Bubbles: Art, Science & Mentos

About a week ago I decided that bubbles would be my theme for the Blairstown Farmers Market. I mean, bubbles are a clear winner on a lovely spring day at the market. How could I resist?


First things first: the bubble mix. You can buy some, sure. That’s quick and easy, but a bit expensive, especially for large quantities. So I made my own using dish soap, water and bit of vegetable glycerin. Recipes abound online, but I like about a 1:12 ratio of detergent to water with about a teaspoon or two of glycerin per cup of solution, depending on the detergent I’ve used. You can use corn syrup or sugar to make the bubbles last longer, but I find that makes the mix really sticky and attracts more insects, so I like glycerin instead. No matter what, your bubble mix will get better if you let it sit open overnight, especially if your detergent contains alcohol. That said, I usually don’t have the patience to wait.


Great! You’ve got bubble mix! Now what? Get out the pipe cleaners! Let kids make bubble wands using the pipe cleaners. They’ll often make all kinds of creative designs — heart shaped tops and two-color sticks. After a bit, I like to ask if they get square bubbles form a square wands. Kids will laugh at me and say, “Of course not! You always get a round bubble!” That’s when I like to ask, “Why?”


Make them think about it for a while. 

See the Universe is an amazing thing, and it like to be efficient. A sphere allows the greatest volume to be trapped within the smallest surface area. So, you can trap the most air inside a round bubble, as opposed to a square, triangle or trapezoid using the same amount of bubble solution. A bubble wouldn’t float long if it was bogged down by extra bubble mix! The surface tension of the bubble mix pulls the bubble into that classic shape. The only way to get a bubble to take another shape is to surround it by other bubbles. If you’re looking for some wonderful geometrical studies, calculating and modeling the volume to surface area ratios can be a lot of fun.

Now that you’ve got bubble mix, there are a lot of fun things you can do. For example, there are instructions for giant bubbles and bouncing bubbles. A friend at the market showed us how to create a bubble foamer, which was a huge hit. We just cut a plastic water bottle to separate the top “funnel” from the bottom. We attached a rag to the open end of the funnel with a rubber band. Dip the rag in bubble mix and blow through the drinking end of your water bottle. Tons of fun!



Now, let’s move on to art! We did a really simple bubble print project that’s easy to set up and really neat. In bowls, I mixed 2-3 tablespoons of washable, non-toxic tempera paint (bright colors work best — blue, green, orange, red), 1 tablespoon of dish detergent and a 1/2 cup of water. Stir gently. Then, using a straw, blow bubbles in the mixture, letting them rise well above the bowl. Then gently lower a piece of paper onto the bubbles. As they pop they’ll leave colorful bursts. You can keep adding bubble prints to fill your page, using many colors and experiment with how fast or slow you blow your bubbles (it can change the size of the bubbles). You can also dip your bubble wand into the mixture and blow onto the paper to create fun patterns that way!

 

To finish up the day, we made some bubbles in other ways. We combined vinegar and baking soda, a classic chemistry experiment that yields lots of bubbles as carbon dioxide is released. But the real hit was Mentos in diet cola, a la Steve Spangler andMythbusters The set up is easy: Open a 2-liter bottle of inexpensive diet cola; unwrap a 6-pack of classic Mentos; use index cards to create a tube to hold the Mentos and a slip to cover the top of the bottle; place the slip over the bottle top, the tube on the slip and add the Mentos. When you’re ready, pull the slip out and let the Mentos drop into the cola. Then get out of the way quickly!


The result to pretty awesome. Why it works is somewhat up to debate. The links above will review some of the best ideas put forth in detail. Basically the idea is that the dissolving candy breaks the surface tension of the soda, which is holding back the expansion of the carbon dioxide bubbles within. The pits all over the candy then provide nucleation sites for bubbles to attach. The heavy candies fall to the bottom of the bottle, forcing the bubbles — and the soda — to come gushing out of that small opening, forming a geyser! You can vary the reaction in many ways to create a super fun (and potentially messy) experiment. 

Salad Spinner Art and Science

Salad Spinner Art and Science

To kick off the summer farmer’s market season, I decided to do one of my kids’ all time favorite art and crafts at my table: Salad Spinner Art. Everyone loves Salad Spinner art. Seriously. Grown adults like to stop and play as well.


It’s a pretty simple concept. Select your favorite washable poster paints and thin them with a bit of water. Use a spoon, eyedropper (excellent for fine motor skills) or paintbrush to add drops, blobs and splatters of paint on a paper plate. Then put the plate into a salad spinner and spin it.

Viola! You have a beautiful piece of artwork. The key to success is to avoid putting too much paint on at once. That can be a real mess, and the colors just muddle together into a yucky brown. Some kids like to put colors on randomly. Other like to make patterns, which can yield great results. One girl painted her whole plate one color, then added drops over it, which looked a bit like tie dye when it was done. Another boy added color in layers, one at a time, which made some really lovely, subtle blends. 
If you’re feeling really adventurous, lay down a thicker layer of paint and let it tack up a bit. Put the plate in the spinner and place a handful of marbles in there as well. Give it a spin, starting and stopping randomly, even shaking the spinner gently, and you’ll get what I like to call “slug tracts.” You can also put globs of thinned white glue, sprinkle on colored sand or glitter and spin it. (Use more than I did for the example below.) It’s all kinds of awesome.
The fun thing is that you can make this a great little science experiment too. Here are some questions you can try to answer:

  • Does the thickness (viscosity) of the paint affect the artwork? the distance the paint moves across the plate? (For older kids, actually plan ratios of paint to water and test each on the same plate.)
  • Does the type of paint used affect the artwork? in what ways? (Compare poster paint, watercolors, acrylic, food dye…)
  • Does the speed of the spinning matter? Does it affect coverage of the plate? the shape of the artwork? the distance the paint travels on the plate? (Use a stopwatch to determine spins per minute. Older kids can test the effects of positive and negative acceleration, too.)
  • Does the amount of paint used affect the area of the plate covered after the spin? the shape of the final outcome? (Carefully measure teaspoons, tablespoons, etc.)
  • Does the type of plate used affect the artwork? (Compare uncoated paper plates to coated ones or styrofoam.)
And once you’re done with that, give a go at exploring centrifugal motion! Your salad spinner can make a great centrifuge in a pinch. I just cut up egg cartons, glue or tape them together and add test tubes of various liquids. You can use small jars or the plastic tubes that sometimes come with bouquets of cut flowers, so long as you cap them well with aluminum foil and tape. Then fill each tube with an equal amount of liquid. (OJ with lots of pulp and vinaigrette salad dressings work particularly well.) For the best results, be sure to balance your centrifuge and SPIN! You’re going to need to keep it spinning for a few minutes, so taking turns makes sense, but you will be able to get separation.
Anyway, it’s tons of fun. I hope you’ll get out your salad spinner today and have some fun. Be sure to post your artwork or the results of your experiments!

STEM Expo: Designing Fun

For those that might be interested, I’ve posted my presentation from the 2012 NSTA STEM Expo. You can enjoy a slide show below.

Key points: Discover what YOU find exciting and fun about an activity, then pass that on to the students. Look for the “ah ha” moment and capitalize on it. Empower students to lead the class and make decisions. Teach innovation, work cooperatively, and learn to love “failure.”

I was also asked where I got my ideas. So, I thought I’d share some links.

So I hope this gives you some fun ideas to get you going! 

Making Do: A Toy Review

I recently returned from the National Science Teacher’s Association STEM Expo in Atlantic City. Of course, one of the best parts of any convention is the exhibitor’s room. Aisles and aisles of fun new products, services, computer programs and books to buy. And swag. Never forget swag.

One item I picked up was a tube of Makedo. It’s a “reusable system for creating things from stuff around you.” Basically there are these plastic blue “pins” and “clips” that easily join together to connect paper, cardboard, foamboard, fabric, whatever. If you want to disconnect those pieces, you squeeze the clip and take it apart. Easy peasy. There are also joints that you can use to make angles and moving parts. The kit came with a safe saw and punch tool, to help prepare cardboard for being attached.

My interest is in having a simple, reusable system that the kids in my classes could use to build, basically anything. Which meant it was time for my product-testing daughters to give it a whirl.

We dragged out an old pizza box and some paper towel tubes and set to work. I can say that the pins and clips were easy to use. Even Gwen (6 years old) could use them. same goes for the hinges. Both girls had trouble with the safe saw. I think it likely works better for thicker corrugated cardboard than we had. The punch was also tough for them to use. Again this may be a materials issue. In the end, we found a pair of scissors and a standard hole punch were effective.


I didn’t show the girls the product insert or video.I just demonstrated how to use the toy. Given free reign, both girls set to making robots. Gwen worked with me to make a root bird. Caitie (8 years old) went for something more traditional. As we were wrapping up, Gwen swooped about with her bird saying, “Look Mommy, I’m being creative!” (I lovekindergartners!) Caitie however was on to planning her next project: a car. But only after she takes some time to decorate her robot so that he can visit school with her in the morning.

(Yeah, I know. I don’t usually do product reviews. But I found so many neato things at the Expo, I wanted to share some. I have not received any compensation for this review.)

(Source: klcnj.blogspot.com)

40 STEM IPAD APPS FOR KIDS (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, MATH)

Ready for the best ipad STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) apps for kids? These can be great for summer learning, too.

Just remember that most ipad apps, with a few exceptions, won’t instruct your child. They will however, give him or her practice, repetition, and reinforcement. Which is great for stopping the summer slide!

Read more…

What a wonderfully artistic expression of science and math! I LOVE these photographs (and have so many ideas on fun project sot plan for the kids)!

poptech:

Trace Heavens by James Nizam

Artist James Nizam makes incisions into the structure of a house to manipulate sunlight into light sculptures.

(via unknownskywalker


Saturn, Moon, Star to Offer Triple Night Sky Treat
The conjunction offers a chance to see how quickly the moon moves from night to night.

Look toward the southeast on Thursday night (THAT’S TONIGHT!!) about an hour after sunset, and you will behold a rare and beautiful sight, a triple conjunction of the moon, the planet Saturn, and the bright star Spica.
A conjunction occurs when two or more astronomical objects are close together in the sky. In reality they are far apart in space; their closeness is just an effect of perspective. In astrology such close encounters are supposed to cause serious effects, but astronomers know that conjunctions are nothing more than a beautiful sight and a photo opportunity.

keep reading

via discoverynews

Saturn, Moon, Star to Offer Triple Night Sky Treat

The conjunction offers a chance to see how quickly the moon moves from night to night.

Look toward the southeast on Thursday night (THAT’S TONIGHT!!) about an hour after sunset, and you will behold a rare and beautiful sight, a triple conjunction of the moon, the planet Saturn, and the bright star Spica.

A conjunction occurs when two or more astronomical objects are close together in the sky. In reality they are far apart in space; their closeness is just an effect of perspective. In astrology such close encounters are supposed to cause serious effects, but astronomers know that conjunctions are nothing more than a beautiful sight and a photo opportunity.

keep reading

via discoverynews

ASTEROID THE 'SIZE OF A MINIVAN' EXPLODED OVER CALIFORNIA

Bolide

The source of loud “booms” accompanied by a bright object traveling through the skies of Nevada and California on Sunday morning has been confirmed: it was a meteor. A big one.

It is thought to have been a small asteroid that slammed into the atmosphere at a speed of 15 kilometers per second (33,500 mph), turning into a fireball, delivering an energy of 3.8 kilotons of TNT as it broke up over California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, classified it as a “big event.”

Discovery News

Analysis by Ian O’Neill 

Mon Apr 23, 2012 09:13 PM ET 


Nobel Laureate Rita Montalcini Turns 103
Has Dr. Rita Levi Montalcini unlocked the secret of eternal life? The oldest living and the longest-lived Nobel laureate in history, Montalcini celebrates today her 103th birthday.
“I can say my mental capacity is greater today than when I was 20, since it has been enriched by so many experiences,” she says.
keep reading

via discoverynews


Nobel Laureate Rita Montalcini Turns 103

Has Dr. Rita Levi Montalcini unlocked the secret of eternal life? The oldest living and the longest-lived Nobel laureate in history, Montalcini celebrates today her 103th birthday.

“I can say my mental capacity is greater today than when I was 20, since it has been enriched by so many experiences,” she says.

keep reading

via discoverynews

Myth, busted: You only use 10 percent of brain

Good news for all those who ever had a teacher or a parent say “If you would just apply yourself you could learn anything! You’re only using 10 percent of your brain!”

All those people were wrong. If we did use only 10 percent of our brains we’d be close to dead, according to Eric Chudler, director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington, who maintains an entertaining brain science website for kids. “When recordings are made from brain EEGs, or PET scans, or any type of brain scan, there’s no part of the brain just sitting there unused,” he said. 

» via MSNBC via infoneer-pulse