Science Week 4: More Heat

I got a little off track in my quest to document our whole science journey this year.  Here’s parts 1,2, and 3, if you’re interested.  We skipped a couple of weeks and had an unusual week where we did science with a different crew of kids and my camera went on the blitz meaning I have no good pictures to show to make my post look peppy.  So sorry also about the lack of art on this one.  But next week we’ll have more all about forces and motion!

Because BalletBoy and Mushroom seemed interested to learn more about temperature, we spent a few more days thinking about it and playing with our thermometers.  First, we checked the weather outside in the morning and compared the temperature on our stoop to the local temperature we found online.  Then we checked the previous day’s high, so the kids could see how it looked.  We also did some nice illustrations about the boiling and freezing point in the science journals.  I think I’m finally get the hang of what works for these journals.

Next, one of our co-ops is studying chemistry, so when it was my turn to host, we did experiments with heat and chemistry.  Honestly, most of the stuff we did didn’t turn out all that spectacular.

We thought more about how most molecules are still when they’re cold and busy when they’re hot.  We recreated the experiment where you drop food coloring into hot and cold water.  I did this with them before, but it’s one of my favorites because it’s just fun to watch.  You can see the water swirl around and how the food coloring rises in the hot water and sinks in the cold.  It’s sort of beautiful as well as elucidating.



Then we tried a bunch of experiments that were drawn from Janice VanCleave’s Chemistry for Every Kid and another book called Cool Chemistry Concoctions: 50 Formulas that Fizz, Foam, Splatter & Ooze by Joe Rhatigan.  The VanCleave book was surprisingly dull, especially since I really like her stuff.  The Cool Chemistry book looked neat, but the experiments didn’t pay off very well unfortunately.

Here’s what we tried:

  • An experiment where chemistry raises the temperature.  You soak steel wool in a jar with vinegar then squeeze out the excess liquid.  Put a thermometer in there and close the lid of the jar.  The temperature should rise because the chemical reaction (the rusting of the steel wool) gives off heat.  It worked, but the change was so small that the kids were unimpressed.
  • An experiment where chemistry raises the temperature.  You put a spoonful of citric acid (available at health food stores) and a spoonful of baking soda in a large plastic bag without sealing it.  Then you put some warmish water in a small plastic bag.  Put the small bag inside the large one and seal up the large one.  Then allow the acid and baking soda to mix with the water.  The reaction was pretty cool with lots of fizzing.  Unfortunately, like with the chemical reaction to produce heat, the amount of cooling was very slight.
  • Two experiments where cold causes a change.  All the kids had seen chemistry blow up a balloon (thanks, vinegar and baking soda!) but we used cold water to suck a balloon into a bottle, which was kind of neat and got the kids interested.  Unfortunately, the second experiment, where cold water is supposed to cause a hot aluminum can to crush itself didn’t work at all.
  • An experiment with insulators.  We tried again after our failure before to see if we could get a difference in temperature by using different insulators.  The kids chose different materials to wrap around the thermometers and I dug out a non-compact florescent light bulb.  But it didn’t work.  Oh well.  Clearly the best experiment is to go fall camping with a proper sleeping bag and a sheet.  That’ll learn them about insulation.

Overall, I feel like heat was a good science topic.  It led us on some nice diversions into chemistry and weather.  Plus, I feel like I got my money’s worth out of the set of student thermometers I picked up at a school supply store over the summer.

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