Moira Baldwin

Moira Baldwin

Are you looking forward to an upcoming holiday or vacation? Do you need some ideas to entertain the children? How about some cool science experiments to try? You can entertain them and educate them at the same time.

Are your children learning about acids and bases? You can make litmus paper from red cabbage. You will need a small red cabbage, water and a paper towel cut into two-inch strips. First, you will need to grate half of a small red cabbage. Put the grated cabbage into a pot with 1 cup of water and boil for 15 minutes. Let the cabbage juice cool and then strain it into a jar. Soak the paper towel strips in the cabbage juice for about a minute, then let them dry. Now the litmus paper is ready for testing. It will turn reddish-pink in acids and green in bases.

What things can you test? Milk, coffee, apple juice, hand soap and more. Be curious and encourage your children to record the data in a notebook.

What do you predict will happen if you mix cornstarch and water? It makes oobleck. Not sure what that is? To make it, you will need 2 cups of cornstarch, about 1 cup of water and food coloring. First, add the food coloring to the water. Then slowly add the water to the cornstarch, mixing as you go. Dig in with your hands and really mix it up. It is no longer your typical liquid. Add enough water so that the mixture slowly flows on its own when mixed.

The best test to see if it is ready is to reach in, grab a handful of the mixture and see if you can roll it into a ball between your hands. If you stop rolling it and it “melts” between your fingers, you have successfully created oobleck.

Now experiment with it. What happens if you hit it quickly? What happens if you squeeze it? Does it bounce?

Oobleck is what scientists call a “non-Newtonian” liquid. It can act almost like a solid and then flow like a liquid. Technically speaking, it is a suspension.

Oh, and when you are ready to dispose of it, throw it in the trash instead of pouring it down the drain.

Now sit back and enjoy watching the children have fun over any upcoming breaks. Science is fun.

Moira Baldwin is an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the UHV School of Education, Health Professions and Human Development.

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