What science teacher (or parent, for that matter) doesn’t know about the “volcanic” reaction of vinegar and baking soda? But why not teach students the ancient way to make glue?
These are great activities for younger students, and there are a whole lot of other classroom experiments that will delight the little ones and make chemistry fun for older students. Make sherbet to taste so that students can “feel” the chemical reaction on their tongues. Stock up on test strips and watch for the color changes as students test different foods. Or “play” with polymers by making a batch of crazy putty!
Chemistry can be almost as much fun as magic tricks. Aim to captivate your students and let them believe that it’s all for fun. You’ll be surprised at how much they’ll learn along the way.
There are excellent resources available, you’ll find ingredients for some of these super “tricks” right in your kitchen. There’s no need to get fancy!
Assemble the following dry ingredients. Use small plastic art utility cups or mini paper muffin cups. Let your students measure and mix together:
- 1 teaspoon of icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid crystals
- 1/2 teaspoon of drink crystals
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
Once mixed, let the students place a small bit on their tongues and talk about the “chemical reaction” that occurs when the crystals react with the moisture — they’ll be tasting sherbet and you’ll be teaching them what happens when an acid and a base react with liquids.
This is a great experiment for younger children, but it’s also a good starting point for a discussion of acids and bases with older students. Move on to demonstrations of acidity or alkalinity, and talk pH before testing various substances with indicator paper. Swimming pool test strips, with an accompanying color chart, are perfect for this demonstration. Chart the results by testing common substances like lemon juice, black tea, olive oil, vinegar, tap water, pineapple juice, a sea salt solution, milk, cocoa and Coca Cola. We guarantee students will be surprised at the results.
Play a fast-paced game to impart some basic chemistry facts. The boiling point of liquid nitrogen, for instance, or the most common element in the universe, or the origin of the word “Chemistry.” Find many of the those interesting facts here, and collect more of your own.
Blow Up Balloons
No doubt you’ve used acid/base reactions in various ways to teach chemistry lessons. This one adds a slightly different twist, however, and also points out the differences between balloons filled with different kinds of “air” or gases. Blow up one by breathing into it; capture the gas created by mixing vinegar and baking soda to blow up a second, and fill another with helium. Talk about the reasons they act differently. For more balloon “magic,” watch this video. Pretty cool, huh?
The World of Glue
One of the big shifts in Common Core Standards is “inductive learning,” and a key component to this is teaching students how to support their thinking and understanding with evidence. Elmer’s has a great lesson plan called “The World of Glue” that identifies adhesives in our every day lives and gives students a sense of why they need to understand the science of polymers enables adhesives to bond things together.
Have fun with chemistry, and chemistry students will have fun in class!