Make Your Own Cloud in a Bottle

The other day it was damp and overcast early in the morning, with a hint of rain in the air. With my steaming cup of coffee, I sat myself down in front of the computer, hoping to get some work done while the kids were still peacefully in bed. And in my quest for simple science experiments which could be easily carried out at home, I chanced upon this interesting experiment in which you could make a cloud in a bottle.

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Image courtesy: wikiHow

Here’s how it works.

What You Need

  • A large mason jar
  • A rubber glove
  • A torch
  • Boiling water
  • Matches

The Procedure

  • Pour a little bit of boiling water into the mason jar – just enough to cover the bottom – and swirl it around a bit gently.
  • Seal the air into the jar by fitting the rubber glove wrist around the mouth of the glass jar such that the fingers point downwards towards the boiling water.
  • After about 10 seconds, insert your fingers into the glove and move it upward so that the fingers are pulled out.
  • Now light a match and drop it into the jar, covering its mouth again with the rubber glove. You will observe smoke forming in the jar and the water at the bottom will put out the lighted matchstick.
  • Again, pull out the glove by inserting your fingers into it. You will observe a cloud forming inside the jar. If you re-insert the glove, the cloud will disappear.
  • Shining a torch into the jar through the glass sides will enable you to observe the clouds better.
  • In about 5 minutes, the cloud formed will gradually disappear with the particles settling down at the bottom.

The Science Behind it:

Inside the mason jar, the warm air is full of water vapor molecules from the boiling water. When the glove is inserted into the jar, it occupies some space; pulling it out frees that space and cools the air inside the jar to a certain extent. The water molecules present attach themselves to the smoke particles emanating from the lighted matchstick, eventually condensing into droplets which form the cloud.  Every time the glove gets re-inserted into the jar, the air present within gets warmed up again and the cloud disappears.

After all, if there can be a storm in a teacup, there can also be a cloud in a bottle! :)

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How to Come up with a Great Science Fair Project Idea and What to do with It

For wannabe scientists, science fairs are great opportunities to get some hands-on experience with the process of scientific research. Small fairs can be loads of fun for scientifically-inclined kids, while the bigger ones come with generous university scholarship funding or internships for winners. Here’s how you can come up with a great science fair project idea and make the most of it.

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Choose a Good Science Fair Project Idea

  • A “good” science fair project idea is one that interests and challenges you. Never mind if it’s something completely new and untried – you will grow as a scientist only by delving into unexplored territories and learning more along the way. You are most likely to find you enjoy an area you might never have picked otherwise.
  • While a complicated-looking project does not guarantee success, topics that are too easy – “What types of glue are the strongest?” – are unlikely to impress the judges unless you are going to study the molecular structure of each type of glue. However, in most cases, a student who knows his topic well will win over a student with poor presentation skills.
  • No matter what topic you choose, make sure you focus on a specific aspect that can be completed within a year. For instance, instead of working on ways to reduce global warming, focus on reducing or mitigating one cause of global warming and you’re more likely to make progress in it.

Spend Time on Background Research

Once you choose your topic, you’ll need to spend sufficient time researching the background and collecting data. This data is the backbone of your science fair project – it is the basis on which you will be building your project and the importance of collecting and understanding this information cannot be emphasized enough.  Background research helps you formulate a hypothesis, create a streamlined procedure; maybe even avoid some of the problems that might crop up during your project and definitely help you save time in the end.  The more time you spend understanding your topic, the more accurately will you be able to predict what might happen.  It will also make it easier to analyze your results and arrive at a detailed conclusion. This is the real purpose of background research.

Do not be disheartened if your data seems to difficult to decipher – some concepts need to be reread several times before you can make sense of them – the best way is to start with what you do understand and work your way upwards. Do not let unknown concepts frighten you into giving up on the science fair project idea; one of the most important reasons for doing a science project is to learn new things.

Presentation Matters

You can maximize your chances of winning by learning how to communicate your science fair project idea well.

  • Prepare a short spiel (2-5 minutes) summarizing your key findings and the theory behind the project – you will have to give this speech when you meet the judges, so keep it short and succinct.
  • Make a list of questions the judges are likely to ask you and rehearse the answers. Ask your parents, siblings or friends to pretend they are judges and practice explaining your project in simple layman terms to them.
  • If possible, create easy-to-understand graphs and diagrams on your display board and point to them during the discussion.
  • Be audible and confident while answering questions – DO NOT MUMBLE! If you do not know the answer, it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”
  • Always ask for feedback from judges and visitors to improve your project and come up with a better idea next time.

Hope this helped!

Science Games to Teach Environmental Awareness

When you think science games, it is often physics games that come to mind. After all, any game that is built with a physics engine serves as a great physics game. They’re fun to play, and they help students understand concepts such as acceleration and conservation of energy. Angry Birds and Portal are great examples of fun games that are used to teach physics to students.

However, science games are about a lot more than physics. There are great science games that teach nearly every science topic, from how the body fights cancer to how pollution forms in the environment. That’s right, you can teach your child to look after nature without even sending them outdoors. Here are three great science games to teach environmental awareness to kids.

Sim City Zoningsim city 4 Zoning and Roads” by haljackey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  1. SimCity EDU: Pollution Challenge

In this game, kids take on the role of a mayor along with all the city-planning and decision-making that comes with the position. The focus is on keeping pollution levels to a minimum while also ensuring that all other aspects of city life function smoothly. While SimCity may not be a science game, kids who play it come to realize how various factors contribute to the pollution level of a city. They understand how pollution-control measures can be put to effect in a practical way to reduce negative impact on the population. This game is a great way to take environmental issues out of textbooks and show kids how they affect everyday life. Playing this game is likely to make kids more conscious about how simple decisions can make a difference to the health of the environment.

  1. Citizen Science

This science game was conceptualized by Kurt Squire when he realized that there were lakes in downtown Madison that people couldn’t swim in. In Citizen Science, players try to find out why the local lake is so polluted by traveling through time and collecting evidence. They meet various characters responsible for the pollution of the lake and build strong arguments to convince them to change their behaviour. They use various scientific tools to conduct research about the pollution in the lake, and learn a great deal about lake ecosystems. They also understand the long-term effects of pollution on the environment. Eventually players must change the course of history and prevent the lake from becoming as polluted as it was before the quest.

  1. Web Earth Online

This is a great science game that lets kids understand what life is like for animals living in the wild. Players choose what animal they would like to play as, and then go about their life trying to survive in the natural environment. They must deal with natural climatic conditions as well as the threat posed by predators. Web Earth Online is a multiplayer game – players interact with each other as friends or foes depending on which species they belong to. Players are sensitized to the struggles faced by animals and are likely to be more thoughtful towards animals in real life after playing this game.

Easy Science Experiments for Primary School Students

Science experiments are the most fun when they are easy, require minimal adult assistance, and can be done without many supplies. Check out the following easy science experiments that may leave you stunned with their outcomes.

What makes a great penny cleaner?

Shiny PennyImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/4566262271/

We’ve most often heard taco sauce makes a great cleaning agent for old pennies. Is that true? Let’s find out what makes the bets penny cleaner.

Process

  • Place three coins on three plates.
  • Cover each penny with each of these mixtures: tomato paste + vinegar, salt + vinegar, and tomato paste + salt. Let the mix sit on the coins for five minutes.
  • Rinse the pennies under running water and you can find out who’s the clear winner! Is it the mix of vinegar and salt?

How hard and sturdy are egg shells?

Egg ShellsImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/phuthinhco/7787472496/

We’ve often observed egg shells cracking even when touched lightly. Conduct this easy science experiment to find out how fragile or hard egg shells really are.

Process

  • Spread a sheet of plastic before doing the experiment because it may turn messy; a couple of eggs are bound to crack!
  • Place two cartons of eggs next to each other. Make sure all the eggs are kept round side up (not the pointy side up) and there are no breaks or fractures in any of the eggshells. Replace the defective ones before you begin the experiment.
  • Remove your socks and shoes. Hold on to a friend and try to step up onto the first carton of eggs with a foot. The trick is to make your foot as flat as possible so that your weight is evenly distributed across the tops of the eggs.
  • When you’ve positioned your foot well, try to shift all your weight on the egg-leg and slowly bring on your other foot on the other carton of eggs. Don’t fret if you hear cracking sounds from the egg cartons. Instead concentrate on balancing on the cartons.
  • So aren’t egg shells stronger than we imagine?

What happens when vinegar and baking soda mix?

Apple Cider VinegarImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/16360770737/

Vinegar and baking soda are two commonly used ingredients in the kitchen. What happens when the two are mixed? Let’s find out.

Process

  • Fill up a bottle till half with vinegar.
  • Fold two tablespoons of baking soda in a tissue paper and dump it into the bottle. They key is to put all the baking soda together into the vinegar at a time. You can explore the idea of using a funnel to pour the baking soda too into the vinegar.
  • Stand back and watch what happens! Do you notice an erupting volcano? Baking soda and vinegar, two very easily available ingredients, reacted to form the volcano.

Outdoor Science Experiments Perfect for Summer

Rainbows peeping between two baubles of clouds, bright, wild flowers adding a splash of colors to the backyard, slushy strawberry sauces dripping from tall glasses of vanilla ice cream – that pretty much sums up summers! It’s the ideal time to set up science work stations outdoors and experiment with the wonders of summers! Carry out these fun science experiments and amidst the warmth of summer, in your backyard, garden, community park, or elsewhere!

6807424348_d6916a33f3_zImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/6807424348/

Homemade water sprinkler

Summers are synonymous with cool drinks but it’s not very cool to dispose off the plastics in which the drinks come, so we’ve devised this fun science experiment with the not-so-cool plastic bottles.

You will need:

  • A plastic soda bottle
  • Pins
  • Water

Directions

  • Head out, it’s summer.
  • Fill the plastic bottle with water and screw on the cap.
  • Using a pin, make 5 evenly spaced holes on the side of the bottle, towards the bottom.
  • Run your finger along the streams of water that are gushing from the bottle.
  • Do you notice the five streams forming one wider stream? What forms when you run your fingers through the stream of water is called cohesion. The water molecules get stuck to each other and form one single stream while oozing out from the bottle.

DIY rock candy

How about spending the idle summer holidays doing something that you would not just like to see but eat too! Head out to make a rock candy because it may get messy indoors!

You will need:

  • Cane sugar
  • Drinking water
  • Mason jar
  • Pencil string

Directions

  • Fill the mason jar with water.
  • Add 3 cups of cane sugar to the water and stir well.
  • Place the sugar solution in the microwave and heat on high for two minutes.
  • Use oven gloves to remove the mason jar from the microwave and stir another time.
  • Place it back in the microwave and heat for another two minutes. Remove again and stir.
  • Tie a length of string to a chopstick and gently dip it into the mixture. Pull out the string gently again and allow it to dry.
  • Once dry, dip the string again into the mixture and then allow it a week’s time to dry.
  • Your rock candy will be ready in a week’s time!
  • You created a super saturated solution when you heated the water-sugar solution in the microwave. When you dipped a string into the solution, the sugar granules crystallized and formed a rock candy!

DIY vanilla ice cream

What’s summer without a scoop of our favorite vanilla ice cream? Make ice cream while you’re out running after the butterflies in your backyard and enjoying the summer!

You will need:

  • Two sandwich bags, one bigger than the other
  • A cup of full cream
  • Half a cup of milk
  • A teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • One fourth a cup of sugar
  • 3 cups full of ice cubes
  • 3 cups salt

Directions

  • Mix the cream, milk, vanilla essence, and sugar in the smaller sandwich bag. Seal it well.
  • Slip in the smaller bag into the larger and fill up the larger sandwich bag with the ice cubes and salt.
  • Seal the larger bag (with the smaller bag intact) and head out to enjoy the summers. Just make sure you keep shaking the bags for a good five minutes.
  • Come back in and carefully take out the small bag from the large one and pour its contents in a bowl.
  • Don’t you have a bowl gooey vanilla ice cream in front of you!

Learning Activities with Water Beads

Water beads are such a versatile yet hardly explored tool for learning that you’ll not realize its benefits unless you start playing with them. Add a handful of water beads to the child’s activity time (well monitored to ensure kids don’t swallow the beads) the next time she brings out her toys and see the difference. Learning will reach a different level altogether with the effective play tool.

Learning Math with Water Beads

Have fun simply counting the tactile, colorful water beads with the kids. Line up a handful of water beads in a row and take out a couple from it. Ask kids to count how many remain. Add a few and ask them to recount. Play the symbol game where you write two digits on the left of an ‘equal’ sign and a resultant on the right. Ask the kids to guess the math symbol which will get the resultant and have them write the symbol with water beads. Though water beads don’t hold any topical significance in this activity, kids will be eager to play it out just to enjoy the tactility of the beads. If you are playing with a group younger than 6-7 year olds, here are a couple of more activity ideas.

  • Have them put red beads in one spot and the yellow ones in another. Ask them to count both the groups individually as well as together.
  • Have kindergarteners make shapes and patterns with the beads. You can choose to make the first shape and ask them to follow you.
  • Ask them to count if they’ve got more blue water beads or white water beads? If they have mastered their math by now, ask them to count the difference in the number of beads of the two colors.

Learning Science with Water Beads

It’s time to explore the science behind water beads that swell up to look like the way they do. Start by handing over an unopened pack of water beads to the kids. Let them experience the fun of these tactile beads from the beginning. Have them play with these beads which have not been soaked in water yet. They’ll be coarse to touch, similar to M&M candies. Keep a notebook handy to document the experiences step by step. Read out the packet instructions to the kids and have them follow. The steps will mostly ask you to add a liter of water to a packet of beads. Find out if the kids are surprised at this stage at the proportion of water to the beads. Let the beads soak in the water and the kids marvel at the change of the beads’ appearance. To add more fun, divide the beads into three bowls and add a few drops of food color to the water in each to get colorful beads. Let kids squash, squeeze, squish, and smash the beads and understand why the beads swelled up. Encourage them to test out the properties of the swollen beads and compare these with the ones with which they started. Do they roll, bounce, go flat or back to their original shape? Explore the possibilities with the kids.

Learning English with Water Beads

Right at the beginning, we told you water beads are versatile. Well, here is an English activity too with the multipurpose water beads! Play this activity with the kids before the water beads go all dry and you have to throw them away. Fill up a bowl with squishy water beads and add a number of letters into the bowl. Instead of using tongs or another similar tool to pull out the alphabets, blindfold the kids and have them put their fists into the bowl and pull out any three random letters. Next, ask them to make a syllable or a word with them. If the letters cannot make up a word or a syllable, you can give them an imaginary vowel to complete the task. You’ll be surprised at how long this alphabet game can go on!

Explore the many learning possibilities of water beads with the kids as you play with them!

STEM Apps for Kids

STEM education is seen as essential for kids as it gives them the foundation to explore a variety of careers. While these careers can be directly related to STEM, there are also those that require the skills one develops while learning these subjects. STEM subjects are Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These subjects train students in skills like problem solving and critical thinking. So it is not necessary that only students interested in becoming scientists and engineers should get acquainted with STEM. Even those who find these subjects dreary can rediscover the subjects in a whole new light with apps that deliver the concepts without taking the skills and fun out of them.

Dibble Dash: In penguin games like this one, kids can practice their math skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math Bingo: Kids can test their math know-how with this game and play through three levels. Questions are related to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math AppsMathApps” by Kathy Cassidy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science360: Older kids will benefit from the latest news, spectacular images and videos that are streamed on this app related to science and engineering.

Bridge Constructor: If building bridges is a passion, this app gives plenty of opportunities for that as it allows kids to choose materials and conduct stress tests.

Cat Physics: In this fun game, kids learn about underlying concepts of physicswhile the ball is passed from one cat to another, while simultaneously getting past obstacles.

New iphoneNew iPhone” by Johan Larsson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Aero: With this app, kids will learn about aerodynamics as they adjust the wings of an albatross to make it fly and simultaneously learn about flight techniques.

Monster Physics: Kids can have fun inventing. Another building app, this one lets you build planes and rockets, and once they are built, kids can operate them.

The Chemical Touch: In this exciting app, kids can learn about the periodic table and the chemical properties of elements.

Math GraffitiMath graffiti @ #SLA” by Chris Lehmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spacecraft 3D: As the name suggests, the app helps kids understand space and learn about the earth and solar system.

Bobo Explores Light: Children can learn about scientific concepts like lasers, lightning and bioluminescence under the tutelage of a robot.

Curiosityjsc2013e065175” by NASA_JSC_Photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When STEM is introduced to kids in an engaging way and they learn about the difference these concepts help make to the quality of life, they will become more receptive to learning and practicing these skills.