Detailed information, reviews, advice, articles and such - all centered around home schooling, unschooling, deschooling and other "wacky ways" to raise a human being.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Science at Home
"Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in a different time."
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 started?
What similarities are there between the vortex created in the bottle and a real tornado?
What other variations can you come up?
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 tornado.
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." Materials:
Small bottle or small plastic prescription vial
Two-liter bottle with top 7.5 cm removed (save this part to use as a funnel)
Place 1 tablespoon of baby oil into the small bottle or plastic prescription vial.
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).
Secure the lid and shake until the all the ingredients have mixed together.
Fill the two-liter bottle almost full with tap water.
Pour the food coloring and baby oil mixture from the small bottle through the funnel and into the container of water.
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.
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.
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)
Fill the medium-size bowl halfway with water.
Add several squirts of liquid dish soap and one teaspoon of sugar to the water.
Stir the mixture thoroughly and vigorously until small bubbles appear. Add more liquid soap if needed.
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
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?
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." Materials:
Two-liter soda bottle
Box of raisins
Fill the two-liter bottle half-full of water.
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.)
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
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.).
two-liter plastic bottle
Cut the top 7.5 cm off the bottle.
Fill the bottle about 3/4 full with water.
Carefully drop 5-7 droplets of food coloring into the bottle of water.
Observe how the food coloring falls to the bottom of the bottle, leaving peculiar trails.
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? Materials:
two-liter plastic bottle
Pour vegetable oil into the bottle until it is 1/3 full.
Add 3-4 drops of food coloring.
Carefully fill the bottle the rest of the way with water and tighten the cap.
Allow enough time for the water and oil to separate.
Slowly rock the bottle back and forth and observe the wave action.
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!
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. Materials:
10" to 12" party balloon
two-liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut off
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
By holding onto the nozzle of a balloon, stuff the remainder of the balloon through the bottle's mouth.
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.)
Pull down on the punch balloon (diaphragm) and observe what
happens to the balloon (lungs) inside the bottle! Release the diaphragm.
Push the diaphragm into the bottle and carefully observe what happens to the other balloon (lung).
( Many of these were found at http://www.essentiallearningproducts.com/soda-bottle-science-john-cowens - a great resource that we have found for our own projects at home)