Tag Archives: Chemistry

Fun Science – What Dissolves?

elementary homeschool science what dissolves

Following our free-style potions session, this week we played with dissolving solids in water. Our focus this time was on exploring rather than scientific accuracy – I wanted the kids’ imaginations and curiosity to be sparked.

Set up

* bowls containing a variety of solids, including instant coffee, gravy granules, salt, caster sugar, sand, flour, sprinkles (two types) and gummy bears (guaranteed to elicit interest)

* large jug of hot water

* large jug of cold water

* glass jars & glasses

* teaspoons

I also printed off a chart for C(9) and J(8) to record their results if they wanted to.

Elementary science  dissolving chart

What we did

Before I gave them the chart, I invited the children to use their senses to guess what each of the substances was. The gravy granules evoked a lot of interest here, the smell reminding them of their favourite snacks. (I wonder if they’ll be more excited next time I serve gravy.)

We talked about the scientific method and I suggested that before they added each substance to water, they make a guess which they needn’t share out loud as to whether or not it would dissolve. (The secret hypothesis is a safeguard against my perfectionist child melting down mid-experiment.)

They then took turns putting a teaspoon of each substance into water (first cold then hot), observing, stirring and then recording their results.

Fun science  dissolving


* The sprinkles were interesting. First they lost their colour, turning the water cloudy. Then after a few minutes they dissolved. C(9) guessed that the colouring was very soluble, and that the sprinkles were made of sugar so also dissolved, but more slowly.

Dissolving sprinkles  fun science

* They loved watching the coffee granules dissolve rapidly in the hot water.

elementary science - dissolving coffee in water

* The gummy bears prompted a couple of spin-off experiments of their own. Firstly the children noticed that they gave off little flecks in the hot water. Then they observed that after being in water for a while, they lost the colour around their edges and expanded slightly, so it was decided to leave them overnight. (I put them in the fridge, anticipating a future taste-test request.) More on this in a separate post.

Gummy bears and osmosis

* They liked watching the gravy vortex created by rapid stirring.

elementary science - dissolving coffee in water

What we might do differently next time

* Both children added every substance to both hot and cold water, which involved a lot of me running around washing out jars. Next time I would suggest they take turns doing the hot or cold water. Or have more jars.

* More importantly, while I was busy washing up jars, the children decided salt wasn’t soluble! They hadn’t given it enough time to dissolve. We repeated this part of the experiment later and talked about how we don’t see and feel bits of salt around us when we swim in the sea!

* I might provide a measuring beaker and spoon, so they could use the same amounts of solid and water each time. We could time how long the solids take to dissolve in hot water compared with cold.

The science

When a solid dissolves, it breaks into tiny pieces, so small that you can’t see them in the water. We call the mixture of solid and water a “solution”. Solutions may be coloured (like coffee), but they are always transparent.

We also talked about how hot water molecules move more quickly so come into contact with solid particles more often, which is why solids dissolve more quickly in hot water than cold.

What next?

Over our next few “potions” session we’ll be experimenting with ways of separating mixtures and solutions.


Midsummer Potions


I’ve been wanting to set up a free-style “potions” invitation for my kids ever since I came across 10 More Magic Potions.

Since we gave up following a science curriculum we’ve played with density, slimefizzy fountains, elephant’s toothpaste and red cabbage indicator among other things. But, perhaps because we didn’t homeschool from the start, I’ve never set things up quite this way before, and I wanted to give C(9) and J(8) a serious chance to play before we move on to any more specific “potions” experiments (dissolving, separating liquids etc).

A visit on Wednesday to Professor Snape’s potions classroom at the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios was just the catalyst I needed!

Professor Snape's Potions Classroom
Professor Snape’s Potions Classroom

Here’s what I set out:


* test tubes (large and small)

* plastic bowls

* funnels

* coffee filter papers

* sieves

* whisks

* long-handled spoons

* popsicle sticks

* measuring beakers

* pipettes, eye droppers & a medicine syringe

* conical flasks

* lab glasses

potions - elementary chemistry fun


* bottles of coloured water

* plain water

* bubble mixture

* cornflour

* salt

* sand

* mustard powder

* bicarbonate of soda

* old tube of hair conditioner

* old bath bombs

I was going to set up outside and suggest that the children collect additional supplies from the garden – dirt, leaves, and the like – but it started raining so we stayed at the kitchen table.

I made sure we had plenty of kitchen paper and old towels on hand: one of the many learning points was how much liquid does (and doesn’t!) fit into different shaped containers.

potions - elementary chemistry

Once I’d shown the children the supplies, I left them to it and busied myself taking photos and notes.

Potions elementary chemistry with sand
J(8) spent a long time investigating the properties of sand

I didn’t put out food colouring in the interests of economy, but provided it at C(9)’s request – she wanted a more intense colour without water.

Potions fun  elementary chemistry
C(9) wondered, “How can I make this even more bubbly?” Later, she filtered her potion.



Elementary chemistry  gak
Of course, the leftover cornflour and coloured water had to be made into gak


Potions fun  test tubes
C(9)’s potions after she’d left them to settle a few hours

The children had so much fun doing this, and I loved watching them learn as they played.  Free-style potions has something for everyone!

Science Sunday


Share it Saturday


Edible Science With Ice And Salt

hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer

Here’s how you can make a tasty sorbet in five minutes while learning about the effect of freezing point depression with ice and salt.

C(9) found the experiment in our Science Experiments book. We had all the supplies so we were ready for some spontaneous learning fun!

hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer

What You Need

  • Orange juice (or other juice)
  • Crushed ice (or snow)
  • Salt (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 ziplock bags, one larger than the other
  • warm gloves

What You Do

1. Pour orange juice into the smaller ziplock bag.  Squeeze out excess air and seal.

hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer
2. Place the bag inside the larger ziplock bag.
3. Fill the larger bag with crushed ice so that it surrounds the orange juice bag.
hands on experiment with ice and salt
4. Add salt to the ice. The book suggests 4 tbsp but we just sprinkled liberally.
hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer
5. Squeeze out excess air and seal the large bag containing everything.
6. Gently massage the bag so that the salty ice is constantly coming into contact with the orange juice bag.
hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer
7. Continue squishing for 5-10 minutes, observing the changes in how the orange juice looks and feels.
hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer
ice and salt experiment

What Happens

The orange juice gradually solidifies and turns into sorbet!

hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer

The Scientific Explanation

Adding an impurity (salt) to ice lowers its freezing point. The ice wants to melt back to water, but to do this it needs to absorb heat from somewhere – in this case, the orange juice. Heat is transferred from the orange juice to the ice, freezing the orange juice.

This is an endothermic process (heat is absorbed).

For a detailed molecular explanation of why salt melts ice, see this article.

What We Might Try Next Time

We ended up with a very healthy snack, but for a treat we might make a sweeter sorbet by adding sugar. (Here are the ingredients for a simple lemon sorbet, and a whole list of delicious sorbets here – courgette (zucchini) sorbet looks interesting!)  We might even try making ice cream in a bag.

hands-on experiment salt and ice heat transfer

Further Resources

Why Does Salt Melt Ice?

An “Ice Energy” lesson plan (includes ice cream recipes)

Science Experiments: Loads of Explosively Fun Experiments You Can Do

Science Experiments Robert Winston


For more hands-on learning fun, head over to Hobbies & Handicrafts  at Highhill Homeschool, Homeschool Review at Hammock Tracks, and Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.

Elephant’s Toothpaste – Fun With Catalysts

elephant toothpaste hydrogen peroxide homeschool science fun.jpg

“Elephant’s toothpaste” is a wonderful illustration of the power of a catalyst to speed up a reaction. It’s also very cool, and anything that shows kids how cool science is worth doing, right?

What You Need

  • 6% Hydrogen peroxide (1/2 cup)
  • Yeast (1 tsp)
  • Hot water (2 tbsp approx) in a small dish
  • Food colouring
  • Washing-up liquid (dish soap)
  • Empty soda/water bottle (small)
  • Tray to stand the bottle on to catch the foam
  • Funnel (optional)

elephant toothpaste hydrogen peroxide and yeast homeschool science

What You Do

  1. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the bottle
  2. Mix the yeast into the water
  3. Add the washing up liquid and food colouring to the hydrogen peroxide in the bottle
  4. Add the yeast mixture to the bottle
  5. Stand back and admire the reaction!

elephant toothpaste hydrogen peroxide yeast science fun

What Happened

The photos say it all! We had enough hydrogen peroxide in our £2.74 bottle to have two goes.  Afterwards I gave the children a bowl each to mix up the red and green foam.

Elephant toothpaste hydrogen peroxide yeast

The Scientific Explanation

Hydrogen peroxide naturally breaks down over time into water and oxygen. Catalase, the enzyme in yeast, acts as a catalyst to speed up the reaction.

The washing-up liquid joins with the oxygen to make an abundance of foam.  And – as with so many of our homeschool science projects – the food colouring just makes the whole thing look even cooler!

Elephant toothpaste hydrogen peroxide yeast 2

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

I get so excited doing experiments like this that there are always a few things I forget to mention to the kids. (But that’s ok because then we have an excuse to do it again. :-))

I would point out next time that during the reaction, the bottle gets warm and steam is produced from the water, because this is an exothermic (heat-producing) reaction.

I would also mention that although a catalyst speeds up a chemical reaction, it is left unchanged itself:  the dissolved yeast is left in the bottle.

The Book and the Hat-Tip

Elephant Toothpaste hydrogen peroxide yeast scienceElephant toothpaste is well set-out in our favourite Science Experiments book, but I followed the instructions I found at another mum’s blog (unfortunately her blog is no longer live).  Where there’s a choice, I prefer to follow a mum’s personal experience when it comes to learning fun with kids!

Do you notice our safety glasses? Not strictly necessary here, but they definitely remind us we’re Real Scientists!

For more fun science ideas, visit Science Sunday at Adventures In Mommydom.

Science Sunday#coolmumclub

Fun With Acids and Bases – How to Use Red Cabbage as an Indicator

Red cabbage acid base indicato original

Do kids want to learn about acids and bases? If they’re like my kids then probably yes in theory – but in practice, “Not right now, thanks Mummy, I’m just finishing this game on Grid Club/making this cardboard helmet/playing my guitar”.

Do kids want to play with colourful potions? Absolutely! And once you’ve ignited their curiosity, of course they’ll want to know all about it!

Bring on the red cabbage and those old faithfuls, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda…

What You Need

  • Red cabbage (we used half a head)
  • Water (the book says to used distilled water, but we used tap)
  • Saucepan
  • Stove Top / Hot Plate
  • Glass jars/glasses etc (to pour the cabbage water into)
  • Household substances to test eg vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, soap
  • Marker pen or dry wipe marker (optional) to label the jars
red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

What You Do

  1. Roughly chop the cabbage and boil it in water for about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain (and discard/eat) the cabbage, reserving the water.
  3. Pour the water into as many jars/glasses as you have substances to test, plus one as a control.
  4. Add one substance (e.g. lemon juice) to each jar of purple cabbage water. Label the jar so you don’t forget what you’ve added.
  5. Observe any colour change, comparing against the control cabbage water (to which nothing has been added).

What Happened

The water the cabbage has been boiled in is dark purple.

C and J both chose to add vinegar  to their first jar, which turned the cabbage water a pinkish colour. Then they predicted (proper science!) what would happen when they added lemon juice, and were happy to confirm their hypothesis that lemon juice also turned the water pink.

The effect of adding bicarbonate of soda was more subtle.  We had to scoop up a small amount of the liquid with a teaspoon to fully appreciate the change – the water took on a blueish hue.

Red Cabbage Acid/Base Homeschool Fun

Soap turned the water very slightly blue, and soy sauce had no noticeable effect.

What We Might Do Next Time

What we forgot to try (there’s always something!) is adding vinegar or lemon juice to our bicarbonate of soda water.  If you get the quantities right, this should turn the water back to the original (purple cabbage) water colour.

There are also lots of other substances we might test – orange juice, milk, Coca-Cola, tomato sauce…

You can also dip paper into your cabbage water to make your own indicator paper. Use this to test acids and bases once you’ve discarded your cabbage water.

How Does It Work?

Science Experiments Book

I’ll hand you over to the Science Experiments book here:

“An acid is a substance that produces positively charged particles made of oxygen and hydrogen, called hydronium ions, when dissolved in water…

A base is the chemical opposite of an acid.  Bases produce negatively charged particles in water, called hydroxyl ions….

Cabbage water [is an indicator, which means it shows] whether a liquid is acidic or basic. [It changes] colour because the structure of [its] molecules changes depending on the amount of hydronium or hydroxyl present.”

red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

Taking It One Step Further

For this you’ll need a pack of pH-testing litmus paper (£2.76 on Amazon).

red cabbage acid base homeschool science

I gave the children a book of litmus paper and they dipped a fresh piece in each of their cabbage water jars. They compared the colour the paper turned with the colour scale on the book, to obtain a pH value.

Red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

I explained that pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. (Bases that dissolve in water are called alkalis.) Acids have low pH’s, alkalis have higher pH’s.

red cabbage and litmus acid base indicator - homeschool science

C noticed by testing with litmus paper that our soy sauce solution was very slightly acidic.

Has anyone else tried this? Do leave a comment to let me know how it went or if you know of any other fun experiements with acids and bases!

More Hands-On Science Posts

How to Make Slime and Plastic

Fizzy Fountains

Copper-Plating a Nail

Thanks to Adventures In Mommydom for hosting Science Sunday!

Science Sunday

How To Make Slime and Plastic

Home Made Slime - Homeschool Science
This week we made our own biodegradable plastic and had hands-on (literally!)  fun with sticky slime.


You have to feel this stuff to believe it.  The children had way more fun playing with it than they’d expected.  Best of all, it’s so easy – five minutes to make, a whole afternoon of fun!

Home Made Slime - Homeschool Science

What You Need

  • Cornflour (cornstarch)
  • Food colouring
  • Water
  • Cup, bowl, spoon

What You Do

  1. Put a cup of cornflour (cornstarch) into a bowl.
  2. Slowly add water, stirring all the time, until the mixture becomes a sticky paste (add up to about half a cup).
  3. Add food colouring and stir to blend.
  4. Have fun with your slime! Notice how it both flows like a liquid and sticks together like a solid.

The Science

Slime is a “non-Newtonian fluid” because it doesn’t conform to Sir Isaac Newton’s rules about how liquids behave. It’s made of polymers – long chains of simple molecules.  When the chains are stretched out the liquid flows, but if you apply pressure the chains stick together.

How to Make Slime Collage original

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

This really is so easy. The only thing we’d do differently would be to be less concerned about the exact amounts of cornflour and water. You can always add more of either (or both). Cornflour is our new favourite science ingredient!

Home-Made Plastic

What You Need

  • Starch (eg cornflour/cornstarch, potato flour)
  • Glycerine
  • Vinegar
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Aluminium foil
  • Wooden spoon/spatula
  • Old saucepan

How to make plastic - homeschool science

What You Do

  1. Mix together 1 tbsp starch and 4 tbsp water in a saucepan.
  2. Add 1 tsp glycerine and 1 tsp vinegar.
  3. Stir until blended.
  4. Put the saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Observe the mixture change from a cloudy liquid to a clear gel.
  6. When the mixture is completely transparent and starts to bubble*, use the wooden spoon to spread it out on a sheet of foil.
  7. Wait a day for your plastic to set.
How to make plastic - homeschool science

What Happened

Watching the mixture turn into a gel was very cool. *Ours never became completely transparent or visibly bubbled (we made three batches) but the plastic turned out fine. (For our purposes! We weren’t planning any industrial applications.)

how to make plastic - homeschool science

I forgot to do step 6 for our first batch   (I’m not great at reading instructions) so our red plastic came out in globules that would do nicely as fake jam!

Then we made green plastic in the same saucepan, without washing it, which resulted in a gross concoction that might be given away with the Beano (I’ll spare you the photo). I had to make some nice fresh-looking blue in a clean pan after that experience. (The kids were out playing in the snow by this point but – hey – I was having fun.)

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

  • We might make some uncoloured plastic, to see if it turns transparent in the way the book describes.
  • We might experiment with different quantities of glycerine, which changes the rigidity of the plastic.
  • I wouldn’t use an ancient non-stick saucepan – bits of the non-stick coating came off in our plastic. The pan came completely clean after a soak so I’d use a regular, uncoated sort. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a dedicated science pan. 🙂
homemade_plastic_original (1) 2

The Science

Like slime, plastics are made from polymers. Their chain-like structure makes them flexible enough to mould while soft, then strong when set.

What Does Each of the Ingredients Do?

Starch contains polymers. Vinegar makes the chains stronger, and glycerine makes them more flexible.

The Book

Both these experiments come from Science Experiments: Loads of Explosively Fun Experiments You Can Do. We’re very much enjoying our journey through the book. A few of the experiments call for materials that are tricky or expensive to source (dry ice, powdered alum) – we’ll skip those for now – but most are inexpensive household items. I love the way the materials and instructions are clearly laid out with plenty of pictures.

More Hands-On Science

Fizzy Fountains – Diet Coke Geysers and Home-Made Lava Lamps

Copper-Plating a Nail

Science Sunday

We’re linking up with AdventuresInMommydom’s Science Sunday – thanks Ticia for hosting!

2 Fizzy Fountains

Fizzy fountains

Homeschool science is so much fun.  This week we made two very different fizzy fountains. On Monday we let off a diet coke and mentos geyser, and on Friday we created our own “lava lamp”.

Diet Coke and Mentos Geyser

I bought the supplies for this back in June 2012, when we were doing our rocket project, but the instructions for making a diet coke and mentos rocket were evidently too daunting for me to get around to doing it. So when the children recently asked if we could make a diet coke fountain, I was all ready to go.

What You Need

  • large bottle of soda (coloured, diet soda like Diet Coke is best – so you can see the spray, and the spray doesn’t make too much of a sticky mess)
  • pack of Mentos
  • paper/card or Geyser Tube
  • a large outdoor space

What You Do

The experiment couldn’t be simpler to explain. Dump a whole packet of Mentos into a bottle of soda, then stand well back.

The tricky bit is trying to get all the Mentos in at once. Cordie and Jasper experimented with various techniques using an empty bottle. What seemed to work best was loading the Mentos into a piece of paper which had been rolled into a loose cone, while holding a piece of card at the thin end of the cone to keep the Mentos from falling through. The card can then be slid away when you’re ready to set off the geyser.

How Did It Go?

Our Mentos-loading technique worked perfectly the first time. However, our geyser was only about a foot high. Maybe because the diet coke I’d bought for our rocket experiments was four months past its use-by date?!

coke and mentos geyser - homeschool science at navigatingbyjoy

But …we still had a tube of mentos left, so we tried again, this time with a bottle of caffeine-free diet coke I’d been saving to enjoy with a shot of rum at the weekend (I am so selfless in the cause of science). Unfortunately this time our Mentos-loading technique didn’t work so well.  No quick-fire round of mints exploding the surface tension of the coke – instead, the last 8 were hastily shoved in one by one before I scarpered to a safe distance.

The resulting geyser was double the height of our first attempt, but there was no danger of getting our hair wet, let alone the roof. (I felt a bit wistful as I removed my sou’ wester hat.)  But the kids – who hadn’t known what to expect – were impressed.

How Does It Work?

No-one knows for sure! The most popular theory is that the Mentos break the surface tension of the soda, releasing loads of carbon dioxide bubbles at once. These bubbles push all of the liquid out of the bottle in a fantastic explosion.  Steve Spangler Science has a more detailed explanation and some cool videos.

What Might We Do Differently Next Time?

  • use a Steve Spangler Geyser Tube (£4.45 at Amazon) to load the Mentos
  • try using store-brand diet cola (Tesco does 2 litre bottles for 17p)

We will spray our trees with coke yet!

Oil and Water Fizzy Fountain

We found this in Science Experiments: Loads of Explosively Fun Experiments You Can Do.

What You Need

  • plastic bottle
  • vegetable oil
  • water
  • food colouring
  • two effervescent tablets (containing citric acid and bicarbonate of soda)

fizzy fountains homeschool science fun

What You Dopouring water onto oil - homeschool science

  1. Fill a plastic bottle three quarters full with vegetable oil.
  2. Top up with water. (Observe how the water sinks to the bottom because it is denser than the oil.)
  3. Add a few drops of food colouring. (Wait a moment for the colour to sink through the oil, then appreciate the pretty effects as it mixes with the water.)
  4. Break two effervescent tablets in half and drop them into the bottle.
  5. Loosely screw on the bottle top. (Watch your fizzy fountain start to work.)

How Does it Work?

When the tablets dissolve in the water, they give off carbon dioxide. Bubbles of this gas float up through the bottle. When the bubbles attach themselves to blobs of water, the blobs and the bubbles together are less dense than the oil, so they rise up to the surface. There the bubbles pop, and the blobs of water sink back down through the water again.

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

effervescent oil and water fountain

This was a fun experiment – we would do it again. I might make a few changes though:

  • use a smaller bottle (less oil – cheaper!)
  • use less food colouring. We used red, blue and green which together turned the water dark brown.
  • use indigestion tablets instead of (orange) vitamin C tablets (another reason why the water turned brown?)
  • shine a lamp through the bottle
  • add glitter to the fountain
  • experiment with different kinds of oil e.g. olive oil

Bonus Fun

We hunted out Big J’s lava lamp and enjoyed watching the pretty patterns as warmed wax floated up to the top and then sank again as it cooled.

What Next?

Next week we’re going to investigate polymers, making slime and plastic. Sounds fun!

Elementary Chemistry: Copper-Plating a Nail

We jumped into practical chemistry today with this experiment from Wholly Irresponsible Experiments.

To be honest, for all my recent intention to become more hands-on with science, I had planned to ease gently back in after our week away skiing, by watching Chemistry, A Volatile History. I hadn’t counted on C (8) and J (6)  being so inspired by what they saw that they wanted to leap straight into being chemists themselves!  (There’s nothing like a break to recharge the homeschool enthusiasm!)

As soon as the end credits on the documentary began to roll, J jumped off the sofa and headed towards the bathroom, blithely announcing he was “off  to make some potions”.  Remembering that a similar impromptu potion-making session had got through the large part of a £35 tube of my Laura Mercier foundation,  I quickly grabbed Wholly Irresponsible Experiments and began setting up this easy and fun experiment.

What You Need

  • 12 dull copper coins
  • 150 ml (2/3 cup) vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Small bowl (we used a ramekin)
  • Teaspoon
  • Iron nail (ungalvanised) or 2
  • Kitchen paper

What You Do

  1. Pour the vinegar into a small bowl.
  2. Stir in the salt.
  3. Put the copper coins into the bowl so that they are completely submerged.
  4. After 5 minutes use a spoon to remove the coins
  5. Put the nail into the bowl. Notice little bubbles begin to form on it.
  6. After 30 minutes use a spoon to remove the nail

What Happens

The nail comes out copper coloured! If you have a second nail you can compare the two.

The Scientific Explanation

Copper from the coins goes into the salt and vinegar solution and attaches to the nail, producing a copper-plated nail.  For more on the science see this site.

Verdict on the Experiment

A resounding success.  Fast, easy and very cool!

Beginning Chemistry

It’s time to get more hands-on in our science.  Last term we followed REAL Science Odyssey’s “Life”  curriculum;  C and J loved making jelly cells and blood, acting out red blood cells moving around a giant’s respiratory system, and learning about human digestion and bones. But since the Life curriculum had moved onto worms and molluscs their interest was beginning to wane, besides which it’s entirely the wrong season to be hunting snails or waiting for butterflies to emerge from chrysalises.   The upshot is, we’ve put our half-finished animal kingdom lapbooks aside for now and dived into chemistry!


I spent a weekend thumbing through some chemistry books on our shelves – Robert Winston’s It’s Elementary! Putting The Crackle into Chemistry  and Irresponsible Experiments  – and the REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry curriculum I’d bought in the last Pandia Press sale.  “It’s Elementary” is wonderful but doesn’t offer much in the way of hands-on science, and “Wholly Irresponsible Experiments” is full of fun activities, but from experience I know I need to be guided by some sort of curriculum otherwise all that fun hands-on stuff tends to fall by the wayside.

REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry (1)

The RSO chemistry curriculum is very rigorous in its application of the scientific method and contains lots of practical activities.   The worksheets are mainly geared to older children, so we’re going to focus on the experiments, backed up with plenty of discussion.  We’ll still follow the scientific method –hypothesis, observations, conclusions – but my overriding intention is to get the children excited about science!


C and J are big Harry Potter fans so I knew this “potions” lesson would go down well. We started out with three separate bowls containing:

  • confectionary (icing) sugar
  • baking powder
  • baby powder

First we used our physical senses to examine the powders.

Then we tested how each powder reacted when we added small amounts of various liquids:

  • Water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vinegar
  • Blue food colouring

Mostly the liquids were added one at a a time to the powder, but sometimes we added more than one thing, like:

  • Food colouring and water
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Oil, vinegar and food colouring

How Did It Go?

The children loved it.  J was especially delighted to have chosen to administer the test on baking powder, which fizzed very gratifyingly when vinegar was added to it!

What Would I Do Differently Next Time?

Although they started out very enthusiastic, by the end of the experiment the children were a bit weary – there were a lot of tests, and they had to wait while I washed up the glasses in between each one. If I were doing this again I would probably spread it over more than one day or leave out some of the tests.  Science works best in bite-size chunks in our house at the moment.

What Next?

The RSO Chemistry curriculum moves on next to a discussion of atoms and then introduces the elements. Before we go onto that, I’d love to find a good living book on the history of chemistry.  It took a long time for alcehmists-turned-scientists to discover that the world is made of elements, and the story of how they did is fascinating, as I found out when I recently watched the BBC documentary Chemistry – A Volatile History. Wouldn’t it be fun to learn about atoms and the elements as the final piece of a detective story that puzzled great minds for centuries!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...