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By Audra D.

Fall is a great time to learn together indoors or outdoors with some simple STEAM experiments! Here are three seasonal experiments that can be done using household items that are probably already in your cabinets. Try these five-minute science experiments at home, and share your results with us! Be sure to talk together about the science behind the experiment and how yours was different from our example videos. Look at our questions to ask to keep the conversation going and get ideas for how to experiment further. Check out our STEAM playlist on the EVPL YouTube channel for even more experiments to try together.

Dancing Ghosts

  1. Draw your silly or spooky ghost on a piece of white tissue paper. Make sure your ghost is not too tall! It should be between 3-6 inches tall to be the best dancer. 
  2. Carefully cut out your ghost. Ask for help if you need it. 
  3. Blow up your balloon and tie it shut. You can decorate your balloon with your marker too! 
  4. Rub your balloon against your hair or the carpet in your room fast for about ten seconds. 
  5. Slowly lower your balloon closer to the top of your ghost. The ghost will start to dance under the balloon! It may take some practice to get its boogie just right. Try holding the balloon at different distances or rubbing it on your hair for different amounts of time.

How It Works

You are using static electricity to make your ghost dance and fly! In electricity, opposites are attracted to each other. When you rub the balloon on your hair, the balloon is gathering electrons. Electrons are invisible negatively charged particles. The negative electrons build up on the outside of the balloon. The negative electrons are attracted to positive particles called protons. The electrons (-) on the balloon are attracted to the protons (+) on the ghost making it rise up and try to come together.

Questions to Ask

  • Does the type of paper matter? Try tracing your ghost onto the construction paper and see if you can still pick him up. 
  • How far away can you get from the ghost and still pick him up? Try it out yourself. 
  • How much charge do you need? Rub the balloon on your hair for different lengths of time and see how easy or hard it is to make your ghost move.

 

Spider Oobleck

  1. Oobleck is very simple to make! Just put about a cup of cornstarch into a bowl and add ½ cup of water. Mix it together well. 
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring to make your oobleck a seasonal color. Mix well with a spoon. 
  3. Now mix in your goodies! You can add spooky spiders and eyeballs, some sparkly glitter, or pretty much anything else into oobleck. Be sure to play in a place and outfit that you do not mind getting messy.

How It Works

Is oobleck a solid or a liquid or both? Oobleck is actually called a non-Newtonian fluid meaning it has qualities of both a liquid and a solid. You can pick up your oobleck creation and squeeze it like a solid but you can also pour it out of your container like a liquid. The viscosity of oobleck, or how fast/slow it flows, changes when you put force on the particles. Other examples of non-Newtonian fluids include quicksand, silly putty, honey, and ketchup!

Questions to Ask

  • What happens if you add more cornstarch to your mix? What about more water? Play with the ratio of your ingredients to see new consistencies. 
  • What happens if you squeeze your mix really fast? How about slowly? Try to find the sweet spot where your oobleck is just barely solid. 
  • Can you separate something from your oobleck once it is mixed in? Rescue your spiders and eyeballs before you throw your oobleck away. Make sure you put your mix in the trashcan when you are done playing and not down the sink!

 

Jack-O-Lantern Volcano

  1. Draw your spooky or silly face onto your pumpkin with a dark marker. 
  2. Cut off the top and carve the face into you pumpkin. Ask for an adult’s help if needed. You do not even need to completely clean out all of the insides. Just make room to add your ingredients. 
  3. Place your pumpkin somewhere you do not mind getting messy. I would recommend doing this experiment outside! 
  4. Add a few scoops of baking soda into the bottom of your pumpkin. 
  5. Next, add some glitter and a few drops of food coloring. 
  6. Add a few drops of any kind of dish soap to make your experiment bubble. 
  7. Last, slowly add in your vinegar. Sit back and watch what happens to your jack-o-lantern! You can clean up and repeat your experiment as many times as you want.

How It Works

A chemical reaction is happening inside of your pumpkin between the baking soda and vinegar! The chemical name for baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which is a base and the chemical name for vinegar is acetic acid. When the acid and base interact inside your pumpkin, the reaction produces carbon dioxide or CO2 and water. The carbon dioxide gas is part of what makes the reaction bubble up and why it looks like your jack-o-lantern is erupting like a volcano. Try your experiment again with only the baking soda and vinegar to watch the reactions more closely.

Questions to Ask

  • How does the reaction look different without the soap or decorations? Try the experiment with just baking soda and vinegar and observe the differences. 
  • Do you have to add the baking soda first and vinegar second? Try adding the chemicals in the opposite order and see if they still react. 
  • How does the ratio of baking soda to vinegar affect the reaction? Try the experiment again with different amounts of your chemical ingredients to see what happens! Which trial made the biggest eruption?
Audra D.

Audra D.


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