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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Clearance Bin Science

The Halloween candy is almost all gone, except for the kinds that usually do not sell, and all the items in that frightening isle at the store are half off. That is the perfect time to use some creativity to whip up a clearance stuff lab.


My favorite is to buy a bag of suckers and have the kids explore the process of dissolving. It begins with asking the students how they can make the lollipop last the longest without taking it out of their mouth. It is a beautiful lab where, after an evening of kids on extreme sugar highs, your students are silent. They cannot talk with the lollipop in their mouths. But, there is some interesting observation going on in that silent. Dissolving is a factor related to surface area and the nature of the solute (the candy) and the solvent, saliva. I usually follow this up by giving the students sugar cubes and ask them to identify the factors they think impact dissolving and check it out with the sugar cube and some water. This is simple but good science. Some students will zero in on the area of heat and ask if they can use hotter water. When they do that they are dancing around the edges of understanding kinetic motion and temperature.

There is a good site with some connections to the science of cooking and visits to a lollipop factory at the Exploratorium:
http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/recipe-lollipops.html

If there are any light sticks available those little glowing sticks are full of science interest. Light sticks provide a good introduction to chemical reactions, how light works, and problem solving. The sticks have a small glass vial inside the plastic sleeve. Both the plastic sleeve and the glass vial are filled with chemicals. When these two chemicals mix they produce a reaction that gives off energy in the form of light. There is an exceptional explanation of the whole reaction at How Stuff Works:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/light-stick1.htm

The last one I will offer is the sour candy connection. In my classes we found something called “Tearjerkers”. These marble sized globs of candy were so sour they would bring tears to your eyes. I tried them and it certainly did make me cry. The sour candy category is one of the newest and most lucrative in the business. These candies can be used to test pH. The more acidic the coating (and it is often ascorbic acid). Are sour candies really lower in pH is a great question to explore. I use standard old ph test strips I buy at a science supply company but you can use cabbage juice as an indicator. You can blend up or boil up some red cabbage and use the juice to see if a substance is acidic or basic. Directions are found at lots of sites. A few of my favorites:
http://www.madsci.org/experiments/archive/859332497.Ch.html
http://chemistry.about.com/od/acidsbase1/a/red-cabbage-ph-indicator.htm

So, aside from picking up some reasonably priced masks and decorations for your room you may find some bargain science equipment and supplies.  

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