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Properties of Water – Experiment at Home19/01/2021

Experimenting at home can be tricky if you don’t have the right equipment. Luckily water is one thing that most people should have access to. Water is fascinating, and we have two easy experiments to show you why, whilst also learning the science behind the properties of water. A glass of water has never been so interesting!

Experiment 1 – The Coin Test

You will need:

  • A coin
  • A pipette (if you don’t have a pipette, you could use a straw, or your finger. We also sell them on our shop)
  • Washing up liquid
  • A cup

Method:

  • properties of waterFill your cup with water.
  • Place your coin on a flat surface.
  • Fill your pipette with water.
  • Drip the water from the pipette onto the coin. Count each drop!
  • Keep dripping the water until it falls off the coin.
  • How many drops did you fit on your coin?
  • This time, add some washing up liquid to your water, stir it round.
  • Try dripping the water onto the coin now.
  • Did you manage more drops or less?

The Science Bit: 

Water is COHESIVE. This means that it sticks to itself. When your drops fell onto the coin they joined together and created something called SURFACE TENSION which allowed it to hold together on the top of the coin.

When you added the washing up liquid, it weakened the surface tension of the water, which meant that the water couldn’t hold together as well. So you should find that you could fit less drops on the coin!

Experiment 2 – Magic Flower

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Scissors (ask a grown-up to help)
  • A bowl or tray
  • Water

Method:

  • properties of waterDraw a flower on your paper, a bit like this one –
  • Cut out your flower (ask a grown-up to help).
  • Fold the petals into the middle of the flower.
  • Fill your bowl or tray with water.
  • Place the folded flower on the water.
  • Watch the petals unfold!

The Science Bit:

As well as being COHESIVE, water is also ADHESIVE. This means that it can stick to other surfaces. A bit like how you get rain drops on your windows. In this experiment, the adhesive property of water meant that it could absorb into the paper. This made the paper swell (not really enough for us to see) and make the petals unfold!

Halloween Experiments – Fun Science22/10/2020

Here are some Halloween experiments for you to try with your little scientists in this spooky season –

Erupting Pumpkin

You will need:

  • Hydrogen peroxide (you can buy this from most pharmacies)
  • Dried yeast
  • Washing up liquid
  • Pumpkin (carved!)
  • Cup x 2
  • Spoon

Method:

  • Make sure your pumpkin is carved (ask a grown up to help).
  • Pour your hydrogen peroxide into a cup, so the cup is half full.halloween experiments
  • Add a squirt of washing up into the cup and stir.
  • Place the cup inside the pumpkin.
  • Pour the dry yeast into your other, empty cup.
  • Fill the cup half full with water and stir until the yeast is mixed in.
  • Pour the yeast into the hydrogen peroxide and put the lid on your pumpkin!
  • Watch the foam erupt out!

The Science Bit:

  • Hydrogen peroxide has a similar chemical formula to water. Water is H2O (two hydrogens and one oxygen) and hydrogen peroxide is H2O2 (two hydrogens and two oxygens)! When the yeast mixes with the hydrogen peroxide it splits it into H2O (water) and O (oxygen), and the washing up liquid mixes with the water to make the foam! The bubbles in the foam are full of oxygen.
  • This is an exothermic reaction (a reaction that makes heat) so you may notice that the foam is warm!

Spooky Disappearing Picture

You will need:

  • A clear, sealable sandwich bag
  • A piece of paper
  • Colouring pens
  • Permanent marker
  • Clear container, big enough for the sandwich bag to fit inhalloween experiments

Method:

  • Cut your paper so that it fits flat in your sandwich bag.
  • Draw a picture on your paper with your colouring pens.
  • Place it in the bag and seal it.
  • Draw round part of your drawing, or the outline, using a permanent marker on the sandwich bag.
  • Fill your container with water.
  • Slowly lower the bag into the water.
  • If you look from above, you should notice part of your drawing disappear!

The Science Bit:

  • When you look at the water from above, the light refracts through the water, and bounces back at such an angle that we can’t see the image on the paper!

 

Inflating Ghost Experiment

You will need:

  • A bottle
  • Balloon (white is best for a ghost but any colour will do!)
  • Permanent marker
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • Spoon

Method:

  • Blow up your balloon (don’t tie it!) and draw your ghost face on your balloon using your permanent marker.halloween experiments
  • Let the air out of your balloon
  • Put 1-2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda into your balloon. You may need someone to help you, or you could use a funnel.
  • Place the balloon to one side.
  • Fill your bottle 1/3 full with vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Carefully stretch the neck of the balloon over the neck of the bottle, but don’t let the bicarbonate of soda fall in yet!
  • When you are ready, lift the balloon up so that the powder can fall into the bottle.
  • Watch your ghost inflate!

The Science Bit:

  • Bicarbonate of soda is an alkali and vinegar (or lemon juice) is an acid. These are opposite chemicals. When you mix bicarbonate of soda with an acid they react. In this case it made bubbles of carbon dioxide!
  • Carbon dioxide is a gas and when the bubbles popped the carbon dioxide escaped and travelled up into the balloon, making it inflate.

 

Did you enjoy these Halloween experiments? Find lots more on our blog or check out our science kits on our shop.

Chicken in a Cup Experiment14/10/2020

We love experimenting with sound. Do you know how sound travels? It’s by vibrations! When you talk, when you bang a drum, even when you walk, vibrations are travelling to your ears. Have a go at making this fun chicken in a cup experiment and annoy your grown ups for hours – it’s science!

chicken in a cup experiment

You will need:

  • A plastic cup
  • A paper clip
  • String
  • Piece of kitchen roll

Method:

  • Poke a hole in the bottom of the cup, big enough to thread your string through. You may need a grown up to help.Chicken in a cup experiment
  • Tie one end of your string to the paperclip.
  • Turn your cup upside down and thread the string through the hole, so the paper clip anchors it to the bottom of the cup.
  • Take your kitchen roll and get it wet.
  • Fold it in half and pinch the string inbetween the wet halves.
  • Keep pinching and pull the paper towel down the string in short, sharp bursts.
  • It should sound like a chicken in a cup!
  • What happens if you move your paper towel down in one movement?chicken in a cup experiment

The Science Bit:

Sound travels by vibrations. If you tried the experiment without the cup the string would still vibrate but it would be almost silent. The cup spreads out the vibrations and amplifies them (makes them louder).

This is like how a guitar works. The vibrations from the guitar strings are amplified by the wooden body of the guitar. this is how a piano works as well!

Why not try:

  • Using a bigger cup – would it make a different sound?
  • Using a different length of string.
  • Using a different type of string.
  • What else can you think of to change?

Did you enjoy this chicken in a cup experiment? Find lots more on our blog and check out our home science kits on our shop.

How to Make a Simple Paper Kite11/09/2020

We love flying kites but unfortunately the weather in the UK isn’t always ideal for it. However, this simple paper kite can be flown indoors or outdoors! Read on to find out how to make your own and the science behind why it flies.

You will need:

  • A4 paper
  • Extra piece of paper
  • Stapler
  • Holepunch
  • 50cm 5tring

Method:

  • Fold your A4 paper in half (like you are folding a card).

  • Take the top corner and place it on the opposite side, about 1/3rd of the way down.
  • Do the same on the other side.
  • Staple them in place.
  • We made a beak and some tail feathers for our kite! But you may want to do something different.
  •  Put a hole punch around 1-2cm from the staple.
  • Thread the string through the hole and tie in place.
  • Hold the end of the string and wave it around to fly your simple paper kite!finished simple paper kite

The Science Bit:

The shape of this simple paper kite makes it a great flier. The curved wings mean that the air has to travel faster to get over them, fast moving air has lower pressure. The air travelling underneath the kite, and the air going through the wing tunnels doesn’t have to travel as fast and so it has a higher pressure, which pushes the kite up. This is called Bernoulli’s principle!

Looking for more experiments to try at home but don’t have the equipment? Find lots of home kits, including our Big Box of Science, on our shop!

Simple Hydrogel Experiment09/09/2020

Have you heard of hydrogels? Would you like to try a hydrogel experiment? Hydrogels are polymer chains (lots of atoms linked together) that are ‘hydrophillic’ which means they love water! This makes them super absorbent. Some hydrogels are saturated which means they have already soaked up water – hair gel is an example of this. Other hydrogels are unsaturated which means they haven’t soaked up water but they can if they need to. An example of this is the material inside a baby’s nappy! In this simple hydrogel experiment we are going to be removing the water from a saturated hydrogel – hair gel!

To do this hydrogel experiment – you will need:

  • Hair gel – any brand will do.
  • Salt
  • Little pot or cup

equipment needed for this hydrogel experiment

The method:

1) Put some hair gel into a little pot. Just a little squirt will work fine.

gel ready for a hydrogel experiment

2) Sprinkle some salt on top of the hair gel

You should see the hydrogel start to turn from a gel into a liquid – this is the water coming out of the hydrogel structure.

The result of our hydrogel experiment

 

Why not try testing different hair gel brands or research some other household hydrogels and give them a try! Do you think the experiment would work with sugar instead of salt? Write a prediction and then give it a try.

The science:

So how did this hydrogel experiment work? Hair gel is a saturated hydrogel so it contains lots of water, held inside lots of chains of atoms stuck together. Water bonds to salt so when you put salt on top of your hair gel, the water came out of the hydrogel to try and stick to the salt. This made the hydrogel structure collapse. This is why when you have salty food, you feel thirsty – salt sucks water out of your cells in the same way that it sucked the water out of the hair gel. If you have too much salt, you get dehydrated.

Home ed online science sessions03/09/2020

Online science course for home educated childrenOur next course of online home ed science sessions starts on the 1st October 2020 and is aimed at home educated children aged 5-9. This course will be run via Zoom and you will need a computer to access the sessions. A webcam is desirable but not essential and your child does not have to be on camera. Just £4 per session and £1 for each additional sibling.

These 45 minute home ed science sessions are run by a highly trained scientist and provide children with an opportunity to socialise whilst learning. Sharing results is a key part of scientific research and these sessions will encourage collaboration.

All sessions will involve practical science experiments that use easily obtainable materials. Please see below for a list of sessions and the equipment that will be needed. You will need to source this equipment ahead of each session but you are likely to have most of it at home already. The majority of each session will be practical experiments with some time for watching a larger demo and sharing ideas with other children in the group.

Prices

The price for a block of four sessions is £16 per screen. Additional siblings are welcome to share a screen and work on the activities together and there is an additional total cost of £4 per additional sibling. All sessions will be recorded so that you can access the session even if you are unavailable one week. We are also on hand for help and support between sessions too.

This club will be strictly limited to 15 screens and 20 participants so that every child gets the most out of the club.

Click here to sign up

You may also be interested in our online coding course for children aged 7-12.

Sessions

Session 1 – 11am – 1st October – Colours – In this first session, children will be exploring the science of colour and learning the different between the colours of light and the colours of ink. We will be conducting chromatography, making bubbles to trap rainbows and doing a colour changing reaction. You will need:

  • Kitchen roll/toilet paper x 3 sheets
  • Felt tip pens (a selection of colours)
  • Cup of water x 2
  • Spinner template (either printed our template or draw your own)
  • Cocktail stick/sharp pencil
  • Red cabbage (just a section or a few leaves is fine)
  • One or more acids (e.g. vinegar, citric acid, lemon juice)
  • One or more alkalis (e.g. bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, washing powder, toothpaste),
  • Washing up liquid
  • Straw (paper or plastic)

Session 2 – 11am – 8th October – Rockets and flight – This session is all about forces and children will be making a range of flying machines. You will need:

  • Straw (paper or plastic)
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips x 3
  • A4 paper x 4 sheets (can be scrap paper)
  • Sticky tape

Session 3 – 11am – 15th October – Chemical and physical reactions – Children will go away from this session with a passion for chemistry. They will also know the difference between a chemical and physical reaction! You will need:

  • Cup of water,
  • Small amount of vegetable oil (as much as you can spare)
  • Clear cup/glass x 3
  • Bicarbonate of soda/baking powder
  • Vinegar/lemon juice
  • Teaspoon
  • Empty bottle (any size)
  • Balloon

Session 4 – 11am – 22nd October – Magic science – Some experiments are so cool, they look like magic! This session includes lots of ‘tricks’ and best of all, children will learn how they are done! You will need:

  • String x 15 cm length (roughly)
  • Tray/washing up bowl
  • Sticky tape,
  • 2 x empty clear cups
  • Cup of water
  • A4 paper x 2 sheets (can be scrap)
  • Scissors
  • Pen (any colour). 

Click here to sign up 

 

Beginners Home Ed Coding Course03/09/2020

Is your child interested in learning to code? Would you rather they were designing video games rather than playing them? Home educating and don’t know where to start? Get to grips with the basics of coding with our online coding course specifically designed for home educated children aged 7-12.

All sessions will be run online via zoom so are suitable for children across the UK. Coding sessions will last for one hour per week and children will be working with the BBC Micro:bit and blockly coding. Children will be able to share their coding creations with one another and a scientist will be on hand to help with any tricky coding bugs!

This code club is designed for children with limited/no coding experience and is suitable for children aged 7-12. You will need a computer (mac or pc) with internet access and a USB port. A webcam is desirable but not essential and there is no requirement for your child to be on camera.

In order to take part, your child will also need a BBC Micro:bit microcomputer. We are able to sell these (plus all required accessories) for an exclusive price of £14 (rrp £18.99) for children signed up to the coding club – with free postage too! All children signed up to the Coding Club will also receive a printable certificate and free Ebook on completion of the club. This E-book contains additional projects and links to helpful videos.

Prices

The price for a block of four sessions is £24 per screen (without Micro:bit) or £38 (with Micro:bit). Siblings are welcome to share a screen and work on the activities together. All sessions will be recorded so that you can access the session even if you are unavailable one week. We are also on hand for help and support between sessions too.

This club will be strictly limited to 15 participants so that every child gets the most out of the club.

Click here to sign up (for participants who already have a BBC:Microbit)

Click here to sign up (for participants who would like to purchase a BBC:Microbit)

You may also be interested in our online science sessions for children aged 5 – 9.

Sessions

Session 1 – 11am – 29th September – Getting started and making an animation – In this session, children will be getting started with the online editor, coding their own words, phrases and animations and downloading them onto the Micro:bit.

Session 2 – 11am – 6th October – Making a compass and a step counter – This week we will be using the built in magnetic sensor and accelerometer to code a step counter and a compass.

Session 3 – 11am – 13th October – Coding simple games – Next up, we will be coding some simple games including a rock, paper scissors game. Children will be using ‘if _____ then______’ commands and setting countdown timers plus learning how to create a reset button for their game.

Session 4 – 11am – 20th October – Coding a more advanced game – In this session, children will be using loops, game commands and animations to code a more advanced game that is playable on the Micro:Bit.

Click here to sign up (for participants who already have a BBC:Microbit)

Click here to sign up (for participants who would like to purchase a BBC:Microbit)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speedy Experiment – Lemon Volcano20/08/2020

I can’t say I’m a big fan of lemons. They’re just like oranges, but a more boring colour and with a horrible taste. But, like them or hate them, with a few simple ingredients, you can turn them into a lemon volcano! You don’t need time or a laboratory for this one; like the tremendous teabag rocket, the test takes less than ten minutes. Furthermore, it uses entirely household materials, so won’t harm the environment!

You will need:

  • A lemon – mine was quite an old one, which was good as it stopped me from wasting food.
  • A spoon
  • A knife (get a grown-up’s help for this one!)
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • A spare container; the second ramekin (little dish) in my photograph has a dash of washing-up liquid under the recommendation of another experimenter; however, I found that I didn’t need this.

The method:

1) Cut the two ends off of the lemon with the knife.

2) Use the spoon to core out some of the middle.

This should make a “bowl” shape like the image above.

3) Squeeze out the lemon juice from the lemon-ends into the spare container.

4) Add some bicarbonate of soda to your lemon-bowl.

The lemon juice will react with the soda and create an eruption. If your reaction is underwhelming, add a little of your spare lemon juice…

If you like, try testing the lemon volcano method with other citrus fruit. Does it work with lime? Orange? Grapefruit?

The science:

Bicarbonate of soda contains carbon – it’s in the name (bicarbonate) . When the citric acid in lemon juice reacts with the soda, those carbon dixoide atoms gain two oxygen atom companions each, and become carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a gas, so that creates bubbles in the juice-and-soda – and because quite a lot of it is being produced, the lemon seems to erupt!

Speedy Experiment – Alien Goo05/08/2020

Alien goo. What is it? Why do aliens use it? When did aliens discover it? I can’t answer any of those questions, because as far as we know, alien goo doesn’t exist. But I can tell you how to make something a lot like it! This goo will magically change form before your very eyes. You don’t need time or a laboratory for this one; like the tremendous teabag rocket, the test takes less than ten minutes. Furthermore, it uses entirely household materials, so won’t harm the environment!

WARNING: This is an extremely messy experiment, especially if there are any excited children involved. Make sure you’re wearing clothes you don’t mind getting stained!

The alien goo ingredients:

  • Some water
  • As much cornflour or cornstarch as you can acquire
  • Some food colouring – I used orange.
  • A bowl
  • A measuring jug
  • Some newspaper to cover any surfaces

The alien goo method:

1) Measure out some water – perhaps 100ml – and pour that into the bowl.

2) Dry the jug, then add four times that amount in cornflour to the water.

3) Add seven or eight drops of food colouring.

4) Mix it all together and let if flow!

“Alien goo” is… strange. You can pick it up like a solid, roll it up into balls and shapes, but the moment you suspend it in the air, it seems to “melt” like a liquid.

Be warned – siblings seek this stuff out like they can smell it. Perhaps they’re aliens too…

The alien goo science:

This “alien goo” is a “non-Newtonian fluid”. Isaac Newton, who calculated loads about gravity, made a “law”  – that’s a prediction about physics – that liquids will always behave in a certain way. But, naturally, we’ve discovered more since he lived 400 years ago. One of the things we’ve discovered is liquids that don’t follow that law he made – alien goo being one of them. And because they don’t do what Newton said, they’re non-Newton-ian fluids!

See Saturn (CosWatch Blog 8)24/07/2020

Welcome to the eighth of Fun Science‘s CosWatch blog posts, which you can read through with your young scientist and learn how to see Saturn.

What is CosWatch?

There’s so much to see in the night sky! You may have seen Brian Cox on TV describing the “wonders of the universe”, or Carl Sagan talking about the “awesome machinery of nature”, and they’re absolutely right. But while huge rockets and observatories can help, space isn’t just for people with expensive equipment. You can see amazing things from millions of miles away from your very own back garden. Each week, I’m going to talk about one of these incredible objects, and how you can find them.

This beautiful footage from Voyager 2 is a timelapse showing the probe’s approach to the Saturn.

This time, we’re going to be talking about how to see Saturn, the second-largest planet in the Solar System!

Tell me about Saturn

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun, and takes 29 years to orbit it. This makes sense; it’s further (and therefore has a greater distance to travel) than Jupiter, which takes 12 years, and much closer than Uranus, which takes 84 years. Like those two planets, it is a gas giant, meaning it is mostly made of gas. Also like those two, it has a short day of only ten hours and forty-two minutes.

“Saturn as seen from Mimas” by Chesley Bonestell is credited by some as inspiring the post-war appetite for space that fuelled the race to get the moon.

Saturn is most famous for its colossal rings. These rings aren’t solid objects as they may appear, but a collection of lots of tiny bits of ice, and a small amount of rocky material. These ice-lumps range from the scale of microns (smaller than a human hair) to metres (bigger than a car).

This image from NASA allows us to see Saturn in transit – that is to say, passing in front of the sun. This helps illustrate the size and majesty of its rings.

The Moons of Saturn

Some kids get all of the toys. As well as the biggest rings, Saturn has 82 moons, the most of any planet in our solar system. We discover them so quickly, only around 50 of them have names!

The most famous of these moons is Titan. Titan is a very exciting moon; much larger than ours, it’s the only other place in the solar system where we’ve found still bodies of liquid, which may be necessary for life. We’ve also landed a probe on its surface; the image to the right is really from the ground of Titan itself!

On the right, Titan from space. On the left, Titan from its surface.

There are of course many other moons of note. Pan, for instance, is shaped like a sherbert UFO sweetie. Methone, meanwhile, is shaped like a pebble.

On the left, the pebble shaped Methone. On the right, the sweetie-shaped Pan. Both from NASA.

Saturn has been observed since prehistoric times, and represents many different Gods in many different mythologies.

However, its rings and moons weren’t known about until much later. Galileo, who discovered four of Jupiter’s moons, observed Saturn in 1610. He thought the rings were two moons on either side of Saturn, and described them as “Saturn’s ears”; based on this sketch he drew, it’s easy to see why!

Phineas L. MacGuire Series | Book awards, Saturn, Children's books

How can I see Saturn?

As said, Saturn has been observed since ancient times, which means that it can easily be seen with the naked eye. Most modern telescopes will easily highlight the rings; if you’re lucky, you’ll see some moons too. You can buy special filters to observe more detail, but these aren’t necessary.

As ever, the website timeanddate.com is very helpful for this – using their “night sky” function, you can choose your location and planet, then simply test visibility for each of the nights. Currently, Saturn is hanging around “with” Jupiter in the South – though of course they’re over a billion miles apart in real life.

Saturn has inspired art, religion and scientific discovery for thousands of years, and will pretty much always be visible. I hope you enjoy observing it!

In conclusion:

  • Saturn is the magnificent sixth planet from the Sun, and the second gas giant.
  • It has huge rings made of tiny pieces of ice (and a little rock), and over 80 moons.
  • We have landed a probe on the surface of Titan, the largest of those moons.
  • Saturn has been observed since ancient times, but we only worked out it had rings about 400 years ago.
  • You can easily see Saturn with the naked eye, and its rings and moons with a telescope.

What’s next for CosWatch?

This is the last of the CosWatch blogs for now, but who knows what’s in store for the future? I hope you’ve been able to learn some interesting facts, and perhaps see some of these beautiful objects for yourself. I’ve been Electron Edward, and it has been a pleasure to share the delights of the cosmos with you.

Notes:

Fun Science recently created a “Planets and Space” home kit, pre-orderable now for only £5.00. Check it out here!

In this article I explain that a further a planet is from the Sun, the longer it takes, generally, to orbit it. This is briefly touching on Kepler’s laws of planetary motion; however, this is fairly complex maths, and you don’t need to focus on this until at least year 12.

Younger scientists, or older ones with good taste, may want to check out The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System in the (sadly late) Joanna Cole’s Magic School Bus series to help them remember and learn about the different planets – though note that this book has Pluto classified as a planet, which is of course out of date..