Y'all that back to school crazy time of year is approaching. Let me help you check one thing off your list by sharing a new twist on a science favorite. Just think social emotional, science, and bubbly, messy fun all rolled together in this hands-on experiment.
Many of us know about the elephant toothpaste science experiment (if you don't, you will by the end of this post). But, how can we tie this into more meaningful instruction in primary grades? Well, this summer at the KOSMOS Stem Teacher Institute it HIT me!
As educators we realize the importance of developing the whole child, which means focusing on social-emotional development. Now, raise your hand if you read "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes to discuss how words can hurt. Great! Many of us use this, or another read aloud, especially at the beginning of the year to discuss how our words can affect others. We've done all sorts of activities over the years to illustrate this, but why not illustrate it with science?! This is where elephant toothpaste comes in.
For anyone unfamiliar with this experiment, here is a quick visual.
Alright, so after reading "Chrysanthemum" (or other book of choice) we can discuss how each of the ingredients listed below represents a negative comment or action from a friend/classmate.
Challenge your kids to predict or hypothesize what will happen if you mix all of the ingredients together. What will happen when negative actions (ingredients) build?
After predicting, it's time to have some science fun! Here's how to make elephant toothpaste!
What you need:
Clean 1 liter soda bottle or large plastic graduated cylinder
Plastic tray or tarp
40-volume hydrogen peroxide (can be found at beauty supply stores)
Dry yeast (one of the paper packages is sufficient)
Warm water in a plastic cup or bowl
After gathering the materials, place the soda bottle or cylinder on the tray or tarp. This experiment WILL create a foamy mess and you want clean up to be a breeze.
Then, squirt enough dish soap into the bottle to roughly cover the bottom of the bottle.
Add about 120 mL, or 1/2 cup, of hydrogen peroxide to the bottle and gently swirl to mix.
This is a great place to stop and observe what has happened. Link this back to the read aloud by asking if these two ingredients together (negative actions) have caused any kind of reaction.
Next, add some food coloring to make the reaction more colorful. To achieve more of a striped result you can drip the food coloring down the edge of the bottle/cylinder as seen below.
Remember to continue linking these ingredients to what they represent from the story (children making fun of Chrysanthemum's name, etc).
Now it's time for the catalyst. Pour the contents of the dry yeast packet into a cup or bowl and add warm water. Gently stir to activate the yeast.
When you're ready, have the children pour the yeast mixture directly into the bottle/cylinder. Be ready for foam!
This experiment is super fun and visual. I think that linking this visual science experiment to something the children understand (friends not being kind to each other) is a great way to begin expose the children to reactions in chemistry/physical science while also touching on social-emotional development.
A fun extra might be trying to have the children think about ways to "reverse" what has happened. After brainstorming children should come to realize that there isn't a way to reverse the reaction, similar to the lasting impression that words can leave on a friend.
I hope that you and your kiddos will enjoy this experiment! If you try it, let me know how it goes!
Want more ideas for introducing young children to chemistry/physical science - [check out this blog post.]