Saturday, 7 June 2014

What a State!

Following our recent interest in chemistry, lectures and workshops related to chemistry suddenly seem very relevant so we signed up for a whole bunch of them.

The first workshop was a short one devoted to explaining the states of matter to upper elementary-grade children.  The workshop leader explained about the differences between a physical and a chemical change and whether the reactions involved are reversible.

There were a few demonstrations on how different states occur but the coolest one was when he froze a fresh banana rock solid using liquid nitrogen.  At the end of the workshop, he poured what was left of the liquid nitrogen out onto the floor, which promptly turned into gas.

We also attended a number of chemistry-related lectures at The Royal Institution.

Lectures at the RI are always very accessible and interesting.  Of course, it helps when the demonstrations involve loud noises and explosive visuals.

The content of one of the lectures that we attended is very similar to the one shown below:

We also decided that, instead of just watching other people having fun with the experiments, we ought to try some safe-to-do-at-home ones ourselves by consulting the following books:

We made some sugar crystals by suspending a piece of cotton rope into a glass of water saturated with dissolved sugar for 24 hours;

Tiger marveled at the work of air pressure to hold the thin piece of card up under the weight of water in the jar;

and fishing ice out of water using a piece of string (and a little salt to melt the ice).

In the clip below, you can see the ice being suspended above the water by the piece of string on one side.  That's pretty cool.

To my surprise, the activity that really captured Tiger's interest involved him drawing a road map for his 'magnetic' cars (car shapes cut from paper with a paper clip attached to the back) to move around.

We attached a small, round magnet onto a ruler, then off the paper vehicles went.  Of course, one of the vehicles has got to be a tank.

I, on the other hand, was found the raisin-in-soda trick mesmerizing.

I call it 'the poor man's lava lamp'.  I literally sat at the table and watched the raisins go up and down the jar for more about 20 minutes until all the fizz was gone.  I reckon it would be a very good trick to keep a three-year-old occupied long enough for mum to have a cup of tea in peace.  I wish I had known this trick when Tiger was three years old!

While we were in the fizzy drinks isle, Tiger asked to pick up an extra bottle of diet soda to do the soda foundation experiment that we had done a few years ago.  Well, one can't say no to this simple request!  This time, we also looked into the science behind the experiment.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 6/3/14
  2. The Home Education Weekly Link Up
  3. Weekly Wrap-up: The One Before Date Week
  4. The Homeschool Mother's Journal (6/7/14)
  5. Science Sunday - How to Make a Brain Cell Model


  1. Hello! It looks like an amazingly fun and educational week. I think one of the greatest aspects of home-education is being able to do practical science activities - just ask If you haven't popped to her site yet I would because she has some great experiments which I'm sure Tiger would enjoy.

    Thanks so much for linking up to this weeks #homeedlinkup

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Prudence, and for starting the link up. I've seen the science activities you mentioned, and they are indeed very interesting and engaging for the children.

      Have a good week ahead!

  2. My son was asking me whether I could get him some liquid nitrogen just yesterday. I told him to look up the price and he told me it was over three hundred pounds. That would be a no then!
    I'm going to try the raisin one because I think my three year old might like that!

    1. Some chemicals are just too expensive to buy for personal use. However, you might be able to share the cost out with another homeschooling family who's also studying chemistry.

      I'm sure B3 will enjoy watching the raisins bob up and down as much as I did! :-)

  3. Hwee,

    We took our girls to a liquid nitrogen show at a science centre a year or so ago. It was so interesting and visually impressive. Demonstrations certainly help understanding and fix facts in our memories. Your soda experiment was impressive too. I am going to bookmark the chemical curiosities video to show the girls. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You're welcome, Sue. Demonstrations are good in terms of getting children interested in a science topic, and for the more visual learners, a suitable way to remember the process and results.

      The soda experiment was good fun. :-)

  4. We had a waiter bring by a carafe of sprite and a bunch of raisins and it kept our table full of rugrats quite mesmerized for some time.

    We got to see a fun chemistry display last year and the kids were mesmerized by it and afterwards wanted to replicate everything they did.

    1. That's the best part of chemistry demonstrations and displays, that they excite and motivate children (and adults) to try the experiments at home. I'm so glad that we can see so many different demonstrations these days. There certainly weren't so many around when I was in school!

  5. What a great collection of resources, Hwee. You are so good at getting out and about to lectures etc. Would it be ok if I email you for some tips about how to find out about them? We aren't in London so wouldn't make it to as many as you but I'd like to get out a bit more next year. Though as you say, there are also many wonderful experiments available on YouTube. Thank you for sharing, as ever!

    1. You're welcome, Lucinda. Sure, feel free to send me an email! :-)


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