Science Blues

I spent the best part of the day today in a science-induced funk. I am the lead teacher for our homeschool group’s 4-H science team. It is a new group and things only really came together towards the end of the summer when I was rushing to get the boys ready for school, so I have not had much prior time to prepare.

I am a total perfectionist, and the children in the group have somewhat lofty expectations about all the ‘cool’ things we are going to do. Yet most of the really cool stuff require a lot of advance preparation, which I haven’t had the time for. It all amounts to me feeling very pressurised for this coming Monday’s lesson.

So I spent my day searching for just the right experiment. It has to be cheap and it has to be something I can pull together quickly.

I know that building working parachutes with dry-cleaner bags would wow the kids. Unfortunately, it might also set the buildings surrounding our experiment on fire. Hmmmm…

 I started testing match stick rockets yesterday and continued today after a trip to the store to get 3 different kind of matches. Nope. Not so lucky. I couldn’t get a single match to fly as far as an inch, never mind 30 feet.

The hovercraft I tried to build this morning was a dud. The balloons kept ripping as I put them over the mouth of the bottle, and the straw that was supposed to propel it along was squeezed shut by the balloon. Another idea tossed.

The boy had fun writing a secret message out of cornstarch. It consisted of a single, well-chosen word: poop. 😀 (which about sums up my feelings about the days’ experiments)     Once the message dried we painted iodine over it. The starch was supposed to show up in bright purple. Nope. The whole paper was purple. Does paper have starch in it? The experiment wasn’t a complete loss, however, since my oldest was eager to test if his spit would digest the purpled ‘starch’. It did, which according to the book means that we are among the select people who have the amylase enzyme in their spit. By now, however, I am not so sure I can believe anything the book says.

The foil boat, which the book said would ‘shoot forward rapidly’ when I add soap to the water on which it rests, inched forward at a rather pedestrian pace. It only went about 4 inches too. Hardly exciting stuff for a class full of tween boys. The hot-and-cold-water-that-wouldn’t-mix experiment worked, but my oldest agreed with me that it lacked the wow-factor too.

I did find some cool experiments we can do using electricity. We need the parent’s help in collecting supplies though, because I am not going to  buy them all myself, nor do I expect the 4-H club to foot the bill. So this will go on the shelf for a monday in the future, as will some of my other ideas that require more planning. Some other future experiments involve using old speakers and such-like, so we’d best start collecting.

Which still leaves us with this coming Monday.  I think I may have settled on something. I built a solar oven with a pizza box today. It didn’t get quite as hot as the book said it would (am I surprised? 😀 )  but I think I can tweak it, or ask the kids for ideas to improve it. A solar oven might not be the coolest (or hottest) experiment on earth but I think if we could cook some s’mores in our ovens the kids will be happy. Let’s hope it’s sunny!

If all else fails we will still have fun pitting our baking-soda and vinegar-powered soda bottle cars against one another in the parking lot while our s’mores cook. Thankfully at least 3 of my students took up the suggestion to make these after our last class and to experiment with different designs for the wheels. They will bring them to Mondays’ class for a race.

Edit: I just read Appie’s blog description about how they crushed soda cans to test the effects of atmospheric pressure. Neat-o! That will go down much better than the solar ovens. I wonder if I still have time to pull that together. Hmmmm….

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3 responses to “Science Blues

  1. I’m starting to think you’re way too smart to be my friend! 🙂

    Good luck with all the science projects . . . and I know a lot about 4-H if we haven’t already had that discussion. (I worked my way up to NC State officer when I was a teenager).

    And if I ever have a free moment away from work and studies, I think I would like to blog again . . .

  2. I am well impressed, with both your successes and your duds! I also love the humor…way better to laugh than cry I guess!

  3. I am impressed also, Sumi! The purple iodine was a great one, especially spitting on it. LOL If all fails, try something else while you’re at it. 😀

    Sumi, I will be posting about an experiment you told me about. Using those chocolate candy balls, that I can’t ever remember the names of them. I just recognize the foil. LOL Anyhoo, we did that last week to show the earth’s layers and it was very cool. The kids loved it. Also the experiment I wrote about today was way cool. You could do that with no advance prep and very little cost. 😀

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