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Category: Science

Tie-Dye Butterflies

by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

I love this art activity. It’s easy to do with items you probably already have at home. It’s such an interesting and fun process-art activity that your young artists will probably want to try it again and again and again!

Materials:

  • White basket coffee filters
  • Washable markers
  • A binder clip 
  • A pencil/straw/craft stick
  • Clothespin
  • Small pieces of colorful paper or pipe cleaners

Directions:

  • Give each young artist a coffee filter and invite them to create a circular design on it using washable markers
  • Once finished, fold the coffee into a triangle
    • Attach a binder clip to the top/wide end of the triangle
    • Slide a pencil through the top of the binder clip
  • Put a tiny bit of water into a glass or jar
  • Place the triangle in the jar
    • The pencil will help to hold the triangle in place across the top of the cup or jar so that it does not fall in
    • There should be JUST enough water that the tip of the triangle is barely touching
  • Watch closely as the water climbs up the coffee filter triangle!
    • What happens to the designs?! 
  • When the water has climbed all the way up, carefully remove the pencil and binder clip and unfold your triangle
  • Place it on a drying rack and let it to dry fully
    • This should take about 20 minutes

Assemble your butterflies!

  • Scrunch the coffee filter up to make wings
  • Clip a clothespin in the middle to make the bod
  • Add small pieces of colorful paper to the top to make some antennae 
  • Draw a happy face on your butterfly! 

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Science MAGIC: Invisible Ink!

By Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

I was THRILLED to find this invisible ink recipe. Many invisible ink recipes involve holding dried lemon juice messages over a candle and almost setting pieces of paper on fire. Luckily, this recipe doesn’t require any heat and is totally safe---besides the slightly strong scent of rubbing alcohol. However, with it warming up outside--this would be a great outside project!

Here’s how to make your own heat-free invisible ink:

Materials needed:

  • 2 medium-size glass containers (I used Pyrex liquid measuring cups)
  • Q-tips
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper (white paper works best, you could also use cardstock!)
  • Table covering
  • Cookie sheet/craft tray
  • 1 tsp powdered tumeric
  • ½ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • ½ water

Directions (prep):

  • Set up your experiment area, whether inside or outside, by protecting the area with some kind of covering. This could be a plastic tablecloth, trashbag, or some other non-absorbent material. 
  • Place a cookie tray in the experiment area
  • Gather all other materials and have them on hand. 

Directions (activity):

  • Tell little ones that today you will be experimenting with invisible ink! 
  • Invite them to help you mix 1 Tbsp of baking soda into ½ water in one of your glass containers
    • Mix until it is mostly dissolved and keep mixing throughout your experimenting--it doesn’t dissolve all that quickly. 
  • Have little ones draw on their paper with the baking soda solution using q-tips
    • It will be hard to see what they are drawing! They can try writing words or just doing abstract doodles. Anything will be fun to find using the invisible ink decoder!
  • Put aside the drawings to dry
  • While they are drying, make your “decoding” solution
  • Mix 1 tsp turmeric powder into ½ cup of rubbing alcohol 
    • The turmeric solution will stain hands and surfaces--so be careful while mixing and using this solution. At least it won’t set your house on fire, right?! 
  • Once your papers are completely dry, place them on the cookie sheet and paint over them using the tumeric decoding solution. What happens?!?!
  • Watch your paper change color more as they completely dry. 

The Science: 

(For younger scientists):

  • Explain that the baking soda “ink” is changing color because it reacts or changes when it meets the turmeric solution. There is an ingredient in the turmeric that changes the baking soda to that very deep purple color when they meet! 

(For older scientists):

  • Turmeric is a ph indicator. This means that it will change the color of different substances when it interacts with them to show us what their ph is. 
    • Ph tells us the acidity or basicity of items. 
    • Basically, substances go through a chemical reaction when they “meet” a ph indicator and that causes them to change color. 
    • Think about a traditional baking soda and vinegar experiment - they combine and erupt! That is because baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. If we tested the ph of vinegar it would be a very different color than the ph of baking soda. 
  • When you paint over the baking soda papers with turmeric, we are seeing that deep purple appear because that is the color that baking soda changes when it interacts with a ph indicator. 

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Make Seed Flyers

by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

This week, all of our online programming will focus on the earth and being environmentally friendly! 

Try making seed flyers this week. These are fun to make and fun to throw or plant! Plus, the wildflower seeds that you use to create them will be helpful to your neighborhood pollinators. 

Materials Needed:

  • Newspaper or construction paper (torn into small pieces)
  • Water
  • A blender or food processor
  • Wildflower seeds
  • Mini muffin tin (optional)

Directions:

  • Start by tearing up your paper into small pieces
  • Put the pieces in a bowl or a couple different bowls
  • Pour water over your paper pieces and allow them to soak
    • This will take about 20 minutes with construction paper and less time with newspaper
  • Once your paper is soaked, add it to your food processor or blender
    • Process or blend until the paper is fully broken down
  • Now it’s time to make your seed bombs!
    • Smush the paper into your muffin tin or use your hands to smush the paper into spheres
    • If using the muffin tin, put a layer of paper and then sprinkle some seeds on top, then add another layer of paper on top of that and smush it all down
    • If using your hands, put some paper and seeds into your hands and then roll into balls
  • Let your seed flyers dry
    • Let them dry for a few hours in the muffin tin (if you used one)
    • Once they’re a bit dry, transfer them to a drying rack and let them fully dry overnight

Now what do you do?!

  • When seed planting season starts...plant your seed flyers! Or, as the name implies, THROW THEM and see them fly through the air! They will land and start to work their way into the soil. 

Thank you to our Earth Day week sponsor, D. F. Richard! 

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Foil Boats Science Challenge

Foil Boat

by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

Materials needed:

  • One piece of aluminum foil per young scientist/participant (roughly the size of a standard piece of paper) Make sure all participants have the same size piece of foil. 
  • Sink/tub/plastic bin with about 6 inches of water in it
  • Weights to put in your boat (pennis work great for this!)
  • Optional: other building materials
    • Cardboard, tape, straws, popsicle sticks, etc

Directions (prep):

  • Fill up your water station (sink/tub/plastic bin)
  • Prep materials for each scientist participant--make sure they all have the same materials to use for their project
  • Collect boat weights (ex. pennies)

Directions (activity):

  • Explain to your young scientist(s) that today you will be making boats! 
  • Challenge them to make a boat that they think will hold the most weight and not sink using the materials provided
  • Test your boats by putting them in the water and gradually adding weight!
  • Feel free to re-design and test again. 

The Science:

  • We are seeing two forces at work in this science experiment: gravity and buoyancy!
  • Gravity: gravity is trying to pull your boat and pennies downward towards the center of the earth
  • Buoyancy: buoyancy is pushing the boat towards the surface of the water! 
  • Your boat will float if the force of buoyancy is greater than the force of gravity. 

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Science Magic: Dancing Popcorn!

by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

We had a great response to our last science magic video (Plastic Bag Polymers!) so decided to share another! 

Dancing Popcorn Magic

Materials Needed:

  • Clear plastic cup/tall container or clear glass cup/jar
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Unpopped popcorn
  • A spoon

Directions (prep):

  • Fill your clear container about ½ way with water
  • Put vinegar in a smaller cup
  • Put baking soda in a small cup with the spoon
  • Place unpopped popcorn in another small bowl

Directions (activity):

  • Tell your young scientists that today you are going to make some popcorn DANCE using science! 
  • Invite them to put a few spoonfuls of baking soda in the cup of water and stir until it has fully dissolved
  • Add a couple spoonfuls of popcorn to the baking soda mixture. Is it dancing yet? 
    • Make a hypothesis--what will happen when we add the vinegar?
  • Carefully & slowly add the vinegar to the baking soda solution
  • What happens?!
    • You will notice that the popcorn starts to DANCE!

The Science:

  • This science magic is created using a simple chemical reaction. When we add vinegar & baking soda together--we create carbon dioxide. 
  • You can see this at work! If you watch the popcorn carefully, you’ll notice that it gets covered in little bubbles and it bobs up and down. 
  • Those bubbles are made of carbon dioxide. As they collect on the popcorn, it lifts the popcorn up to the top of the container. Once it is at the top, some of those bubbles “pop” and bring the popcorn back down again. 
  • This up and down motion is what makes the popcorn look like it is dancing!

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Shiny Penny Experiment

By Colie Haahr, CMNH Educator

We were surprised by how excited kids got about cleaning pennies when we offered this experiment as a drop in STEAM activity at CMNH! It does seem like a magic trick when you first see the pennies getting shinier almost instantly. 

This experiment is a good way to practice making predictions and observations, and it’s an easy one to do with materials that are available at home! For kids learning about money and currency, this is a great way to practice counting and recognizing the different coins as well. 

Materials:

  • Table cover of some kind (a trash bag works!)
  • Several pennies
  • Other coins- quarter, nickel, dime, coins from other countries if available 
  • Vinegar 
  • Salt
  • Bowl of water
  • Bowl for vinegar and salt mixture
  • Q-tips
  • Paper towels 
  • Optional: lemon juice, soapy water, other liquids you would like to experiment with

Directions:

  • One way to set this experiment up is to use a muffin tin or small bowls to offer several different liquids for kids to try. A small pallet for paint works well, too! 
  • Put the coins on a surface you do not mind getting messy- plastic plate, paper towel, or directly on the table covering, but you will want some paper towels or dish towels nearby
  • Allow kids to experiment with the materials to see what would work best to clean the different coins by dipping the coins in the liquid, and brushing them with a q-tip
  •  Ask what they think will work best, and why?
  • After some experimentation, guide them toward the vinegar or lemon juice mixed with salt. The salt works as a mild abrasive, and the acid in the vinegar and lemon juice react with the pennies to make them shiny and new looking
    • Important: rinse the pennies in water after cleaning them if you would like to keep them nice and shiny! They will oxidize and turn green otherwise. 
    • Fun fact: this is what happened to the statue of liberty, and why it looks green today! Kids did not dip it into a bowl of vinegar, but the statue is copper, and it turned green because of oxidation over time. 
  • Ask why the acidic liquids cleaned the pennies, but not the other coins? What is different about them? The pennies are a different color because they are made of a different material: copper!

What’s Happening? 

 Pennies are made of copper, and copper is shiny, but over time it becomes tarnished and appears black or brown because of copper oxide, which is created when copper bonds with oxygen. Acids mixed with salt help break down the copper oxide on the penny. Vinegar may remove actual dirt from the pennies and other coins because it works well as a cleaner! 

Extensions: 

Science Bob offers a few more experiments you can try using the same materials.

Scientific American offers some ideas for different liquids to use, and a more in depth explanation and method for advanced experiment-ers.

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Polymer Science MAGIC!

Materials Needed:

  • Large mixing bowl or container (a casserole  pan would work!)
  • Plastic bag (I recommend quart size) filled ¾ of the way with water
  • A bunch of pencils or colored pencils--the sharper the better! 

Directions (prep):

  • Fill your plastic bag ¾ of the way with water 
    • You may want to fill a few because this experiment is very fun!
  • Sharpen your pencils
  • Prep the activity area with the bowl or casserole pan

Directions (activity):

  • Ask your young scientists if they think you can poke a pencil through a bag of water without spilling a drop (they will probably say “No way!”)
  • Hold the bag up over the bowl or other container
  • Carefully twist a pencil through one side of the plastic bag and then continue to twist through the other side
  • No water will spill!
  • Try it with the other pencils

Invite your young scientists to try on their own using bags of water and pencils

The Science:

  • Plastic bags are made of something called a polymer
  • Polymers have long strings of molecules that are flexible
  • When you poke the pencil through the plastic bag, it wiggles in between these strings of molecules and the molecules seal up around the pencil so that no water is spilled!

Extend the learning:

  • Spend some time looking on the internet for other household items that are polymers - you’ll be surprised by what you find! 

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GAME: Pattern Snake Hide and Seek

Patternsnake
Patternsnake2

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By Colie Haahr, CMNH Educator

This is an active game, but can be done with no running, indoors or outdoors!

Kids love hiding things and finding things, so this is a game that can last for quite a long time, and can be played with just two people or more. 

Set up: First, have each player create a snake. You can use pipe cleaners and beads to make a pattern snake. If you do not have materials available to make a pipe cleaner snake, you can color a snake instead by drawing a snake, having your child draw a snake, or using a template.

Game play: Once everyone has decorated or put together a snake, take turns hiding and finding them. There are a few different ways to do this. If younger kids are playing with older kids, a variation that works well is to have a grown up hide all of the snakes, and kids can search for and find only their own snake. This makes the game more fair in that one person will not find all of the snakes right away. 

Rules:

  • Use your own house rules for hide and seek: this usually includes no peeking while someone is hiding or hiding items! 

Explore more:

Add to the fun: have a “pattern pageant” with a grown up as the judge. Inspect the patterns, ask kids to come up with hidden talents for their snakes, and choose a snake as the winner. Maybe it’s the snake that would blend in best in the natural world, the one with the best pattern, or the child who didn’t do so well in the hide and seek game ;) 

Talk about why animals have patterns in nature. Usually, this is to send a message to other creatures, such as “I’m dangerous!,” or to help the animal blend in to stay safe from predators. Some animals have patterns that mimic other things, allowing the animal to appear larger than it really is, or blend in with a different group of animals. Elementary aged kids could do some independent research to see who can find the animal with the best camouflage! 

Try this printable paper chain python activity:
If you do not have a printer you can make a paper chain by simply cutting up strips of construction paper or copy paper. 

Try this printable spiral snake
Kids can color it in, but may need help from a grown up to cut it out. These would be neat to hang from the ceiling once completed! 

This is a very similar activity, but involves finger painting the snake to create a pattern:
You could also make a pattern like this using the CMNH Wacky Art bubble wrap painting method.

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