Monday, December 11, 2017

Reaction in a Bag

My students just loved this activity.  Okay, I did too.  I made a few modifications.  I will have to write that up more formally another time.  Here are the highlights.


I found this activity on a science forum.  The teachers were all talking about how much they loved it.  It is a great way to show students the informal part of the scientific method.  The scientific method isn't always done in the same way.  It is still systematic and precision is important, but sometimes it is not in a formal way by starting with a hypothesis.

The premise is to teach the kids how to discover what substances cause what parts of the reaction.  They first see the complete reaction with all 4 substances.  This will produce heat, foaming, gas production, and a color change.  Then they combine two substances at a time to see what they do together to discover their role in the reaction.  Such a great way to teach about chemical reactions.  All of this is done in a zip lock bag, so clean up is easy.  Performing the reaction in a bag allows them to see the gas production and feel the temperature change.  Some combination will do nothing.  Others will be exothermic or endothermic reactions.  Some will even produce a color change.

Here is the link for the specific directions and worksheets.  It does a fabulous job explaining the science that I won't repeat it here.

Changes to the experiment.

I made same changes to make it more cost effective and use materials I already had.

Calcium Chloride:  I bought Damp Rid at my local superstore.  I use the unscented, which is pure calcium chloride.

Phenyl Red:  I did not have phenyl red, nor the budget to order some.  I decided to use red cabbage juice.  I had a red cabbage in my freezer from a previous experiment.  I boiled it in water until the color was mostly out of the cabbage and in the water.

Red cabbage produced a different change than the phenyl red.  Both are indicators, but produce different color changes.  Red cabbage is an acid/base indicator.  In the reaction with all 4 ingredients it produced a purple color.  Most likely because the substance were neutralizing.  In the presence of a base it will turn more green.  In the presence of an acid it will turn more pink.

When students began testing two items together they quickly noticed that sodium bicarbonate and red cabbage juice turned green.  Sodium bicarbonate is a base.  This really interested them because it did not happen when all 4 substances were mixed.  They were also surprised because the liquid gets cool.  When all 4 are mixed the students feel the heat from calcium chloride and water reacting.

 When the students mixed calcium chloride with red cabbage juice they discovered it turned a bluish/green color.  It did not seem to be quite as strong of a base as the baking soda, but it was close.  In this reaction a lot of heat was produced.  This just makes it even more exciting for students.  They immediately noticed more heat is produced than when all 4 substances were combined.  That is most likely because of the sodium bicarbonate and water losing temperature.

If you have a group of 5th-8th graders I strongly recommend this activity.  It is memorable and really applies higher order thinking skills.  Click the link above for the detailed directions.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale on

Cyber Monday Sale is here.  Time to stock up on all those resources in your wish list.  All science resources in my store are 20% off.  Use promo code CYBER17 to save up to 25%.

A sale wouldn't be complete without a thank you to all my customers and future customers.  Enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a $10.00 TpT gift card.  I hope you will learn more about my science resources and teaching style by entering the rafflecopter.  I truly love what I do.

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Here is my latest product.  Creating Crystals is so much fun with students.  This investigation will give results the next day.  Great for teaching about supersaturated solutions.  I used it to help my students with the You be the Chemist Challenge.

Monday, October 16, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: My Favorite Things

Thank you for participating in the 13 Days of Halloween.  In celebration of Halloween I am having a SALE.  20% off everything in my store.  Check out the deals.

Create a Glow in the Dark Skeleton

Make Colorful Fire

Create a Headless Horseman Costume

Glow Stick Fun

Have a Harry Potter Party

13 Days of Halloween: Naked Eggs

Day 12:  Naked Eggs
This is a classic experiment.  I posted it several years ago and felt I should highlight it again.  Perhaps you have done it before.  It is great for Halloween and Easter.  Anything slimy for Halloween is fantastic.  Always keep you hands away from your face when working with raw eggs.   

Naked Egg

Raw Egg

1. Carefully place the whole egg in the jar.

2. Pour enough vinegar into the jar that it completely covers the egg.

3. Let the jar sit for 24 hours. (Do not seal the jar with a lid)  You can put it in the refrigerator.

4. Carefully drain the vinegar. Add fresh vinegar and let sit for 1-7 days until the

shell is gone.  I find it doesn't take the full 7 days. ( 3 or 4 )

5. Take out the egg. The egg will be very soft. Rinse off any egg shell that is left.

6. You now have the membrane and the raw egg inside. Can you see the yolk?

What is Happening?
The vinegar is acetic acid.  The egg shell is made of calcium carbonate. The vinegar breaks down the calcium carbonate. Did you see bubbles in the jar?  The vinegar does not react with the eggs membrane.  You are able to see into the egg.  The egg will swell because the membrane is semi-permeable.  That means vinegar is inside the egg.  This reaction is similar to what too much sugar can do to the coating on your teeth. Try with a hard boiled egg or with different types of vinegars.
I loved this video I found on Imagination Station.  I have done the naked egg for years.  I have done it several ways, but I love how he takes it up a notch.  It is a great watch.  I will have to try some of these.

If you have done anything with eggs please leave a comment below.  Eggs are so amazing.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Permanent Marker Chromatography

Color Chromatography

What is Chromatography?

Chromatography basically means “to write with colors.”  It is the process of separating a mixture by passing it through a medium in which the different components of the mixture move at different rates.  Russian botanist M.S. Tsewtt discovered paper chromatography in 1903.  He was able to separate the pigments in plants.  Paper chromatography is now used to determine the purity and make up of many compounds.  In paper chromatography the mixture is dissolved in a liquid and the medium it will travel through is the filter paper.  How well the pigments separate is dependent on how well they travel up the paper and how soluble they are in the solvent.   

Permanent Marker Chromatography

You are probably thinking you can’t separate permanent markers.  They are permanent.  With the right medium you can separate the pigments in permanent markers.  It is fun to see what colors the manufactures used to make the many different colors.  Students will enjoy this fun chemistry experiment.

Safety Precautions

The following activity uses nail polish remover which contains acetone.  It has a high odor.  It should be used in a well ventilated area.  In the classroom this can be done as a demonstration in the front of the room.  It could also be done on a nice day outside.  Students could set them up on picnic tables.  Just make sure it is not windy.  Good lab practices should be followed.  Follow your school districts rules and keep material safety data sheets on file.

Blue had slight other shades, but was mostly blue pigments.

Since yellow is a primary color it did not separate into other pigments.

Black always has lots of color separation.  Black is a combination of all the primary colors.  Look closely and you will see different shades of red, blues, and yellows. 


Permanent Marker in a variety of Colors
Coffee Filter Paper
Nail Polish Remover
Small Shallow tray (Pie pans or smaller work well.)
Paper Towels
Safety Goggles


1.    Draw a circle around the edge of a coffee filter with a permanent marker.

2.   Fold the coffee filter in half and then in half again to form a tee pee.

3.   Pour a small amount of water into the dish.

4.   Place the coffee filter in the tray so it stands upright.

5.   Observe as the water travels up the coffee filter, but does not separate the colors. 

6.   Discuss with the class why the color did not separate.  (Permanent makers do not dissolve in water.) 

7.   Empty the tray and get a new coffee filter.

8.   Draw a circle around the new coffee filter with a permanent marker.

9.   Fold the coffee filter in half and then in half again to form a tee pee.

10.                Put on your safety goggles.

11.                Pour a small amount of nail polish remover into the dish.

12.                Place the coffee filter in the tray so it stand upright.

13.                Observe as the colors begin to separate and spread on the filter                paper.

14.                Discuss with the students what colors they see.

15.                Place the coffee filter on paper towel to dry.  Try another color if you        want.

Check out these other chromatography lessons.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Nail Polish and Water STEAM Activity

Nail Polish Art
A fun STEAM Activity

Today for the 13 Days of Halloween we are going to get a little artsy.  This activity actually teaches about oil spills.  At the end you will have a decorative piece of paper.


Cardstock Paper of different colors (Other papers work too.)

Nail Polish (Try different colors.  I am using black since it is Halloween.)

Warm Water

Shallow Tray


1.        Fill the dish with warm water.  You need the paper to be able to sink in the dish.

2.     Place the paper in the water.  Press it down so it is sunk in the dish.

3.     Dip the brush into the nail polish well.  It needs a large drop on the end.

4.    Hold the brush over the water to let a drop fall.  You can also take the nail polish and pour thicker drops on for more affect.  May not be the best idea with little ones.

5.     Watch the drop.  It may take a second.  The drop will open up and spread. Look closely because you may see a slight rainbow form.

6.     You may add more drops if there is room on the paper, but not too many.

7.     Very carefully pull the paper up so it catches the pattern.

8.     Set the paper on paper towel to dry.

Why does the happen?

Nail polish does not mix with water.  The drop is added and spreads on the top.  It glistens just like a drop of oil in water.  The light hits it and refracts the light.  Have you ever looked at the puddles on the road after it rains?  Sometimes you might see a rainbow of colors.  This is because oil from a car was on the road.  The rain doesn’t mix with oil.  The oil spreads and refracts the light separating it into different colors.  White nail polish works really well for this activity too.  Try other colors as well. 

What can I do with my colorful Paper?

1.        Use orange paper in the shape of pumpkins.  Add a green stem at the top.  When dry the students could add other decorations.

2.     Use the paper to make cards.  Students can cut them into shapes for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or other holidays.  They can write their messages on them and it will look prettier than plain paper.

3.     This is great for Valentine’s too.  Use heart shaped paper!

We are getting to the end of the 13 days of Halloween.  Keep coming back for more fun activities.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Day 9 of 13 Days of Halloween: Have a School Haunted House

This year another parent and I are in charge of the Haunted Hallway for the Fall Festival.  This is right up my alley.  We are both very excited to create a haunted hallway that will excite the students, add a little scare, and be memorable.

Their are things we have to think about for the event.
-We only have 2 hours to set up.
-Clean up needs to be easy.
-We need a scary haunted house, but one where the students really decide how scary it is.
-We need to have a tour guide so kids don't go crazy in the haunted house and brake things.
-We need volunteers.
-We have a limited budget.

It might seem like a challenge, but it really isn't that difficult.  A haunted house doesn't need to have traditional Halloween d├ęcor to be scary.  It just needs to tell a story and create the anticipation that something may jump out at you even if it doesn't happen.

I looked up lots of ideas on Pinterest and I thought I would share them here.  I hope you will create a haunted hallway someday at your school.  It will be very memorable.

How to plan a kid-friendly haunted house                                                                                                                                                     More
Lots of good tips on this site.  I like the idea of using fun items as body parts for people to touch.  Glow Sticks will create points of interest.
All homes are to become Haunted during the upcoming Halloween celebration yet frighting and unbelievable will be only the one in which the owner trully played his part and to emphasize on the right ambiance a selection of  creative eerie haunted house ideas has been curated, one spookier than the other. The content featured underneath mayRead more
This site contains lots of idea for a scarier haunted hallway.  I like the dog crate with a person.  Easy to set up and can be made really creepy.

Haunt Your House: 18 Ideas to Create the Spookiest Place on the Block
This site contains lots of creative ideas for school or home.

Haunted House Room Ideas - Bing Images
My kids like to create a box tunnel or hallway.  The holes in the cardboard make a great place to poke your head through or hand.

Don't forget to have someone pop out at the end.  This will get visitors hear rate rising.  I also like to have a creature walk out and follow behind as if they are touring too.  They tap someone on the shoulder and it really freaks them out.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Day 8 13 Days of Halloween: Bubbling Fun!

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Today we are talking about bubbling fun.  Chemistry is always fun at Halloween.  My kids always do this trick for their mad scientist area of their haunted house.  Simple and entertaining.

Clear Container

Vegetable Oil

Gel Food Coloring

Alka-Seltzer Tablets (Effervescent Tablets)



1.    Fill the glass almost full with vegetable oil.

2. Add 5-10 drops of gel food coloring.

3. Add 1 Effervescent Tablet.

4. Slowly pour about a teaspoon of water into the oil.  Give it a few seconds to react with the effervescent tablet.  Add more water if needed.

5. Observe the reaction.

How does this happen?

This is a great lesson in density and mixtures.  Water and oil do not mix.  Water is denser than oil.  Food coloring is water based.  It will mix with water, but not oil.  The gel food coloring is a little bit thicker, so it takes longer to mix with the water.  The gel food coloring sinks to the bottom of the oil.  The tablet is added.  Alka-Seltzer does not react with oil, but will begin to react with the food coloring.  When the water is added it increases the reaction of the Alka-Seltzer tablets.  Drops of water cling to the carbon dioxide gas produced and start to float up and down in the oil.  They then start to mix with the food coloring.  The colorful drops float up and down in the oil creating a fun display.

If you are using for a mad scientist table add some glow powder and a black light.  If you don’t have that you could drop a glow stick in to make it interesting.

Come back tomorrow for more 13 Days of Halloween.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Day 7 of 13 Days of Halloween: Pumpkin Themed Elephant Toothpaste

Every year I need to post about elephant toothpaste.  It is the ultimate Halloween Chemical Reaction.  I fell in love with this experiment a few years back.  I like to look at it as a step up from the classic vinegar and baking soda reaction we always see.  Vinegar and baking soda is great, but lets take it up a notch.

There are different versions of this experiment.  One is kid friendly and one is not.  This is the kid friendly version.

When my son was in 5th grade we did Pumpkin Themed Elephant Toothpaste for his class party.  This worked out so well.  Instead of doing the typical crafts and bingo we pulled out the safety goggles and gloves and made erupting pumpkins.  The kids had a blast!   All you do is use pumpkins instead of containers.  See directions and tips below.

The best part is the foam that rises.  I also like that it teaches about molecules in a way that kids can understand.  The reaction is also exothermic.  This means it gives off energy in the form of heat.  The foam will be nice and warm after the eruption.  I have students place thermometers in the foam.

What is happening?

This reaction involves using hydrogen peroxide.  The chemical formula is H202.  We are most use to the chemical formula of water (H20).  That extra oxygen on H202 is a weak bond.  It is very fragile and will easily separate becoming H20 and 0.  That is why you need to keep H202 stored properly. Elephants toothpaste happens when we speed up the reaction.  We can speed up the reaction by using a catalyst. 
The purpose of a catalyst is to speed up the breakdown of molecules into simpler parts.  The catalyst used in this experiment is yeast.  Yeast are living organisms that contain enzyme catalysts that quickly break the hydrogen peroxide into a water molecule and an oxygen atom.   We add soap to elephants toothpaste to make it more foamy.
In this experiment the yeast must be activated by placing it in warm water.  The warm water will take the yeast out of the dormant state.  Once the yeast water mixture is poured in with the soapy hydrogen peroxide the magic happens.  The oxygen atom will separate from the hydrogen peroxide and mix with the now soapy water and rise out of the container.  When the bond breaks heat will be given off.  You can take the temperature of the water before the experiment and of the foam after to see the temperature rise.  You can also touch it to feel the warmth.

What kind of hydrogen peroxide should I use?

The hydrogen peroxide in the first aid section will not be strong enough for big results.  It is very diluted.  Go ahead and try it for comparison with the students.  It is still very fun.  The best hydrogen peroxide comes from the salon store.  It is sold in different dilutions.  I have found that 20 volume is great with younger kids and then for 8 years old on up go for the 40 volume.  The higher the volume the more irritating to the skin it can be, so keep that in mind.  All they really do with it is pour it into the large container, so there contact with it is limited.  It is great to test the different volumes with the kids and talk about what concentration means.  The 40 volume has a larger concentration of hydrogen peroxide therefore more oxygen is being released.

Goggles and gloves must be warn during the experiment.  Hydrogen peroxide can be irritating to the skin.  After the experiment you will have a mixture of soapy water with yeast.  Students can touch that with their hands.  It is a warm, fluffy foam.  Be careful of spills and look at the ability of your students before beginning. 

Directions from Steve Spangler Science

I like the recipe he has.  He does a great job explaining it and giving directions.  I also recommend putting puppy training pads underneath.  Yes, that is right puppy training pads.  They are so absorptive and great for spills.  I try to always have a box on hand for experiments.

Explore, Investigate, Discover

Here is a great activity for students to explore the reaction further. Students will investigate elephant toothpaste by following the scientific method. They will answer the question: Does increasing the concentration of hydrogen peroxide affect the temperature of elephant toothpaste? Students will then discover elephant toothpaste by creating their own investigation. This can be completed as a class, in groups, or as a science fair project. The journal will take you step by step through the process. It also includes an elephant toothpaste assessment.  This is a great way to add it in to your curriculum.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Day 6 of the 13 Days of Halloween: Colorful Candy

Candy is everywhere on Halloween.  Sure they could eat it all, but we should us some for science.  I enjoy creating colorful mixtures with different candy.  It is very easy and creates beautiful results with the right candy.


Different Candies:  Gobstoppers, Sprees, Nerds, Smarties, Gumdrops, Red Hot's, Skittles, M&M's, Peppermints, etc.  They don't all have to work.  That is something the students can learn from.

Small Dish (I like petri dishes.)
Here I used gum drops.  They worked wonderfully.


Alka-Seltzer for extra fun.


1.  Place several of the candies around the dish.  Make sure you use different colors.  You don’t want the same color side by side. 
2.  Slowly pour water into the center of the dish to almost cover the candies. 
3.  Observe.  Make sure no one is bumping the table.  We want to keep the water still. 
4.  Once the color pattern is created have a little extra fun by adding an Alka-Seltzer Tablet. 

How does this happen?

If the candy is brightly colored it will slowly dissolve causing the water around it to turn that color.  There is no special magic trick as to why you get such defined shapes of colors.  It all has to do with mixing.  Since we poured the water slowly the molecules do not mix quickly.  The colors slowly diffuse making a pattern.  If you wait long enough eventually it will all become one mixed color.  If you use warm water this process will happen more quickly.  If you use cold water it will happen more slowly.  It all deals with how fast the molecules are moving.  

Scroll down to see lots of examples and a video.  Students of all ages can do it.
Place the peppermint candy in the center for an interesting pattern.

Spree Candy has very bold colors

Nerds Candy makes beautiful streaks.

Smarties Candy does not do anything.  It doesn't have the dyes.

My favorite is using the white gumball.  I placed it on black paper to truly see the colors.

Take it up a notch and add an Alka-Seltzer tablet.  The fizzing will cause the colors to mix and create more excitement.

This is a STEM Activity where students create their own effervescent table experiment.  Lots of fun and a great addition to color candy.

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