Science is the subject that students most frequently hate. Science lessons are often paper and pencil, read and remember, dull lecture. But it shouldn’t be that way. Science can be the favorite subject, especially in K-8 grades. And if students start out loving science this will carry over into the older grades when teachers have more specific details that they must get across.
Science materials can be expensive and often require a certain license to purchase, especially in Chemistry. But I have some great news; you can stock you science shelf for under $30 from your local grocery, pharmacy and hardware store. I’ve written a grocery list that will give you enough materials for a year’s worth of demonstrations and experiments. Your students will look forward to class, wondering what exciting new activity or project they will do each day.
potatoes (one per student, group or demonstration)
Make a potato clock
Grow out the eyes into plants; this proves that potatoes are indeed the root of the plant. Hang the potato by toothpicks (embedded at different points on its circumference) over a jar of water to let it grow.
Clean rust from metal with lemon and salt. Demonstrate how metal can be cleaned with the acid from the lemon and the grit from the salt. This is a greatway to introduce the idea of using environmentally friendly, non-toxic cleaners. (half per student or group)
Make a lemon battery (one lemon per group).
celery (or white carnations if budget allows)
Place in water with dye in it to demonstrate how dye is drawn up into the stalk with the water (one rib per group). If you can obtain white carnations, this can be really exciting to watch the flowers turn colors.
red (or purple) cabbage
Make an Ph indicator
Make blue dye or ink
yellow onions with skins
Examine cells of onion under microscope.
Make yellow dye
make onion skin paper
cola(contains phosphoric acid)
demonstrate how cola harms your stomach by removing rust from a screw or penny)
test against other acids( clear soda, vinegar, lemon juice) to see which cleans best
food coloring–many uses
Make milk glue
table salt (NaCl)
Make playdoh; mix oil, flour, salt, alum, hot water and food coloring or koolaid (to make scented play dough).
Melt ice by sprinkling salt on an ice cube.
Demonstrate permanence of matter, solubility and evaporation by dissolving salt into warm water and letting it sit a few days while the water evaporates and the salt returns. This is a good ecology lesson which shows that what goes in, stays in (especially our water sources).
Make a ‘rubber’ egg by soaking the egg still in it’s shell in vinegar for a day or so. You can use a chicken bone for the same effect.
Demonstrate a non-Newtonian substance (one that doesn’t obey the solid/liquid laws). Each student gets about 1/4 cup or place starch and water on the table and let them explore as a group. Demonstrate solids and liquids by mixing equal parts cornstarch and water. Students mix with fingers and will observe that this substance fluctuates between solid and liquid depending upon the heat of their hands.
vinegar (acetic acid)
Curdle milk by pouring vinegar into a small amount of milk. Demonstrate acids and bases.
Make butter together. Even high schoolers think this one is so cool. Place the cream in a clean, clear jar. Take turns shaking the jar in a circulating and up and down motion. The cream will begin to thicken and cling to the edges of the jar. Students usually begin to lose hope at this point and think it isn’t going to work. Then all of a sudden, a solid mass of butter will assume shape and will float in the rennet which is very watery thin, skimmed milk. You can make a social studies connection with a book describing farm chores, such as Laura Ingalls Little House in the Big Woods, Ox-cart Man by Barbara Clooney, Lois Lenski’s Strawberry Girl or for older students, O Pioneers Willa Cather.
baking soda (sodium bicarbonate – NaHCO3 ) many uses
Create a volcano (baking soda and vinegar)
Clean a drain (baking soda and vinegar)
Borax (Hydrated Sodium borate- Na2B4O7 -10H2O)–1 box (I use 20 Mule Team Borax) Many uses in the classroom and recipes included.
Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing (ethandionic acid) This link is a pdf of the MSDS- Material Safety Data Sheet) which lists the chemical properties.
make crystals by making shapes with pipe cleaners and suspending them in a tub of water, bluing and borax; recipe will be on the bluing bottle
check bluing bottle for other science recipes as well
rock salt (calcium cloride- CaCl)
demonstrate how it kills plants and causes rust to form (making it a dangerous substance to use to melt ice)
make ice cream
For everyday use, keep onhand
journals for students to take notes and record information as well as their own reactions
cotton tipped swabs
clear glass jars
pot pie or pie tins
This science experiments will keep students enthused about science. It can even infuse a love a science in the most reluctant young scientist.