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October 29, 2016

Sophie Miller

Fall Learning Series Part 6: Household Chemistry

Topics: STEM Education / Play, Learning at Home, Learning Through Play, STEM, STEAM

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As recently as the 17th century, there was a branch of science called alchemy, which resembled magic more than it did science.  The focus of alchemy was primarily on transformation, such as the many famous attempts to turn lead into gold.  Alchemists believed that these transformations would lead to immortality and the purification of the human soul, making alchemy a religious and spiritual study.  While the practice of alchemy is uncommon today, this branch of investigative reasoning has evolved into one of the most widely-explored scientific studies in the world: chemistry.

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While its roots may have dealt with complex topics, the chemistry of today explores some of the simplest parts of our world. These parts are elements – the simplest form of certain substances.  Don’t worry, though: the complexity of chemistry’s history in alchemy lives on.  Modern chemistry can lead to some of the most complex parts of the world too – occurrences like explosions come from complex chemical reactions.

Our fall learning series is designed to give you a chance to teach your children about something new and interesting. Each week our blog covers a new topic, and is filled with specially curated activities that let you get hands-on with each lesson. It’s a great way to spend time with family and learn all at once!

Fun facts:

  • Water gets larger as it turns into ice; its volume increases by about 9%.
  • However, if you pour salt into water, it has the opposite effect: the water level will go down! This is because the chemicals in the salt and the chemicals in the water recombine, causing absorption to occur.
  • There is an element called gallium that you can melt just by holding it in your hand! This is because its melting point, the temperature at which it melts, is very low.
  • While oxygen gas is clear, its liquid and solid forms are blue.
  • A pound of lemons has more sugar in it than a pound of strawberries does.

Water experiments:

Water is composed of two elements: hydrogen and oxygen.  When these two elements combine in the correct proportions, water is formed.  Water is an excellent demonstrator of how substances in our world change forms, from liquid to solid to gas, when different temperatures or pressures are applied.

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Our first experiment of the day will focus on how water moves and is absorbed: this is called capillary action. Capillary action occurs when water molecules adhere to the fibers within an absorptive material – a paper towel, in the case of this fun “water-walking” activity by Megan at Coffee Cups and Crayons.  By watching colored water move from one cup to another, your kids can witness firsthand the capillary action that occurs when water molecules meet an absorptive object.  Plus, the colored water yields a beautiful result!

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When heated up or frozen, water changes form into steam or ice! Every element can change form when the conditions surrounding it change.  To watch water turn to ice instantly before your kids’ very eyes, try out this super cool super-cooling experiment from abouteducation.com.

Chemical reactions:

Water’s all well and good, but what chemistry blog would be complete without some explosions? Here are a few more reactive chemistry activities that yield more theatrical results.

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While this experiment may look like ice, it is actually a variation on the old baking soda and vinegar volcano. With a little help from mom or dad on the heated portions, your kids will be wowed by the magical appearance of this hot ice experiment from Noirin at Playdough to Plato.

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To cap it all off, try out this flaming soda snake from Lisa at An Ordinary Life. This experiment requires adult supervision as it does involve a small flame, but it’s worth it for the explosive (and contained) reaction!

Chemistry and Your Kids

Chemistry defines and categorizes the world that surrounds us. Chemists spend their days studying elements as common as oxygen and as rare as gold, trying to figure out how they are made and how they interact with each other. Your kids can be little chemists too with these experiments, ranging from water studies to contained explosions. Just make sure you help them with their fun, and check back in next week for Fall Learning Series Part 7: Leonardo Da Vinci!

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