Every child learns the water cycle, including the concept of precipitation. Here's a great way for a child to visualize what happens when clouds become supersaturated with moisture. If only rain were as colorful as this!
What You Need
Tall, clear glass jar
What You Do
1. Fill the jar about three-fourths full of water. Let the water settle for a minute.
2. Mix food coloring with water in separate bowls. Make sure the colors are intense; squirt a lot of coloring into the water.
3. Squirt shaving cream over the top of the water, making sure to completely cover it.
4. Using the eyedroppers, start dropping colored water over the top of the shaving cream, drop by drop. Try to keep the colors separate.
When the shaving cream "cloud" becomes saturated with water in a particular spot, the colored "rain" breaks through and drops down through the water. You'll see that the drops share a similar mushroom shape as they fall.
Nature is beautiful in so many ways -- colors, textures, sounds, aromas. I've just discovered a natural phenomena called "fractal patterns." These are naturally occurring patterns that appear in many forms -- ice crystals on glass, mountain ranges, river beds, leaves, lightning strikes, seashells, even galaxies.
With this activity, you'll make fractal patterns using kitchen ingredients. I've suggested two here -- ketchup and molasses -- and maybe you'll want to try more substances. Mustard? Barbeque sauce? You've got some great possibilities in your fridge!
What You Need
CD or DVD jewel cases
White paper (8.5 x 11)
What You Do
1. Remove the CDs or DVDs from the jewel cases. Slip out the covers and playlists.
2. Trace around one case on the white paper. Make two cutouts. Place the paper in the jewel case and cut down to fit. Close the cases and put them with the white paper facing up on a table or counter.
3. Shake the ketchup bottle to make sure it's mixed well. Squeeze out a large drop onto one jewel case.
4. Pick up both cases and clamp them together, holding one case so that it's perpendicular to the other, so the spines don't bump.
5. Press the two cases together. Hold them with the edges facing up and pull them carefully apart. There should be some resistance.
6. Place the two cases on the table face up to see and preserve the pattern.
7. Using two other jewel cases, or after washing these, try the activity again with molasses. (The molasses pattern spreads out quickly. Putting the cases and the molasses in the fridge for a few minutes keeps the pattern intact a few seconds longer.)
Fractal patterns are the predictable results of a mathematical formula. If you divide a fractal pattern into parts you get a nearly identical reduced-size copy of the whole. The mathematical formulas are called "chaos equations" and by repeating fractal-generating equations many times, random outputs create beautiful patterns that are unique, yet recognizable.
You can see many of these patterns on this website of beautiful photos of fractal patterns.
Okay, so my hand looks like an alien's -- I was covered in corn starch and jello at this point -- but I'm holding out a homemade gumdrop for a group of children at a bookstore in Rochester, N.Y., to see.
This is an easy treat to make... a pure-sugar bomb that you know you shouldn't let your kid have, but you do anyway because he's proud to have made it!
What You Need
2 small containers
Open a packet of jello -- any flavor you like -- and pour the dry contents into a small bowl.
Pour water into another small container. Fill an eye-dropper with water and hold it over the jello container. Carefully squeeze out 8 or 10 drops, one on top of the other.
Using a fork, life out the wet spot from the jello and shake off the excess powder. Voile... a gumdrop.
Science Activities for Kids
Now You See It... But Is It There?
I just stumbled on this page of optical illusions. You won't believe what your eyes see! Sometimes the brain fills in missing "information" in ways that make you think you're seeing motion in a static picture or something that isn't even there!
Lava Lamp, Take 2
I thought I had made a really cool lava lamp using oil, water and salt. And it is a cool lamp, no doubt about it. (Scroll down to the bottom of this column to find it.) But, I gotta say... this one is even cooler! Alka-Seltzer makes this lava lamp go berserk! Try it some day when you're going berserk with your kids at home and have nothing to do.
You Will Need
A large, clear glass jar or pitcher
1. Fill the jar or pitcher about ľ full of water. Fill the rest of the pitcher with oil, leaving an inch or so of space at the top (to prevent spills). Let the oil and water settle.
2. Break up a few Alka-Seltzer tablets into five or six pieces and have them nearby.
3. Squeeze a few drops of a single color of food coloring into the pitcher. (Yellow, because it looks similar to the oil, doesnít show up as well as other colors.) Watch as the color drops settle on the bottom of the oil layer.
4. Drop in a piece of Alka-Seltzer. Look closely and watch the fireworks!
5. Continue to drop in pieces of Alka-Seltzer and more drops of the food coloring. Make new colors by dropping in a second color (red + blue = purple; blue + yellow = green; red + yellow = orange, etc.) and more Alka-Seltzer.
Whatís Going On
Oil has a lower density than water, so it settles on top of the water. Food coloring doesnít mix with oil, but instead falls through the oil to mix with the water. The ingredients of Alka-Seltzerócitric acid and sodium bicarbonateóreact with the water to release bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that rise to the top and take colored water along for the ride. The gas escapes when it reaches the top, and the colored water falls in droplets back down through the oil.