it during your free time this fall! Here are just a few examples. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of...

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    A Homemade Fire Extinguisher

    Kids, can you guess what carbon dioxide gas will do to the flame from a candle? Here is how to check your guess. You will need a wide-mouth bottle or jar (or a 250 ml beaker), 3-4 teaspoons of baking soda, 1/4 cup vinegar, a birthday candle, a square of cardboard that will fit inside the jar, matc...

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    It's Slime Time!

    Kids, you all know what Slime is, right? Did you know that you can make your own slime at home? Slime is made by reacting just two compounds or ingredients. One is a long chain molecule, a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). This is crosslinked with a simple solution of borax (sodium borate). ...

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    How Sweet It Is!

    Kids, did you ever notice at your summer family picnics that all the cans of diet soda float on top in a cooler of ice water, while regular sodas have to be fished from the bottom of the freezing cold water? It is obvious that the densities of the two are quite different. Density is a property use...

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    Fossil Frenzy

    Kids, let's learn how fossils are formed and preserved. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. Use fresh play dough that is soft and pack it into an empty margarine tub until the tub i...

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    A STAMPede!

    Printing presses use rubber rollers to pick up ink and apply it to the surface of paper. Because of the chemicals that make up rubber, it has a way of picking up ink and then releasing the ink to paper. Rubber works because of the unique interactions between molecules in rubber and the molecules in ...

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    Designer Safety Goggles

    Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. Kids, do you have a pair of safety goggles from a chemistry kit or a science fair? You can even buy a cheap pair at a hardware store. These goggles ...

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    An Incredible Edible Landfill

    Kids, how much do you know about how your local landfill actually works? Let's build one of our own while we learn. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. A Keebler© ready-made chocola...

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    Giant Bubbles

    Kids, you can make gigantic soap bubbles with a mixture of liquid soap or detergent, glycerin, and water. The glycerin is the secret ingredient that adds strength to the bubble solution. Mix together 1 part soap with 1 part glycerin and 6 parts water (distilled water works best). Pour into a large t...

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    Aluminum Trivia

    Kids, let's explain why chewing an aluminum foil spitball can really hurt some people, while for others it is just a weird piece of gum. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. The differen...

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    Totally Tubular Plants

    Kids, as you know, plants need water to live. Water goes from the root, up the stem, and into the leaves. Did you ever wonder how the stem is specially made so that water can travel up it? This experiment will help you find out. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of r...

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    Really Food Coloring

    Kids, did you know that you can draw pictures with fruits and vegetables, and that their colors can be changed using chemistry? Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. To do this activity y...

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    Crystal Cubes and Needles

    Kids, did you ever want to grow your own crystals? This experiment will show you how to make crytals with different shapes. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. You will need 2 sauce...

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    Tangled Molecules

    Kids, did you ever watch someone make spaghetti? If there are just a few cooked strands in a boiling pot of water, chances are they won't touch each other. But when a whole box is cooking the strands can't avoid touching each other. Some molecules are so long and skinny that they act like strands of...

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    Money, Munchies, and Magnetism

    Kids, you probably already know that iron is magnetic. In this column, we will demonstrate a way to prove that there is iron metal in two places that you have probably not ever realized: a one dollar bill and a bowl of cereal! You will need a bar magnet (chemists can use long thin stir bars), a doll...

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    Staying Dry

    Kids, did you ever wonder how the new disposable diapers that are so thin can really work for your baby brothers or sisters? There are tiny beads in the filling that are able to absorb more than 300 times their own weight of water. Our purpose is to collect these beads and watch how they behave when...

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    Floaters and Sinkers

    Kids, did you ever want to make a liquid in which you could watch objects automatically swirl around? Here you will make a liquid that generates enough carbon dioxide gas to make objects float and sink. In order to make a really nice display, you will need a one-gallon glass bottle, a full 16 oz box...

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    Carbon Dioxide Tests: Part II. Chemical Breath

    Kids, now we can use the limewater made last month to test for carbon dioxide (CO2) gas in your exhaled breath. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. You will also need a straw and a pin...

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    Carbon Dioxide Tests: Part I. Limewater

    Kids, here you will make a solution that can test for the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) gas. This is a two-part project. Save the limewater you make for use in the next issue of ChemShorts. You will need two glass quart jars with lids, a tablespoon, and lime (CaO, the substance used in making pi...

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    Magic Colors

    Kids, here we will separate the colors in ink and make a rainbow effect. You will need green and black water-soluble marker pens, a cone-shaped coffee filter (for Melitta coffeemakers), a saucer, and water. Regular coffee filters are too wrinkled and thin to work well. About 1/2 inch above the round...

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    Magic Writing

    Kids, let's try to write a message that will appear as if by magic on paper, using chemistry. You will need a soup bowl, some tincture of iodine, a lemon, some notebook paper, a cup, and an art paintbrush. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments...

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    Cola Experiments

    Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. Experiment #1. Kids, imagine a cooler filled with cans of soda at a summer picnic. Did you ever notice that all the diet soda cans float on top of the ...

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    Dyed-in-the-Wool

    Kids, did you know that most of the natural color of convenience foods is lost during processing? Food manufacturers add artificial coloring to foods to restore their expected color. Red food dyes are added to hotdogs that would otherwise look gray, for example. Natural food colorings (pigments from...

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    Operation Glue

    Kids, what do Little Miss Muffet's curds & whey have in common with glue? Just what is a curd, anyway? Curds are a milk protein called casein (a natural organic polymer) which actually has a lot of industrial uses. One of them is a key ingredient in Elmer's Glue-All. In Operation Glue, YOU can p...

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    Green Pennies

    Kids, how would you like to turn your nice shiny copper-colored pennies into green ones? All you need is a saucer, a paper towel, vinegar, and 3-5 pennies. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervis...

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    Dancing Raisins

    Kids, would you like to make your own "dancing California raisins" by using chemistry? All you need are two clear plastic cups, one filled with water and the other filled with a cold, clear soda like 7-Up. And raisins of course. Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of r...

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    The Naked Egg

    Kids, do you want to try to remove the shell from a raw egg, without breaking it? Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision. First, place a raw egg in a 1-pint glass jar with a lid (mason jar, ...

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    Ocean in a Bottle

    Ollie is a handyman, The greatest one around. He makes toys from odds and ends And sells them by the pound. While walking by the ocean, And looking at the waves, Ollie had a great idea - A toy that would get raves! Please note: All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no...

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