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Science with Halloween Leftovers

With the ghost and goblin costumes put away for another year I am left with a rather large bowl of Halloween candy. I think there must be some great classroom ideas in there….and there are.

First, know that if I do not get rid of the candy it will end up making my nice tidy weight loss a distant memory. I have in the past donated it to nursing homes, women’s shelters and food banks for holiday boxes. A web site tells me there are several organizations that package and send boxes to our troops overseas. Now that would be a nice place for a donation.

I did try to think ahead this year and buy some candy that could be used in some experiments if leftover. I have a large bag of suckers that will be great for exploring the rate of dissolving with some 5th graders. I will let them design the experiment and follow up with the standard sugar cube dissolving experiment that leads to an understanding of how surface area impacts dissolving rates. We can use hot or cold water and a host of other solvents. This is usually a good inquiry activity.

There are lots of experiments with Mentos and soda. I was not able to find Halloween mentos but I will be looking for some in the clearance candy bin. My favorites are the sour candy warheads. If you drop one of those tart candies in some baking soda there is a chemical reaction. Letting my chemistry students try to explain what is reacting and what gas might be produced is a good way to let them put their knowledge of acids and bases and chemical reactions to use.

In fact I try to keep some sour candy on hand for any of the acid/base unit activities. There are so many available now. When they first began producing sour candy I would put two candies (the sour gummy worms were the best for this as they had a sweet gummy worm that looked similar), one sour and one not, on paper towels and ask the students to make some observations. I would not let them taste them. We did pH measurements in distilled water and looked the candies over with magnifying lenses. This was a pretty good introduction to pH and lead to a great discussion of what these candies might do to teeth.

There are a number of ways to work candy into the curriculum without raising the blood sugar of all your students. Many will say that they never looked at the candy, they just ate it. It is a good chance for kids to observe something they think they know so well but may not recognize without the wrapper. Observations are always a good activity. 

So, to keep your local dentist happy and to make use of an available resource, put the bowl of candy in a bag and cart it to school for some interesting science.

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