Archive for the ‘ Chemistry Unit ’ Category

States of Matter: Solid, Liquid, Gas — Learning Activities

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Are you working on chemistry this year? I thought I’d share some of the activities we did when we learned about the States of Matter. I also link to a number of other posts from our chemistry unit.

We’ve been having a blast with chemistry — well not literally, but sure have been learning a lot! Today we did most of the hands on activities suggested by the wonderful, wonderful (free!) resource on the States of Matter Teacher’s Guide by Molecularium.

We started out the lesson asking, what scientists do.  ED surprised me with her eloquent answer.  We went on to talk about how scientists observe and classify. Right on cue our cat came over and started antics with the water I had brought in for our activities. She drank the water (rather noisily) then stuck her paw in, licked her paw, dashed it in again…  ”See,” I laughed, “we’re scientists observing the strange behavior of cats!!” We all laughed and then returned to the topic at hand.

States of Matter: To add an air of mystery to our day’s activities I hid the three bags and brought them out one at a time.  For each bag I had the kids describe the shape, hardness, and weight. Then I asked them if each takes of space.

When we talked about the water, I had them describe the shape and they pretty quickly pointed out that the shape changes depending on what is holding the water.

I asked the kids, “Does air take up space?” “No!” They all agreed. “Ahh… so let’s test that theory,” I said.  I brought out a ziploc bag with a straw protruding from it that I had sealed with duct tape.  I set it on the table and set a heavy book on it.  ”Let’s see if gas takes up space.” We talked briefly about what is in air (the gases nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide) and then the kids took turns blowing into the bag — raising the books and showing that gas (air) really does take up space even if it is invisible!

We did another activity to show that air takes up space. We crumpled up paper (or a kleenex) and pushed it into the end of a test tube. Then the kids held the test tubes upright and pushed them straight down into the water.  They discovered that the paper (tissue) didn’t get wet. “Oh I get it,” LD said, “the air protected it and kept the water away.”

We also spent quite a bit of time waving our hands in the air and noticing the air rushing over our arms.

We then talked about how atoms move differently in solids, liquids and gases. I had the kids gather their test tubes and pulled out a tin of marbles.  I asked the kids to put as many marbles into a test tube as they could. They then put the lids on and observed. They noticed how the marbles made a pattern and didn’t move very much. This is similar to the atoms in a solid — packed tight together and impenetrable.  Next they put six marbles into another test tube. I asked them to look at how the marbles could move around a bit.  ”Does it look like they’re flowing around the container?” I asked. This is like the atoms in a liquid. Finally, they put just three marbles in the last test tube and I challenged them to move the marbles as far away from one another as they could.  This final test tube was like air.

We looked at the pictures provided in the States of Matter teacher’s guide by Molecularium:

We then started on our States of Matter foldable.  We are keeping a science notebook this year and created this booklet to show and explain the differences between solids, liquids and gases: I let the kids copy the information but we had spent a long time discussing these earlier:

Foldables are really easy to create. If you want to learn more this Reading and Study Skills pdf about Foldables by Dinah Zike is terrific and will give you lots of ideas. Here’s another great resource for making and using foldables in mathematics (though you can use these for any subject). Finally here’s one more quick resource, “How to Fold Foldables.” Finally, homeschool share has a wonderful page of lapbook templates (another name for foldables) if you want to print things out.

As for our foldable, I folded the kids’ paper into three. Then I drew two straight lines and cut the flaps on the outsides.

This kind of work really appeals to DD. LD will do it, but isn’t as thrilled.

ED participated in most of the activities above except for the writing. She went off to do her own thing. A little later in the day I asked if she wanted to do some science sorting cards. She and DD both took turns sorting out the solid, liquid and gas cards that I’ve had for some time. I’m grateful to Leanne over at Montessori Tidbits for these free Montessori cards on the three states of matter.

The best thing about all this is that ED and I had quite a long conversation about the different states of matter at bed time. We talked again for quite a while about different liquids like maple syrup and oil.

You might also be interested in these posts from our chemistry unit (We are moving to We’ll be moving our printables there):

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Explosion of Colors in Milk Experiment and Other Chemistry Fun!

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Isn’t this pretty? This was one of our experiments as we finished up our chemistry unit!

One of the chapters in our chemistry book (Real Science 4 Kids-pre-level 1) talked about mixtures. It talked first about how how some mixtures dissolve (like salt in water). Then it went on to talk about soap and soap molecules. We read how soap makes things like butter and grease “dissolve” in water. Detergent is attracted to both oil and water helping them join together.

We did a little experiment to show how soap helps get your dishes clean. We took a couple of baby food jars and put oil and colored water into each. Then to one of the jars we added dish detergent. We all watched as the detergent took its time and then slowly sank down through the layer of oil. We shook both jars vigorously and then set them to the side for 20 or 30 minutes.

When we came back, we could see that the jar without detergent had separated back into two layers — oil and water. In the other jar, the oil and water still seemed to be mixed together. The older kids learned that this is called an emulsion.

While we were waiting for the experiment above to finish we went on to another mesmerizing activity. We’ve done this before and it never fails to captivate us! All you need is milk in a bowl, food dye, detergent and a Q-tip. You place a few drops of dye into the milk, dip the Q-tip into detergent and then very gently place the Q-tip into the water.  The colors start racing around. The kids then dipped their Q-tip into the detergent again and gently placed it back in the milk in a different spot. The colors start moving and swirling about. It’s really pretty to watch!

The action in this experiment is a bit complex. Our chemistry book showed how soap molecules have different properties. Our book explained it as one end being “oil-like” and the other, “water-like.” Oil dissolves in the oil-like ends of the soap and becomes surrounded by the water molecules. This experiment shows the movement of molecules as the fat molecules are interacting with the soap detergent molecules.

Steve Spangler explains this milk experiment this way, “The molecules of fat bend, roll, twist, and contort in all directions as the soap molecules race around to join up with the fat molecules. During all of this fat molecule gymnastics, the food coloring molecules are bumped and shoved everywhere, providing an easy way to observe all the invisible activity. As the soap becomes evenly mixed with the milk, the action slows down and eventually stops.”

Other sources explain that other factors are at work here such as breaking the surface tension of the liquid, etc. If your child is older you could discuss those other factors as well.

At any rate, it’s a colorful fun experiment to do with anyone from pre-K on up. Who doesn’t like watching colors swirl and whirl?!

Our final experiment didn’t really connect with our chemistry chapter, but was another fun, color experiment to do with the kids.  We took skittles and dissolved them in water. (You can also use M&Ms) I had the kids guess whether the colors would mix or stay separate.  The older kids, of course, remembered doing this a few years ago, but ED didn’t. We talked about how scientists “make predictions” and then perform experiments to see if their prediction was accurate.

Skittles (or M&Ms) have an edible dye that doesn’t dissolve in water. There was equal pressure from all sides as the dye moved towards one another so the colors stopped moving forward. I explained it to the kids as if we had our palms out and were both leaning a little bit toward each other.

Do you want to do other fun experiments with candy? Be sure to visit this great website, Candy Experiments written by Loralee, a mom of three. I visited the booth they had set up at the USA science and engineering festival last year and the kids loved some of the experiments they had set up!

Science Experiment Pack: Back about five months ago I made a packet of some of our most beloved science experiments. If you’re keen to do science experiments with your kids, here are some of the things that my kids and I have enjoyed a lot:

Download your free Science Experiment Packet here (which is now at our new location)

Coming at the end of February at our new location,  50+ Page Dinosaur Packet 
  • Montessori 3-Part Dinosaur Cards
  • Dinosaur Lapbook
  • Letter Recognition Activities
  • Number Activities and Games
  • Dinosaur Game Board
  • Fast Fact Information Cards
  • Dinosaur Writing Cards
  • Bingo Cards and more!

Have fun experimenting with your young scientist!!

I’ll be taking some time off with my family and will return next Wednesday with more of our homeschool adventures.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving holiday!



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More Fun Science Experiments: Watch them Bubble, Bubble Bombs… Acid-Base Reactions

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Our chemistry textbook also talked about acid-base reactions.  It explained how antacids can help neutralize the strong acids in your stomach. We contrasted this slow reaction…

to the more impressive reaction of baking soda and vinegar! DD was putting her fingers in to see how her stomach would feel.

If you haven’t already done Bubble Bombs with your kids, be sure to do that as well! You take a ziploc bag and pour vinegar into it. Then place baking soda on a tissue paper and hold it up at the top as you zip the bag closed.  Let go of the tissue letting the baking soda fall into the vinegar. It reacts quickly!

We first did this at least five years ago — and just a few weeks ago he rounded up all the ingredients and did this for a long time out in the yard with ED!!

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Science Experiments: Red Cabbage Indicator (Fun for Ages 4 and Up!)

Monday, November 5th, 2012

We did a lot of Montessori science when the older kids were little, so this is an experiment we did years ago. Now the older kids are studying chemistry and ED is the perfect age (4) to enjoy the action of this experiment. Using red cabbage juice as the indicator, you add various household ingredients and compare it to an acid-base chart to see where that particular item falls on the scale.

Before we did the experiment, we read a couple of chapters from Real Science 4 Kids, Chemistry that talked about the differences between acids and bases. (See the picture below, right. You can visit their site for a preview of the student textbook. We don’t have the other materials such as the teacher’s manual, but I really love and highly recommend the textbooks.) I love the cute illustrations that show the bonds between atoms as linked arms. After finishing our reading, I told the kids to write a quick page for their science notebook that shows that bases (often) have an OH group and acids have an H group:


Then we went into the kitchen to explore which household items were acids and which were bases.

First we cut up red cabbage and placed it in a saucepan with water, brought it to a boil, turned off the heat and let it sit for a number of hours.

Then we strained out the cabbage and poured the juice into test tubes.

We had a huge selection of items to test — partly because there are three kids who all want to take part in the action. If I had to narrow down the selection I would recommend

  • vinegar
  • Diet Coke
  • baking soda
  • glass cleaner
  • apple (but let it soak overnight before really assessing the results)
  • hydrogen peroxide (because it bleaches the color out)

Here was our setup:

Before we started adding the ingredients to the test tube, I had the kids decide together which they thought were acids and which were bases.

After adding all the ingredients to the test tubes and labeling them, we looked for the top two most acidic items and the top two bases.

Just so you know, we found the results easier to determine after adding some water to the test tubes because I had let the cabbage sit on the stove for a long, long time and the indicator was quite strong.

You can find the acid-base color chart at Surfing Scientist (page 13) or just google “acid base color indicator chart.”

We used plastic test tubes that we got from Oriental Trading a while back, but of course you can use disposable plastic cups, baby food jars or whatever you have on hand. This was our set up a few years ago:

You can freeze the red cabbage juice for later use.

I put this into a pdf if you’d like to print out my explanation/directions for this experiment.

Making Red Cabbage Acid-Base Indicator (now at

Another wonderful resource is the Surfing Scientist which has much more detail about this experiment.


You might also be interested in these posts from our chemistry unit:


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Building Molecules Chemistry Activity

Friday, October 12th, 2012

We moved on from talking about atoms to talking about molecules and chemical bonds. Since my kids are pretty young, this is just a basic introduction to how bonds are formed and made.

NOTE: We are moving to We will be moving all our printables there soon.

 Building Molecules Worksheet:

The screen shot below shows 2 of 3 pages.

We spent several days building different kinds of molecules:

On the first day we built water, oxygen, hydrogen and hydrogen peroxide:

The next day the kids built carbon dioxide, chlorine, ammonia and acetylene gas:

And on the last day they built methane gas, ethylene gas, methanol (wood alcohol), propane gas,  nitrous oxide (laughing gas), vinegar and others:

We used EIN-O’s molecule kit. It doesn’t have the best reviews on Amazon, but it was just fine for our needs. It comes with double-bonds (see the red oxygen molecule above) as well as the plain single bond pieces. It is a bit confusing that there would be more than one hole on the hydrogen (white balls), but I just told the kids that was how the balls were made and they were fine with that explanation.


You might also be interested in these posts from our chemistry unit:

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