Simple Spooky STEM Activities to Scare Up Some Fun

Get into the Halloween spirit with these simple spooky STEM activities!

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays at the Orlando Science Center, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorite simple spooky STEM activities that you can do at home!

We’ve also included instructions on how to give some activities a special Halloween twist. From making the slimiest slime to exploring art with candy, find them all in one place below.

STEM Slime Time!

Our staff concocted the slimiest slime recipe for you to try at home! For glowing slime, use tonic water or highlighter water instead of regular water. Click here to make highlighter water!

Spooky Oobleck

Make an ooey-gooey mess with just two ingredients! Learn about the states of matter and viscosity, practice lab skills like measuring and mixing with this educational messy science experiment that's so fun, you won't even realize you're learning!

To make pumpkin oobleck, color the oobleck orange with paint or food coloring and add pumpkin-scented oil. Alternatively, you can mix a can of pumpkin puree in a pitcher of water and use it in place of the regular water.

Ectoplasm Detector

Have you ever wanted to make something glow under a blacklight? Let us teach you one of our favorite hacks, which you can turn into an Ectoplasm Detector!

Write or draw messages, then hide them in a dark place. Make the Ectoplasm Detector by following the instructions for your DIY Blacklight Hack then use your ectoplasm detector to find and reveal the ghostly messages!

Ghosts in the Graveyard

Have you ever wanted to make something glow under a blacklight? Let us teach you one of our favorite hacks, which you can turn into an Ectoplasm Detector!

Write or draw messages, then hide them in a dark place. Make the Ectoplasm Detector by following the instructions for your DIY Blacklight Hack then use your ectoplasm detector to find and reveal the ghostly messages!

Sweet Science

Trick or Treat! In this experiment, science is sweet! Use a little bit of candy to make Halloween pictures that swirl like magic, to explore chemistry, and to practice making predictions and observations.

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What to do with Leftover Candy? Learn Some Sweet Science with this STEM Experiment

Are you wondering what to do with leftover candy? You're in for a treat!

This experiment is sugar, and spice, and everything science! Join us as we dive into some chemistry (and our candy stash) and we'll give you a fun trick for what to do with your leftover treats. 

We'll use a little bit of candy to make pictures that swirl like magic, to explore chemistry, and to practice making predictions and observations.

Materials you will need:

  • Candy with a hard shell, like Skittles or M&M’s
  • Warm water
  • Shallow dish or plate that can hold liquid
skittles in a dish and water -leftover candy materials

Directions:

Step 1:

Arrange your candy in a design on your dish.

  • You can try arranging them in a circle around the edge of the dish, or making pictures with them. Since we're using Halloween candy, we made a pumpkin.
skittles arranged in the shape of a pumpkin -leftover candy and what to do with it

Step 2:

Slowly pour your warm water over the candy.

Encourage your scientist to answer these questions:

  • Before you add water, ask your scientist what they think will happen and why. This is called a hypothesis.
  • What happens to the letter on the candy?
  • Why do think the colors are moving?
  • Why do you think the colors aren’t mixing?
  • How do you think you could speed up the reaction
pouring water on leftover candy

Step 3:

Watch what happens! What do you observe?

Make it sweeter!

  • Make different designs. How are the color patterns different based on the design you make?
  • Add another piece of candy after you’ve added water and the colors have started to spread out. What happens?
  • Add a sugar cube to the candy after you’ve added the water and the colors have started to spread out. What happens?
  • Experiment with different water temperatures. What temperature works best?
  • Try using different candies. Which ones do you think will cause colors to spread out across the water
skittles in water with the colors swirling around - what happens to leftover candy

Expand on the Activity! 

The Science

  • The colored shells on Skittles and M&M’s are made out of sugar and food coloring. As the sugar and food coloring dissolve in water, they diffuse (or spread out) across it. This changes the clear water to the colors of the candy.

  • The colors move from the area with the highest concentration of color (the candy and the area right next to it) to the area with lowest concentration (the area farthest away from the candy). Watch how the color moves away from the candies. Molecules moving from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration is called a concentration gradient.

  • The colors don’t mix because of something called water stratification. Each color of food coloring has a slightly different chemical make-up. Because of this, they have slightly different densities. This keeps the colors from mixing as they spread out.

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Simple Sensory STEAM Activities to Engineer for Halloween

From creepy chemistry to haunted machines, add some spook to your science with these simple sensory STEAM activites

It’s Spooky Season! Looking for something ghoul to do with your young scientists? Create concoctions that are creepy, slimy, and scary! Take these simple sensory STEAM activities to the next level with a Halloween touch by adding scents, food coloring, and decorations. 

Scary Simple Slime

Check out our simple slime recipe and see what creative ways you can adapt it to become a spooky sensory activity!

Pumpkin spice-it-up with orange food coloring and pumpkin extract for ultimate Halloween slime! Not a pumpkin person? 

If you've got a black light, you can get bright blue slime that glows under UV light by substituting tonic water for water in any recipe. The tonic water contains quinine, which emits bright blue fluorescence under black light.

Another option is to add fluorescent highlighter ink to the slime recipe. You can get the ink by soaking a highlighter in water.

Turn oobleck into Oogie Boogie

Create dancing ghosts with Oobleck! All you need is to put a speaker or subwoofer close to the Oobleck and play your favorite spooky tunes. 

What is Oobleck? It’s a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it can act like a solid or a liquid depending on what you do to it. If you try to pick it up, run through your hands like water. Try making a fist tap the mixture in the bowl; You’ll feel it become hard as a rock! You can use this to learn how molecules called polymers work. Click thebutton below to learn how to make this easy mixture!

Haunted Machines 

Automata’s are simple machines, like levers, pulleys, or wheels, that change the direction or magnitude of a force. 

In this project, you’ll be able to create your own simple machine, using small machines! Transform this cardboard structure with chilling decorations. From a haunted house to dancing skeletons, there’s so much you can do! 

Mixing Halloween and these simple sensory STEAM activities will get you into the spooky spirit and teach you a thing or two about how cool science is. These projects are for all levels of scientists and can be repeated for extra fun! 

Simple sensory STEAM activities

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How to Demonstrate Static Electricity and Shock Your Friends

Learn a phantom-tastic physics lesson while you learn how to demonstrate static electricity! 

How do you make a tissue dance? You put a little boo-gie in it!

Static electricity is electricity that doesn’t move. You’ve experienced static electricity if you’ve ever rubbed your feet on a carpet and then zapped a friend or sibling.

Let us teach you how to demonstrate static electricity, and put a little boogie in tissue paper ghosts to make them dance in this fun and simple science activity.

Materials you will need:

  • Tissue
  • Black marker
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • A balloon
tissue paper, scissors, marker, tape, balloon- materials needed to demonstrate static electricity

Directions:

Step 1:

Carefully separate the layers of your tissue and pull them apart. We want our tissue paper to be very thin for this activity.

separate toilet paper for static electricity demonstration

Step 2:

Draw ghosts on your tissue pieces then cut them out.

cut out ghosts

Step 3:

Tape the bottom of each ghost to your work surface with clear tape.

tape ghosts to floor

Step 4:

Blow up a balloon then rub it against your hair or against wool. A fluffy wool sweater or blanket will work!

  • While you work on your experiment,  ask your scientist some questions: 
    • Before you hold your balloon over the ghosts, ask your scientist what you think will happen. This called a hypothesis.
    • What happened when you rubbed the balloon against your hair or with wool?
    • What do you think would happen if we didn’t pull the tissue apart?
create static electricity

Step 5:

Hold your balloon 3-4 inches above your ghosts and move it around to make them rise up from the grave and dance!
*If nothing happens right away, try moving the balloon closer to the ghosts or rubbing the balloon again.

Take the experiment further:

  • How many ghosts can you lift up at once?
  • How far away can you hold the balloon from the ghosts and still make them move?
  • What happens if you use different thicknesses of paper? What about different types of paper? Why do you think some types and thicknesses of paper work better than others?
how to demonstrate static electricity

Expand on the Activity! 

Learn more about static electricity

  • Electricity is a form of energy that powers our electronics like our TVs, computers, light bulbs, and more.

  • Static electricity is electricity that doesn’t move. You’ve experienced static electricity if you’ve ever rubbed your feet on a carpet and then zapped a friend or sibling, if you’ve ever zapped yourself touching a doorknob, or if you’ve ever seen lightening before.

  • Electricity is created by teeny tiny particles called protons and electrons. Protons are positively charged, while electrons are negatively charged. Just like magnets, opposites attract. So the positive protons and negative electrons attract each other!

  • When you rubbed the balloon with the cloth, you built up a negative charge on the balloon by adding electrons to it. Our little tissue paper ghosts are positive, so they were attracted to the balloon. This causes them to rise up!

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Painting Techniques for Kids to Try • From Baking Soda Paint to Buon Fresco

Using science and creativity, these painting techniques for kids to try will elicit a reaction from your friends and your art! 

1,941 years ago, a catastrophic event occurred in Pompeii, a city on the Italian peninsula. A volcano called Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the whole city in ash! 

The site was lost for centuries and remained almost entirely untouched until 1748. Today, scientific research brings to light the extraordinary history and culture of Pompeii and the Roman world. Learn how to create a fizzing work of art or a Buon Fresco with these Roman- inspired painting techniques for kids to try.

Using the DIY baking soda paint you just created, you can now make an erupting volcano painting!

Materials you will need:

  • Red or orange baking soda paint
    *Learn how to make your own here!
  • A tray or a small container to put the baking soda paint in
  • A small cup
  • A dropper (if you do not have on you can use drips from your paintbrush)
  • White vinegar (you can add pigment to the vinegar, but it is not necessary)
  • A cup of water
  • A paintbrush or two
  • Watercolor or mixed media paper -Watercolor pencils or paint (colored pencils or markers will work too, but not crayon)
materials for painting technique for kids to try

Follow along with the video or the steps below to try this painting technique!

Directions:

  • Step One: Draw your volcano. A volcano is a mountain that lets magma or molten rock escape from under the Earth’s crust to the surface where it comes out as lava. The molten rock makes its way up the main vent of the volcano. Some volcanoes have side vents where lava will flow out the side instead of the top. At the top of the volcano is the crater, this is where most of the lava will come out, sometimes it flows and sometimes there’s a big eruption. Not all volcanoes erupt with lava, some, like Mount Vesuvius erupt with ash, but our painting today will have lava. Right not we are just drawing the mountain that will be our volcano.
  • Step Two: Fill in the background. I added plants and the sun and made the sky blue. When you are done with this step the whole scene should be complete, except the lava. In Pompeii there were marketplaces, houses, courtyards, and bathhouses- you can add some of them to your scene too!
  • Step Three: For watercolor pencils, this step turns the pencil marks into paint. Dip your paintbrush in clean water and paint on the pencil marks with the water, you will see the marks turn into paint. Make sure to rinse your brush between colors.
  • Step Four: This step adds your lava! Use a clean brush and your baking soda paint. The paint will be a little chunky because the baking soda doesn’t dissolve. Paint your lava on your volcano.
  • Step Five: Watch your volcano erupt! Using the dropper, drip the vinegar one drop at a time onto your lava. What happens? A little goes a long way, take your time and watch it bubble and flow. When the vinegar touches the baking soda, it starts a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction releases a gas and creates the bubbles you see. Once you’ve watched your eruption, leave your painting in the same spot to dry- moving it will make the lava drip off the page.

Learn more! 

  • Were you inspired by your baking soda painting technique? Try creating a Buon Fresco, a popular art technique common in Ancient Rome!
  • If you want to learn more about volcanoes and Pompeii follow the links below:
    • https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/physical-geography/volcano-facts/ 
    • https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/pompeii/
Thanks to the support from Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs, Orlando Science Center is excited to host the blockbuster exhibit, Pompeii: The Immortal City in the Fall of 2020.
 
Orlando Science Center is excited to support partnership programs and collaborations leading up to and coinciding with the run of the exhibition.
 

Students from UCF CREATE Lake Eola Charter School will participate in the Pompeii program where they will learn the science of how frescos are created and work collaboratively to create fresco paintings.

If you would like more STEAM Lessons like these, learn how to enroll in the free public STEAM Art Making with Miss A online Canvas course.

DIY Baking Soda Paint • Add Some Bubbles and Bring your Painting to Life

This DIY baking soda paint will cause a reaction from your art AND your friends! 


In just 24 hours, Pompeii and neighboring Herculaneum were buried by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. 

Using a little chemistry and watercolor paint, you can create an erupting volcano painting ! First, follow the steps to make your DIY baking soda paint. Then, learn how to use that paint to bring your art to life

Materials you will need:

  • Containers with lids for the paint (you will need one for each color you make)
  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Measuring Spoon
  • Scrap paper to use as a funnel
  • Pigment
    *This adds color to your paint, you can use liquid watercolor paints, tempera paint, acrylic paint, food coloring, or even old eyeshadow. Anything that will add color is fine as long as it is not wax or oil-based because those won’t mix with the water.
Materials for DIY baking soda paint

Directions:

Follow along with the video or the steps below to make your own DIY baking soda paint.

  • Step 1:
    For each color put an equal amount of baking soda and water in your paint containers. My bottles are small so I used two tablespoons of each. I made a funnel with my scrap paper to get the baking soda in the bottle. If you want a thicker paint, you can do a 2:1 ratio of two part baking soda to 1 part water.
  • Step Two:
    Put your pigment in and shake! More pigment means more color saturation- if you use a little your paint will be light, if you use a lot your paint will be dark.

Your paint is now ready to use! Make sure to shake it well before each use.

Now that you've made your DIY baking soda paint, get the next steps! 

Painting Techniques for Kids to Try • From Baking Soda Paint to Buon Fresco

Thanks to the support from Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs, Orlando Science Center is excited to host the blockbuster exhibit, Pompeii: The Immortal City in the Fall of 2020.
 
Orlando Science Center is excited to support partnership programs and collaborations leading up to and coinciding with the run of the exhibition.
 

Students from UCF CREATE Lake Eola Charter School will participate in the Pompeii program where they will learn the science of how frescos are created and work collaboratively to create fresco paintings.

If you would like more STEAM Lessons like these, learn how to enroll in the free public STEAM Art Making with Miss A online Canvas course.

Tie-Dye Milk Experiment: Learn Chemistry in Your Kitchen

Learn about molecules and more with this tie-dye milk experiment

Make a rainbow of colors swirl around with materials you can find in your kitchen and a dash of science!

 

Atoms and molecules are the particles that makeup everything. What element or elements they are, how they’re arranged, how they move, and how they interact with each other determines how a substance looks, acts and reacts. However, atoms and molecules are very, very small. You could line up 70 million helium atoms in a row across a pencil eraser!

 

This makes them way too small to see with our own eyes or even with many microscopes. But we can observe molecules in motion with this tie-dye milk experiment.

Materials you will need:

  • Milk or cream
  • Food coloring
  • Cotton swabs or toothpicks
  • Dish soap
  • A dish or plate with a rim that can hold liquid.

Directions:

Step 1: First, add some milk or cream to your dish. You want to make sure the milk completely covers the bottom of the dish, but you don’t need to completely fill it.

A dish of milk for tie dye milk experiment

Step 2: Next, add 4 drops of food coloring to the center of the dish, being careful not to let them mix. Don’t stir the milk and food coloring! You want them to stay separate for now.

Add dye to milk

Step 3: Pick up your cotton swab or toothpick. Carefully cover one end of it with dish soap.

Add dish soap to a qtip to create tie-dye milk effect

Step 4: When you’re ready, touch the center of the milk with the soapy end of your swab and watch the colors move!

The result of tie-dye milk experiment

The Science of Tie-Dye Milk

  • Milk is a mixture. It’s mostly water, but it also has proteins, fats, and other molecules mixed in.
  • Because milk is mostly made up of water, it acts a lot like water and has many of the same properties.
  • One of these properties is called surface tension. Surface tension is how resistant a liquid is to external force, or how strong the surface of the liquid is. It’s a bit like the surface of water having a sort of “skin.” This is how some insects can walk on water.
  • Soap is what we call a surfactant. It lowers the surface tension of a liquid.
  • When we dip the soap in the milk, it lowers its surface tension and causes not just the water molecules, but fat and protein molecules, to move as they quickly rearrange themselves.
  • By adding food coloring, we can see the movement caused by lowering the surface tension.

Expand on This Activity:

  • Ask Your Scientist the Following Questions:
    • What new colors do you see?
    • How are the colors moving?
    • Why do you think this happened?
  • Keep Experimenting:
    • Press down on the bottom of the dish with the soap-covered cotton swab for three seconds, then lift up. How is the movement of the colors different than when you quickly touch the cotton swab to the milk’s surface?
    • Touch the cotton swab to areas where the colors have collected to watch the colors continue to move.
    • Try the experiment with more or fewer colors of food coloring. How is the tie-dye different?

The Science of Tie-Dye Milk

  • Milk is a mixture. It’s mostly water, but it also has proteins, fats, and other molecules mixed in.
  • Because milk is mostly made up of water, it acts a lot like water and has many of the same properties.
  • One of these properties is called surface tension. Surface tension is how resistant a liquid is to external force, or how strong the surface of the liquid is. It’s a bit like the surface of water having a sort of “skin.” This is how some insects can walk on water.
  • Soap is what we call a surfactant. It lowers the surface tension of a liquid.
  • When we dip the soap in the milk, it lowers its surface tension and causes not just the water molecules, but fat and protein molecules, to move as they quickly rearrange themselves.
  • By adding food coloring, we can see the movement caused by lowering the surface tension.

Learn More: Chemistry

  • Many atoms and molecules have positive (+) or negative (-) charges. An atom or molecule with no charge is called neutral. Positive and negatively charged atoms attract, just like the north and south poles of a magnet.
  • Molecules can be polar or nonpolar. Polar molecules have one side that is much more positive or negative than the other. Nonpolar molecules don’t have a difference in charge. Polar molecule likes to mix with other polar molecules, and nonpolar molecules like mix with other nonpolar molecules. Polar and nonpolar molecules don’t mix. This is what keeps oil and water separate; oil is made of nonpolar molecules and water is made of polar molecules!
  • Water molecules have a positive side and negative side. This makes water a polar molecule. Because of this, water molecules can stick to each other. Molecules in liquid sticking to each other is known as cohesion. The cohesion between the water molecules at the surface is what creates surface tension.
  • Soap molecules have a negative side and neutral side, so it has both a polar and nonpolar end. The negative side of the soap molecule is attracted to the positive side of the water molecule, weakening the attraction between the water molecules and lowering the surface tension.
  • But that’s not all. The neutral sides of the soap molecules also interact with the nonpolar fat molecules, separating them out of the milk. This is how soap is able to clean up greasy messes!

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In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

DIY pH Indicators: Turn Your Kitchen Into a Chemistry Lab!

Turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab by making your own DIY pH Indicators!

pH is a measurement of how acidic or basic something is on a scale of 0-14. 

 

Testing how acidic or basic something is with a color-changing indicator is a staple of many chemistry experiments. Now you can try it too! Turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab with DIY pH indicators!

 

A substance with a pH of 7 (like distilled water) is neutral. A substance with a pH of less than 7 is an acid. The closer the number gets to zero, the stronger the acid is. A substance with a pH of more than 7 is a base. The closer the number is to 14, the stronger the base is.

 

Try making one of these two natural DIY pH indicators and use it to test the pH of things you find around your home!

 

Recommend Age: 8+ with adult help for chopping and boiling.

Materials you will need for a red cabbage pH indicator:

  • Red cabbage
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Warm water
  • Blender
  • Strainer or funnel with coffee filter
  • Container to collect indicator


WARNING: Cabbage and blueberry juices can stain clothes! Mess-friendly play clothes or coverings such as aprons are recommended for this activity.

You can can make a variety ph indicators with Orlando Science Center

Directions for making red cabbage pH indicator:

STEP 1
  • Peel 3 or 4 big leaves off a head of red cabbage and chop the leaves into small pieces.
  • Fill a blender halfway with hot water.
  • Add the chopped cabbage leaves to the blender.
  • Blend the leaves and water on high until the liquid turns purple and all the leaves are blended.

    *Alternatively, you can boil the chopped leaves in just enough water to cover them for a few minutes, then let steep for 30-60 minutes.

Red cabbage for DIY pH indicators
STEP 2 
  • Place a strainer or funnel lined with a coffee filter over a container to collect the indictor, such as bowl, pot, or bottle.
  • Pour the mixture through the strainer to remove the cabbage pulp.
  • Push down on the pulp in the strainer with a spoon or spatula to squeeze out more liquid.
strain blended cabbage for purple diy ph indicator
STEP 3
  • The purple liquid in your container is your indicator solution. The exact color will vary depending on the pH of the water you used.
  • Experiment with the indicator using the ideas below!
  • Red cabbage indicator can be saved in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Result of blending red cabbage to create diy ph indicator

Materials you will need for a blueberry pH indicator:

  • 200g blueberries
  • Masher, spoon, or spatula to mash blueberries
  • Water
  • Pot
  • Strainer or funnel with coffee filter
  • Container to collect indicator

Directions for making blueberry pH indicator:

STEP 1
  • Mash the blueberries in a bowl or pot to release the blueberry juice.
  • Add mashed blueberries, juice, and a half cup of water to a pot.
  • Boil the blueberries for 5-10 minutes. The blueberry juice will turn red-purple.
Mash and boil blueberries to make a blue DIY ph indicator
STEP 2
  • Place a strainer or funnel lined with a coffee filter over a container to collect the indictor.
  • Pour the mixture through the strainer to remove the blueberry skins.
  • Push down on the skins in the strainer with a spoon or spatula to squeeze out more liquid.
  • The purple liquid in your container is your indicator solution. The exact color will vary depending on the pH of the water you used.
result of using blueberries to make another diy ph indicator

What to do with your DIY pH indicators 

Now that you have your pH indicators, it's time to get to testing! Use household liquids such as salt or distilled water, different fruit juices, milk, liquid detergent or soap, and more!

  • Add each of the substances you would like to test to the cups. (Only add one substance to each cup.) 
  • Add a spoonful of indicator to the first cup, and stir the indicator into the substance.
  • Observe the color changes. What do you see? Encourage your scientist to write down what color each substance turns. You can use crayons or markers to help keep track of color changes.
You can use different household liquids to test you DIY indicators

Expand on the Activity:

  • What color changes did you see? Did you notice any patterns?
  • If you use vinegar or lemon juice, what do you think will happen to the color of the DIY pH indicator if you add baking soda or an antacid tablet

  • For another hands-on chemistry experiment, try making your own STEM slime activity

The Science: pH and pH indicators

  • pH is a measurement of how acidic or basic something is. It is measured on a scale of 0-14.
  • A substance with a pH of 7 (like distilled water) is neutral. A substance with a pH of less than 7 is an acid. The closer the number gets to zero, the stronger the acid is. A substance with a pH of more than 7 is a base. The closer the number is to 14, the stronger the base is.
  • Strong acids and bases can be very dangerous, while weaker acids and bases (those with a pH close to 7) are safer to use.
  • We find acids in many of the foods we eat, as well as in our stomachs. Acids found in foods give them a sour taste.
  • Bases are commonly found in cleaning products and antacid medications. Bases feel slippery and are rare in food because they taste bitter. For reference, think about the taste of soap!
  • pH indicators are compounds that change color in the presence of an acid or a base.
  • Different pH indicators have different ranges. Some may only be able to show whether something is acidic or basic, while others may have a wide range of colors that can show different strengths of acids and bases. Some may be better for showing the pH of acids, while others may be better at showing the pH of bases. In a lab, the best indicator to use depends on the pH range you want to see.

Learn More: Chemistry

  • There are several different definitions of acids and bases in chemistry.
  • A simple chemical definition of an acid is a substance that releases hydrogen ions (H+) when dissolved in water. A simple chemical definition of a base is a substance that makes hydroxide ions (OH-) when dissolved in water or a substance that takes hydrogen ions from an acid.
  • Ions are positively (+) or negatively (-) charged particles of an element.
  • Many red, purple, and blue plants contain chemicals called anthocyanins, which are weak acids that dissolve in water and change color in response to changes in pH. Because of this, plants with anthocyanins like red cabbage and blueberries can easily be made into pH indicators.

Did you make and test your own indicator? We’d love to see how it turned out! Snap a photo of you making or experimenting with your indicator and submit it to our Science Showcase here or use #OSCatHome on social media!

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In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

DIY Lava Lamp Experiment • Explore Density and Fizzy Reactions

Learn about density with this simple DIY Lava Lamp Experiment!

Density has to do with how much space something takes up in relation to what its mass is. While density can be a tricky concept for younger scientists to understand right away, this DIY lava lamp experiment is a great opportunity to observe density in action and make some initial observations while enjoying some fizzing good fun!

Materials:

  • Canola oil 
  • Measuring cup 
  • Water 
  • Tall, clear container (we used a clean salsa jar) 
  • Alka-Seltzer tablets (or any other effervescent tablets) 
  • Food coloring
    *Warning: Food coloring can stain! Feel free to substitute in washable paint such as liquid watercolor or tempera paint if you’re worried about mess. Either way, mess-friendly play clothes are recommended for this DIY lava lamp experiment!
Collection of experiment materials including a bottle of canola oil, a measuring cup of water, a tall clear container, Alka-Seltzer tablets, and a box of food coloring

Directions:

STEP 1
  • Fill your measuring cup with 1 cup water.
     
STEP 2
  • Add 10-15 drops of food coloring to your water then stir.

    Observe the food coloring drops as they enter the water. What do you notice? Do they float? Do they sink? Does the food coloring mix well into the water? What do you see?
Add drops of food coloring to cup of water
STEP 3
  • Fill a clear container ¾ of the way with canola oil.

STEP 4
  • Pour the dyed water into your clear container, along with your canola oil.

     
    What do you notice about the water and the canola oil?  Do they mix together?
    Which one sinks to the bottom? Is this the same as what you observed with the food coloring and water?

Mix dyed water with canola oil
STEP 6
  • Break up your effervescent tablets into several small pieces, drop them into your clear container one at a time, and enjoy the show!

     

    What happens when you add the effervescent tablets? Practice your observation skills and describe what you notice!

 

STEP 7
  • You can continue adding effervescent tablets as the bubbles slow.

     

Bubbles rise and fall in DIY lava lamp density experiment

Expand on the Activity:

  • Experiment with your effervescent tablets! What happens when you drop a full tablet in your lava lamp? What happens when you drop in several pieces at once? What happens if you crush your tablet into dust and then add it to your lamp?
  • Make something to remember your experiment! Drop several pieces of effervescent tablet into your lava lamp and cover the top with a piece of paper. As the bubbles pop, the food coloring will leave a surprise behind on the paper for you.
  • Looking for more fun with a fizz? Check out our Ice Chalk DIY Recipe!

 

If you had fun learning about fizz and snapped some photos, be sure to  submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

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Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

Demonstrate Laminar Flow at Home with this Water Optical Illusion

What if we told you that you could freeze time with just a balloon, tape, and some water? Now what if we showed you how to demonstrate laminar flow at home?

We promise this isn’t CGI magic or a trick of the camera. What you are seeing is a particularly interesting fluid dynamic, which is a scientific way of saying the flow of a fluid (which is any liquid or gas), called laminar flow. 

 

Below we are going to explore the following questions: What is laminar flow? What is laminar flow used for in everyday life? And most importantly, how can you demonstrate laminar flow at home? 

Laminar flow demonstration GIF

What is Laminar Flow? 

Laminar flow is a type of flow pattern of a fluid in which all the particles are flowing in parallel linesopposed to turbulent flow, where the particles flow in random and chaotic directions. A flow is either turbulent, laminar, or somewhere in between. This is measured by the Reynolds number which is a ratio between velocity (the speed of the flowand viscosity (how thick or thin the fluid is). The more viscous, or thick, the fluid is the faster it can flow without going turbulent 

 

What is Laminar Flow Used For?

 

Laminar flow has a wide range of real-life applications. A type of laminar flow is achieved everyday by pilots. A smooth flight occurs when the flow of the air over an aircraft’s wings is laminar. If the pilot runs into a very turbulent patch of air the wing cannot correct the air to make it laminar, causing turbulence.

 

A different example of laminar flow occurs everyday inside of you. Blood flowing throughout your body is flowing laminarly. 

 

One last example of laminar flow is syrup, or honey, flowing out the nozzle. Because the liquid is so thick, or viscous, the Reynolds number indicates that the flow is very laminar.  

How Can I Demonstrate Laminar Flow at Home?

The following video and steps below it are detailed for you to try and recreate laminar flow at home. 

 

Adult supervision is required as this experiment involves the usage of sharp and potentially dangerous objects.

  • Step One: Gather the following materials: 
    • One balloon 
    • Duct Tape or electrical tape 
    • Water 
    • A sharp object (to pierce the balloon)

  • Step Two: Fill the balloon with water and tie it off.


  • Step Three: Make a square on your balloon out of tape.
    Make sure you pat down the 
    tape, so its smoothly secured. Different sized squares result in different sized flows.
  • Step Four: With adult assistance pierce the balloon inside the square with your sharp object and watch as the water flows out laminarly 

 

How did it go? Try taking your own spin on the experiment, does the amount of water change the results? How about where you place the square? Do you think you can get multiple flows to happen on the same balloon?  

 

If you tried to demonstrate laminar flow at home, be sure you submit you photos and videos of your experiments to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center on social media and use hashtag #OSCatHome for a chance to be featured on our channels!  

 

Until next time, STAY CURIOUS! 

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

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Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!