Articles

    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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