by Lucy Markham
One of the many wonderful things about homeschooling your children is being able to cater to their individual needs. Unlike public school (especially with the almost-nationwide implement of Common Core in 2010), homeschooling offers the opportunity for a flexible curriculum that allows your children to pursue their own interests.
Growing up, I was never very good at science. I was always more of a grammar enthusiast—I tended to diagram sentences in my spare time. But since I was homeschooled for my middle school years, my parents were able to cultivate an appreciation for science with some hands-on science experiments that interested me in ways the textbooks didn’t.
Here are a few of my favorites!
Materials: Film canister, Alka-Seltzer tablet, baking soda
Find a film canister and fill it halfway with water (feel free to decorate it like a rocket with paper fins, a nose cone, and markers). Then drop ½ of an Alka-Seltzer tablet into it and close the canister quickly. Make sure the lid snaps on securely, or else the gasses powering the rocket will leak out and the experiment will fail.
As soon as the lid is on, step back! The canister will rocket into the air, and you don’t want to be in its way when it does.
Talk About: Pressure
Yeast Blowing up a Balloon
Materials: Soda bottle, yeast, sugar, small balloon
Get a small plastic soda bottle and fill it with 1 inch of warm water. Add one packet of yeast and let it activate for several seconds, and then add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stretch out the balloon (try blowing it up a few times), and then stretch it over the mouth of the bottle.
Put the bottle in a warm place, wait for 20 minutes, and the balloon should start to inflate!
Talk About: Gasses (Carbon Dioxide)
Materials: A potato, gloves
You can do this same experiment with petri dishes and cotton swabs, but if you don’t have them on hand a potato works too.
Using gloves, cut the potato into pieces. Put one piece of potato into a bag without letting it touch anything (this is the control against which you will compare the other pieces). Take other chunks of potato and rub them on surfaces like a toilet seat, door handle, your bare hands, and outside in the dirt.
Put the potatoes in individual bags and be sure to label them. Put them in a dark place at room temperature, like in a cupboard or on a top shelf in the kitchen. Leave them there for a week, and then pull them out see which ones have the most growth (don’t take them out the bags!). You might be surprised!
Talk About: Microorganisms
Materials: Vegetable oil, water, food coloring, various small objects
Fill a mason jar or glass measuring cup 1/3 of the way with water and add a few drops of food coloring. Then add the same amount of corn syrup, and another 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. The syrup will layer on the bottom, with the water and then the oil layered on top. All three liquids will stay separated because the syrup is heavier and denser than the water, which is denser than the oil. Put the lid on the jar and shake it up—they will all separate again.
Try dropping objects like grapes, corks, screws, and buttons into the jar. Depending on their density, they will float on any of the three layers of liquid in the jar. Try guessing where they will float before you drop them in.
Talk About: Density
Materials: Old pennies, vinegar, salt
Combine about a ¼ cup of white vinegar with 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl (make sure it’s not metal, or the chemical reaction won’t work as well). Add the old pennies to the mixture and wait for 10 seconds. Take them out and rinse them off…they’ll look brand new!
Add a few more pennies to the bowl, but this time don’t rinse them off. A chemical called malachite will start to build up, turning the pennies a greenish-blue color.
Talk About: Acids
You can find many more fun science experiments for kids if you do a quick Google search—just be careful. Some of them require more adult supervision than others, and you don’t want any emergency dentist (although Hamilton has some good options, if you’re in the area) or doctor visits! But whether you let your kids explore the world of science by themselves or discover it with them, remember to have fun!
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scotthamlin/