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Highlights from The Party Elements Science Camp

So we took a little break from blogging in honor of the first Party Elements science camp, which was at the community center in Sharon, MA last week, and featured exciting experiments such as slime making, square bubbles, testing pH, and much more that we have already featured here on our website. I want to introduce two new experiments that we tried last week for the first time, both of which worked out great!

Experiment 1: Color patterns in whole milk.

You can read about this experiment in some detail HERE and HERE.

In short, this experiment involves putting water-soluble food coloring (so food coloring that will spread in a water solution, mostly) into a dish filled with whole milk. Because the whole milk is so high in fat (and therefore has less “water character”), the food coloring won’t spread in the whole milk and it will just stay in the center. If you then add one drop of liquid detergent on top of the food coloring, the color will spread throughout the whole milk in all kinds of interesting patterns. Why? Well the detergent has molecules called “surfactants,” which help to mix oil/fat containing things (like the whole milk) with water-based things (like the food coloring). You can also use a cotton swab (like a Q-tip) that has detergent on it, and drag around the cotton tip for more control over the color patterns that result.

*NOTE: This experiment involves contact with dairy. Children who are allergic to dairy may experience adverse effects when exposed to this allergen (hypothetically speaking, of course, not that it would happen TO MY OWN SON at science camp….).

Experiment 2: Making fire extinguishers

This experiment using the same chemistry that is used in science project volcanoes, which is the mixing of baking soda and vinegar to generate a large amount of carbon dioxide gas fairly quickly. In the science project volcanoes, the volcano then “erupts” because of the gas buildup. In this experiment, though, we captured the carbon dioxide in a balloon, by doing the following series of experiments:

A. Poured white vinegar into a bottle.

B. Poured baking soda into a balloon.

C. Covered the bottle with the baking soda-containing balloon.

D. Inverted the balloon over the vinegar-containing bottle to mix the two components and generate carbon dioxide gas, which then was captured by the balloon on top.

We carefully removed the balloon from the bottle and held it shut with our fingers. The carbon dioxide that is in the balloon is very good at lots of things (and bad at things too!). One thing it is particularly good at is extinguishing fires, because the fire needs oxygen to keep burning. Did you know that some classes of fire extinguishers are made from carbon dioxide gas? It’s true! We demonstrated that with the camp participants by having them bring up their carbon dioxide-containing balloons, and then using the gas in the balloons to extinguish burning tea lights (disposable candles that we lit). It worked great, and the camp participants were so happy to have made their very own fire extinguishers!

We are actively planning our next exciting science-themed vacation programs. Stay tuned for more information coming soon!

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