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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Science at Home

"Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in a different time." 

~Rabindranath Tagore

Our children are born onto a precipice of education, learning and experience. Utilizing the tools that are available outside of the classroom allows for them to learn in a way that was not seen before at home. While some households may spend the time to purchase lengthy science kits, high priced curriculum, and partake in complicated projects, there is still something to be said for exploring the world around us and finding learning through every day venues.

One of the greatest advancements in education for our children is the fact that that science and technological learning is so easy to get our hands on. It no longer has to be expensive. It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, if you live in decently populated area with a city nearby, chances are that there is going to be a science or space museum that will allow your child to explore the subject ad nauseum without any additional purchases at home. However, if you are like some of us, we like to bring the science home with us. Doing so no longer has to be pricey or inconvenient though thanks to simple products like 2 litre bottles. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for bunson burners and microscopes, but simple experiments are easy to do without all of the hullabaloo.

In fact, here are a number of science lessons that we've tried in the recent years that worked out quite well from the kitchen table.

The Water Race:

(1) 2-litre bottle for each participant or
team; stopwatch for each participant or team; paper
and pencils; water, sink or basin

Fill the 2-litre bottle with water. Record prediction
of how quickly the bottle can be emptied of all the
water on a piece of paper. Without squeezing the
sides of the bottle or swirling the water, empty the
bottle into a sink or basin. Using the stopwatch,
time how long it takes to empty out all of the water.

Repeat this experiment three times to be sure the
data are accurate.

Fill the bottle to the same level as before. Give the
bottle a swirl. Time how long it takes to empty the
swirling water out. Repeat three times.
Discussion: How close was your prediction?

Explanation:  The action of swirling the water in the bottle
while pouring creates a vortex, which looks like a tornado in a
bottle. The opening of the vortex allows water to flow out of
the bottle while air molecules move upward into the bottle.
Without the vortex, the water and air molecules have to

Tornado in a Bottle

(2) 2 liter bottles for each participant or
team; tube connector; water; optional glitter, beads,
small plastic animals, trees, houses, etc.

Fill one bottle 2/3 full of water. Screw on the tube
connector to the bottle of water and then screw an
empty bottle on top. Flip over the bottles and again
observe how the water moves from one bottle to
another. Then swirl the bottle with water in it and
watch as the tornado is created. Add some of the
above items and create your own vortex or tornado.
Observe the vortex and answer these questions:

Where were the plastic houses, beads or
animals before you swirled the water?

Where did they move when the vortex was

What similarities are there between the
vortex created in the bottle and a real

What other variations can you come

What if you use more or less water?

Does it make a difference if the water is hot or cold?

Explanation: A vortex is defined as “a whirling liquid.”
When swirling the water it causes the liquids to travel in a
spiral. As the water swirls in the experiment above it moves
the houses, beads, glitter etc. These items will move at
different speeds depending on where they are in the vortex.
This is similar to a tornado. A tornado is defined as “a violent
destructive whirling wind.” It is a rotating column of air
ranging in width. Air and water droplets create a tornado.
The water droplets form condensation, which is the visible

Liquid Fireworks
Water is denser than oil and the two will always separate from each other. Since food coloring is made mostly of water, it will drop through the oil and finally disperse into the water. This experiment produces "liquid fireworks."
  • Baby oil
  • Small bottle or small plastic prescription vial
  • Tablespoon
  • Two-liter bottle with top 7.5 cm removed (save this part to use as a funnel)
  • Water
  1. Place 1 tablespoon of baby oil into the small bottle or plastic prescription vial.
  2. Add 2-3 drops of each different food coloring into the bottle or vial (example: 2-3 drops of red, 2-3 drops of blue, 2-3 drops of green and 2-3 drops of yellow).
  3. Secure the lid and shake until the all the ingredients have mixed together.
  4. Fill the two-liter bottle almost full with tap water.
  5. Pour the food coloring and baby oil mixture from the small bottle through the funnel and into the container of water.
  6. Observe the interactions of the liquids.
When the bubbles sink, their oil coating rises back to the surface. The color seems to disappear because the drops of coloring are not powerful enough to change the color of the water.

Bubble Machine
Bubbles can be a thin, ball-shaped film of liquid that has a gas trapped inside. Air inside the bubble pushes outward against the watery "skin." Simultaneously, Earth's atmosphere pushes inward on the outside of the liquid "skin." This equal balance of two forces creates a shape with boundaries at an equal distance from the center and produces only one shape – a sphere. Here's a fun way to make bubbles.
  • Medium-size bowl
  • Water
  • Blue or green liquid dishwashing soap
  • Granulated white sugar
  • Top half of a two-liter soda bottle (cut to resemble a funnel without the cap)
  • Teaspoon
  1. Fill the medium-size bowl halfway with water.
  2. Add several squirts of liquid dish soap and one teaspoon of sugar to the water.
  3. Stir the mixture thoroughly and vigorously until small bubbles appear. Add more liquid soap if needed.
  4. Dip the nozzle of the funnel into the soap solution. Lift it up and blow through the large opening toward the inside of the nozzle. If no bubbles appeared, repeat and/or add more liquid soap to the bowl of water.
  5. Dip the large open end of the funnel into the soap solution and blow through the nozzle.
Which end of the funnel produced the best bubbles?

Waltzing Raisins
Drop raisins into a bottle of clear-colored soda and watch them rise, fall and hover for several minutes. This experiment is what I call "variation on a theme."
  • Two-liter soda bottle
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Box of raisins
  • Tablespoon
  1. Fill the two-liter bottle half-full of water.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of baking soda into the water. (You'll observe a chemical reaction as vinegar and baking soda interact – carbon dioxide bubbles will be produced.)
  3. Drop a few raisins into the bottle of water. The raisins may sink at first, but will "waltz" around soon thereafter.
The vinegar and baking soda produce carbon dioxide bubbles, which gather under the raisins until there's enough to make the raisins rise to the surface. When the raisins reach the surface, the bubbles burst, causing the raisins to sink. The process of lift-and-sink may repeat several times.

Density of liquids
Water molecules are constantly in motion. This bouncing and bumping of molecules is called "diffusion," which also occurs in gases and solids. Diffusion in our air causes fragrances to spread all around a room (i.e., flowers, cologne, cooking odors, etc.).
  • water
  • food coloring
  • scissors
  • two-liter plastic bottle
  1. Cut the top 7.5 cm off the bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle about 3/4 full with water.
  3. Carefully drop 5-7 droplets of food coloring into the bottle of water.
  4. Observe how the food coloring falls to the bottom of the bottle, leaving peculiar trails.
  5. Let the bottle sit undisturbed for a few hours. What happened to the trails?
 Homemade lava lamp
Years ago, lava lamps were the coolest devices to own! For hours one could easily sit and stare at the colorful globs as they slowly moved up, down, fused together and separated into extraordinary shapes. What were these bizarre globs?
  • two-liter plastic bottle
  • vegetable oil
  • food coloring
  • water
Soda bottle lava lamp
  1. Pour vegetable oil into the bottle until it is 1/3 full.
  2. Add 3-4 drops of food coloring.
  3. Carefully fill the bottle the rest of the way with water and tighten the cap.
  4. Allow enough time for the water and oil to separate.
  5. Slowly rock the bottle back and forth and observe the wave action.
  6. Slowly tip the bottle until it is upside down and observe the same lava lamp effect.
Water is denser than oil. This makes water stay on the bottom of the container while oil "oozes" to the top. Changing the temperature of these liquids has interesting effects, too!

Lung simulator
Your spongy, elastic and expandable lungs are located in your chest cavity and protected by a strong rib cage. When you inhale, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles contract and expand the chest cavity. This expansion lowers the pressure in the chest cavity below the outside air pressure, draws air in through the airways and inflates the lungs. To exhale, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles relax, air flows out and the chest cavity gets smaller. This decrease in volume of the cavity increases the pressure in the chest cavity, which is higher than the outside air pressure. High-pressure air from the lungs then flows out of the airways to the outside low-pressure air.
  • 10" to 12" party balloon
  • punch balloon
  • two-liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut off
  • rubber band
  • cellophane tape
  1. Cut the nozzle end off the punch balloon and slip it over the bottom of the plastic bottle, leaving a little slack. Secure the punch balloon with cellophane tape. (The punch balloon represents the diaphragm.)
  2. By holding onto the nozzle of a balloon, stuff the remainder of the balloon through the bottle's mouth.
  3. Secure the party balloon's nozzle around the mouth of the bottle with a rubber band. (The balloon represents the lungs and the bottle represents the chest cavity.)
  4. Pull down on the punch balloon (diaphragm) and observe what happens to the balloon (lungs) inside the bottle! Release the diaphragm.
  5. Push the diaphragm into the bottle and carefully observe what happens to the other balloon (lung).

    ( Many of these were found at - a great resource that we have found for our own projects at home)

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