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July 2015 Science News

Head outdoors for science fun with simple science activities you can do with common household supplies.

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July 2015 Science News

Get Outdoors & Explore Science!

3 Easy Hands-On Experiments for Summer Science Fun

Wondering how to keep students engaged during the sunny summer months?
Here are three easy ways to get outdoors and explore simple, hands-on science. Ideal for outdoor experimentation, (where a little mess isn't a big deal!) all of these activities can be completed with items you already have at home or in your classroom. 

Want to save time preparing materials and spend even more time getting students excited about science? See our recommended materials below all the supplies you need to get started, all in one place.

Most importantly, have fun! After all...it's summer!

Summer Science Experiment #1: Soda Fountain

Summary: Explore the chemistry of nucleation with an even more powerful version of the classic chemical volcano! Create a chemical eruption several feet high using soda and candy.

What you'll need:

  • Roll of Mentos candy
  • 2 liter bottle of diet soda
  • Index card
  • Test tube or sheet of paper
  • A large open space (preferably outdoors)
  • Safety goggles
Steps:

  1. Place a stack of mints inside the test tube or rolled sheet of paper. Be sure the tube is slightly smaller than the opening of the soda bottle so it fits inside.
  2. Place the index card over the opening of the test tube or roll of paper, and invert, leaving the tube in place.
  3. Open the 2 liter bottle. Gently place the inverted test tube AND index card over the opening of the bottle, making sure mints remain lined up.
  4. Quickly and carefully remove the index card from the opening of the test tube and allow the candies to drop into the 2 liter bottle of soda and STAND BACK!
  5. The eruption can be seen multiple times with the same 2 liter bottle of soda and more candies.
Variations: Experiment with different types of stackable candies or soda to see which ones create the biggest chemical reaction and explore the reasons why.

Summer Science Experiment #2: Exploding Sandwich Bag

Summary: Try this on your next picnic! Demonstrate how acidic vinegar reacts with basic baking soda to create carbon dioxide gas that pops!
What you'll need:

  • Sandwich-sized zipper-locked bag
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • Toilet paper
  • Safety goggles
Steps:

  1. Tear off a square of the toilet paper and put 1 Tbsp of baking soda in the middle of it. Twist or fold toilet paper around the baking soda to form a small packet.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of warm water into sandwich bag and zip, leaving a small opening for baking soda packet
  3. Quickly put the baking soda into the bag and zip tight!
  4. Once the bag is sealed, set the bag down, and back away. The chemical reaction will start immediately when the baking soda comes into contact with the liquid and will continue to grow until...POP!

Summer Science Experiment #3: Oxidation in Our Environment

Summary: Why do outdoor monuments, statues, or pennies in our pockets turn green and dull over time? Explore the concept of oxidation and learn how to make old copper pennies appear new again!
What you'll need:

  • 20-30 dull pennies
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon NaCl (table salt)
  • 1 shallow clear glass or plastic bowl (not metal)
  • Water
  • Measuring spoons
  • Paper towels
Steps:

  1. Pour salt and vinegar into the bowl; Stir until dissolved
  2. Carefully dip a penny half-way into the solution and hold 30 seconds. Remove and observe any change in color.
  3. Add the rest of the pennies to the solution. Let soak for 5 minutes.
  4. After 5 minutes, remove the pennies from the bowl. Rinse half of the pennies under water and place on one paper towel to dry; place the other half, un-rinsed, on a separate paper towel to dry. Label each group.
  5. After 60 minutes, take a look at the two different groups of pennies. What do you see?
Rinsing the pennies with water will stop the oxidation that is taking place between the pennies and the vinegar/salt solution. Therefore, over time they will become dull. However, the pennies that were not rinsed with water still have the salt/vinegar solution on them. This solution incites a reaction with oxygen in the air and copper pennies, and will result in a blue/green residue in the pennies. This residue is copper oxide, and is the same substance that makes Lady Liberty appear green.

Take it a step further:
  • While waiting for the pennies to dry, have fun with copper plated nails. Place a nail or screw about halfway into the same vinegar/salt solution that was used for the pennies above.
  • What do you see?
Bubbles should start forming on the surface of the screw/nail.
  • Wait for about 10 minutes and then take a look at your screw/nail. Is it two different colors? If not, return it to its position and wait for a longer period of time, up to 1 hour.
  • What happens?
Copper from the pennies will begin to coat the nail/screw. However there are no pennies in the solution. How does this happen? The copper that has been removed from the pennies earlier still exists as positively charged copper ions in the salt/vinegar solution. Because most nails/screws are made of steel, which is an alloy of iron, the salt/vinegar solution is able to dissolve some of the iron from the nail/screw, leaving a negative charge on the surface of the nail/screw. Because of the law that opposite charges attract, the positively charged copper ions in the solution are attracted to the negatively charged surface of the nail/screw and therefore a copper coating forms on the surface of the nails. At the same time, a reaction is taking place between the metal/oxides and the hydrogen ions in the vinegar which creates hydrogen gas. This can be seen as the tiny bubbles on the surface of the nail/screw.

Variations: See what other non-toxic household products can be used to clean pennies. Some ideas to think of are ketchup, lemon juice, salsa, pickle juice, dish soap etc. Then see if you can figure out why they did or did not work.

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