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.

How to Fold a Paper T.rex: Origami Dinosaur DIY

DINO-mite project alert! Learn how to fold a paper T.rex!

Watch the video below to learn how to fold a paper T. rex! You’ll have a rawr-ing good time making them and playing with them. We just hope your arms are longer than a T. rex’s.   

Materials you will need:

  • A square piece of paper or a piece of paper you can turn into a square. We recommend using one that is at least 6 in x 6 in.
  • Learn how to use any paper for origami paper here.

Try a T.rex

Once you've got or cut your 6 in x 6 in origami paper, follow along with the steps to make your origami dinosaur. While you're learning how to fold a paper T.rex, consider the following: 

  • Can you name three facts about a Tyrannosaurus rex? 
  • What is one question you have about dinosaurs? 
  • How many different dinosaurs can you name?

Expand on the activity! 

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Popular Science Myths Debunked • Clearing Up Misconceptions

Can you tell if these popular science myths are science fact or fiction? 

Orlando Science Center would like to clear the air on a few things. Somehow a few misconceptions have seeped their way into science culture. We would like to explore some of these popular science myths and explain why they are false by using scientific facts.

 

Cracking your knuckles frequently increases your chance of developing arthritis in your hands.

Popular science myths cracking knuckles

While cracking your knuckles may be annoying for those around you, it has no correlation to arthritis in those joints. Several studies that aimed to find a link between the two found no substantial evidence of any correlation. However, those who excessively cracked their knuckles did have slightly weaker grip strength later in life.

This makes sense though - knuckle cracking is a bubble being formed and popped by the liquid that surrounds your knuckle joints. It causes no trauma to these areas that would accelerate the onset of inflammation to these joints, which is what arthritis is.

 

Toilets flush in opposite directions depending on which side of the equator you find yourself on.

Toilet Flush popular science myth

The popular science myths that toilets flushes or other small movements of water move in different directions is often credited to something called the Coriolis Effect. The Coriolis Effect is a pattern of deflection that things that are not firmly connected to the earth but travel long distances across the planet. Since the earth rotates faster at the equator than at the polar poles, objects will appear to rotate to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. This is why hurricanes spin in opposite directions in the two hemispheres.

However, the Coriolis Effect only influences things moving great distances of long periods of time on earth, not a 5 second toilet flush. If you want to see the Coriolis Effect in action, grab a buddy, get on a merry-go-round, and toss a ball while it’s stationary. Then spin it and toss the ball again. You will see the ball appears to curve, but in fact the ball is traveling in a straight line. It is you who is moving due to the spin of the merry-go-round.

 

Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

lightning can never strike twice science misconception

The idea that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice is a popular misconception but, that’s all it is- a misconception. We know this to be true as lightning strikes are too frequent to not strike the same place on earth multiple times. Studies show that around 500 – 1000 lightning strikes happen globally every second! The Empire State Building was once used a lightning laboratory because the building is struck with lightning around 100 times a year.

The way lightning works supports the idea of multiple strikes. With negative charge collecting in the clouds and positive charge collecting on the ground, streamers (which are collections of electrons racing towards the positively charged ground) descend from the cloud to find the path of least resistance, and when the first one hits the ground 50,000 volts of electricity shoot up from the ground to the cloud following the streamer's path.

 

Bulls become angry when they see the color red.

popular science bull myth

The popular myths that bulls become angry when they see red, or are unsually violent animals, comes from the tradition of bullfighting, where a matador waves around a red cape, or a muleta, and the bull charges the cape with fervor.

However, it's not the color of the cape that angers the bull but it’s the movement of the cape. We know this based on many experiments with different colored capes being stationary and being moved and the bull favored movement over the color of the cape every time. We also know that bulls are actually red-green colorblind and would have a hard time distinguishing red from green, orange, and brown. 

 

A duck’s quack does not echo.

duck quack popular science myths

A duck’s quack not echoing is a myth that stems from the fact that it is simply very difficult to hear the echo. A reverberation chamber helps amplify echoes by giving sounds large reflective surfaces for the sound to bounce back on or echo off of. Using a reverberation chamber and waiting for a good quack is all you need to do to prove that a duck’s quack does indeed echo. But why is it so hard to hear a duck’s quack echo without this chamber?

Many reasons can contribute to creating an echo in the wild. A duck needs to have a large surface far enough away to reflect off of and the strength behind its quack to reach said surface and make it back to your ears at a volume that is loud enough for our ears to hear. A sudden change in volume is easier to hear than the way that a duck quacks - a fading in of volume and fading out of volume over the entire sound.

 

The north star is the brightest star in the night sky.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky

The north star, or Polaris, is the star that is positioned right above the celestial pole. The celestial pole is the axis that the celestial sky rotates around, the point in the night sky that doesn’t move as the earth rotates, therefore showing true north.

Polaris is not the brightest in the night sky - not even close! Polaris is about 50th in terms of brightness. The brightest is the dog star, Sirius. Sirius comes from the Greek word Seirius, meaning, "searing" or "scorching, which is fitting as Sirius is so bright in the northern hemisphere! It is twice as bright as the next brightest star, Canopus.

 

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made thing visible from space.

 

Image to right: This photo of central Inner Mongolia, about 200 miles north of Beijing, was taken on Nov. 24, 2004, from the International Space Station. The yellow arrow points to an estimated location of 42.5N 117.4E where the wall is visible. The red arrows point to other visible sections of the wall.
Credit: NASA

great wall of china from space popular science myths

The Great Wall of China is certainly large, at 13,171 miles long! That’s thirteen times the distance from the Orlando Science Center to the Empire State Building! However, it is unable to be seen from space with just the unaided eye.

On November 24th, 2004, an astronaut named Leroy Chiao was determined to get a picture of the wall from space. With the aid of his camera’s lenses, he was able to capture the first picture of the Great Wall from space. So what things are able to be seen from space? From low earth orbit, astronauts have said they can see cities, major roadways, dams, and even airports. So why can’t they see the Great Wall? It’s all about color. The Great Wall of China is nearly the same color as the area surrounding it, so it's difficult to distinguish the wall from its surroundings.

 

Ostriches stick their heads into the ground when threatened.

ostrich

Contrary to the popular myth, Ostriches don’t stick their heads to the ground when they feel threatened. Their first instinct is to run, and they are fast! Ostriches can outrun most predators that they encounter in the wild. Their top speeds reach 43 miles per hour! If they can't run, they aren’t afraid to fight. An ostrich can kick with their clawed feet so hard they can easily take out a full-grown lion.

However, this myth did have an origin in ostrich behavior. Ostriches will lay down flat to play dead if they feel they can’t win the fight, this combined with their lightly colored head and neck makes it look as if they ostrich has buried its head into the earth.

 

Mice love cheese.

popular science myths mice love cheese

If you’re trying to capture a mouse, cheese isn’t necessarily the best thing to use as bait. While it is true that mice will eat cheese, it’s not necessarily true that they prefer or even like it. Mice will eat anything that has some sort of nutritional value, including cheese. However, studies show that given a choice, a mouse would pick a sweeter food choice like fruit or candy over cheese.

The popular science myths that mice, or other small animals, love cheese originated in medieval times when families didn’t have refrigerators. They hung meat from the ceiling and stored grain in silos, but cheese was simply wrapped in a thin layer of wax or cloth, making it much easier for rodents to find and eat the cheese. In fact, during the bubonic plague, it was common practice to forgo cheese in diets as to not attract mice because people thought they were attracted to it when, actually, it was just the easiest thing to find in an average house.

 

All dinosaurs went extinct by an asteroid hitting earth.

popular science myths dinosaur

We imagine that this one is shocking to hear, but the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs didn’t finish the job. The asteroid, or the K-T extinction event, that happened 65 million years ago wiped out about 80 percent of all plant and animal life on the planet. The effects of the asteroid and the winter fallout that occurred afterward killed all tetrapods (four-legged animals) that weighed over 50 pounds.

However, some small species of dinosaurs survived and evolved into modern-day birds. This is supported but fossils that have been found that are dated past the sedimentary layer of the K-T event. This is why scientists say birds are direct descendants of the dinosaurs. This event, however, did lead to many mammals evolving into larger and more complex species as, during the time of large meat-eating lizards, mammals tended to become meals. With ecological niches open due to the K-T event, mammals were able to evolve.

Expand on the activity!

 

How much do you know about our canine companions? Test your knowledge with these fun science facts about dogs!

Science Facts About Dogs: Unleash Fun Facts About Your Furry Friends!

Put your bee identification skills to the test.

Bee Identification Game: To Bee or Not to Bee

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Black Innovators in STEM Who Changed the World

You’ve probably heard of Einstein- now meet some of the lesser-known Black innovators in STEM fields. 

The history of STEM fields is full of amazing accomplishments. Names like Newton, Darwin, Hawking, Curie, and Goodall bring to mind incredible discoveries and inventions. But there are many Black innovators in STEM who's names we don’t mention as often and are usually ignored, even though they are associated with accomplishments that are no less impressive and important. The work of Black scientists, engineers, and mathematicians has led to game-changing discoveries and inventions. 
 
From inspirational “firsts” that changed the STEM field forever to those making their mark on the world today, here are 11 Black scientists, engineers, and mathematicians that you should know about. This list is in alphabetical order by last name and is by no means exhaustive. There are far too many important people to list in one post, and Black innovators in STEM who continue to undertake significant scientific research every day.

Dr. Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist and professor at Brown University who specializes in string theory and particle physics.

He co-invented a model that helps to explain the early expansion of the universe, served as the scientific advisor on Ava DeVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, and currently serves as the President of the National Society of Black Physicists.

As an accomplished saxophone player, Alexander also explores interconnections between music, physics, mathematics, and technology, topics he explores in his best-selling book, The Jazz of Physics.

Black innovators in STEM- Dr. Stephon Alexander

George Washington Carver, arguably the most famous Black scientist and inventor, was born into slavery.

He was accepted into Highland College in Kansas, but ultimately denied admission due to his race. He went on to be the first Black student at Iowa State Agricultural College, where he became known as a brilliant botanist (a scientist who studies plants). He is best known for coming up with over 100 uses for the peanut.

In addition, as the head of the Tuskegee Institute’s agricultural department, he also helped develop crops and agricultural methods that stabilized the livelihoods of many former slaves. He also contributed greatly to the education of Black Americans in universities and through mobile classrooms that brought lessons to farmers.

Black innovators in STEM- George Washington Carver

Dr. Marie M. Daly was a biochemist and the first Black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States.

She made several critical contributions to medicine, including the discovery of the relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease and conducting pioneering research into the effects of cigarette smoke on the lungs. Her work created a new understanding of how food, diet, and lifestyle can affect heart health.

In addition to her research, Daly taught biochemistry courses, advocated for getting Black students enrolled in medical schools and graduate science programs, and started a scholarship for minority students to study science at Queens College in New York.

Black innovators in STEM- M. Daly

Dr. Sylvester James Gates, Jr is a theoretical physicist known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory.

In 1984, he co-authored Superspace, the first comprehensive book on the topic of supersymmetry. Born the oldest of four children in Tampa, FL, Gates spent his teen years in Orlando, attending Jones High School—his first experience in a segregated African-American school. Comparing his own school's quality to neighboring white schools, "I understood pretty quickly that the cards were really stacked against us." Nevertheless, a course in physics established Gates' career interest in that field, especially its mathematical side. At his father's urging, he applied for admission to MIT and was accepted.

His doctoral thesis was the first at MIT on supersymmetry. Gates served on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is a past president of the National Society of Black Physicists. In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American theoretical physicist so recognized in its 150-year history. President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Science, the highest award given to scientists in the U.S., in 2013. He is an honorary member of Orlando Science Center’s Board of Trustees.

Dr. Sylvester James Gates, Jr

Dr. Aprielle Ericcson-Jackson is an award-winning aerospace engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and one of the most famous women working at NASA today.

Throughout her career at NASA Goddard, she has made many notable contributions, including as the projector manager for the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that has been orbiting the Moon since 2009.

She has been recognized as one of the Top 50 Minority Women in Science and Engineering by the National Technical Association and has received the NASA Goddard Honor Award for Excellence in Outreach, the Washington Award for engineering achievements that advance the welfare of mankind, and a Science Trailblazers award from the Black Engineers of the Year Award Conference.

Dr. Aprielle Ericcson-Jackson

Zora Neale Hurston – who grew up in Eatonville, Florida – was a renowned author and anthropologist.

She became a member of the Harlem Renaissance in New York. At Columbia University, she worked with Franz Boas, the Father of American Anthropology. As an anthropologist, she embedded herself in the communities she studied, focusing on and writing about the religious traditions, songs, and folklore of Black communities in Florida, Louisiana, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Her anthropological work influenced her fiction, most notably the classic and influential novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Her anthropological work was published in academic journals and books.

Zora Neale Hurston

Katherine Johnson was one of the famous Hidden Figures who worked at NASA and made the 1969 moon landing possible.

After working as a teacher in public schools, she joined NASA (then NACA) as a research mathematician in the Langley laboratory’s all-Black West Area Computing section. There, she analyzed data from flight tests and went onto do trajectory analysis for the first human spaceflight. In 1962, she used geometry for space travel and figured out the paths for spacecraft to orbit around Earth and land on the Moon. This led to an astronaut successfully orbiting around the Earth for the first time.

She continued to work for NASA, with her calculations helping to send astronauts to the Moon and back. When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, she chose her calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Module with the lunar-orbiting Command and Service Module.

Katherine Johnson
Dr. Percy Julian was a pioneering chemist who made several game-changing discoveries.
 
He completed the first total synthesis of a chemical called physostigmine, which was used to treat glaucoma. He also discovered how to extract steroids from soybean oil and synthesize the hormones progesterone and testosterone from them, and then synthesized cortisone, which became used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, he invented Aero-Foam, which was widely used during World War II to put out oil and gas fires.
 
In 1973, he became the first Black chemist elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Chemical Society recognizes his synthesis of physostigmine as “one of the top 25 greatest achievements in the history of American chemistry.”
Dr. Percy Julian

Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele is a neurologist and professor at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

His focus is on reducing the burden of stroke in the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is particularly focused on improving outcomes for vulnerable populations – including ethnic minorities and military veterans – at risk for stroke, and oversees several National Institutes of Health-funded research programs to this effect. This includes the largest study of stroke in Sub-Saharan African to date.

As a professor, he has worked to train, mentor, and inspire people from groups who are under-represented in medicine. He has been appointed the Associate Dean of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and acts as their Chief of Staff.

Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is a celebrated clinical psychologist, notable educator, and a nationally recognized authority on racial issues in America.

As a clinical psychologist, she devoted her career to studying how race impacts self-understanding, particularly in relation to education. She has also been a prominent voice in research showing that young children notice race and has argued that it is something that should be openly and honestly discussed with them instead of ignored. As part of this work, she has called for discussions of race in the classroom, has published the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and has given lectures across the country.

In 2014, she received the American Psychological Association’s Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology.

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum

Dr. Warren Washington is a distinguished climate scientist and former chair of the National Science Board.

After completing his Ph.D. in meteorology, he became a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). While there, he developed one of the first atmospheric computer models of Earth’s climate. He went on to become the head of NCAR’s Climate Change Research Section.

Washington has been recognized as an expert in atmospheric science, climate research, and the computer modeling of these, receiving multiple presidential appointments to serve on committees, being elected chair of the National Science Board in 2002 and 2004, and receiving numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science in 2009.

Dr. Warren Washington

Learn more! 

There are countless more Black innovators in STEM fields to meet: 

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Explorer Kit and Downloadable Activities

Sick of being stuck inside? Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt!

Looking for an outdoor activity? Put together an outdoor scavenger hunt explorer kit and see what you can find around your neighborhood!

Materials you will need:

  • A notebook and pencil to record your findings! You could press leaves in the pages, sketch an animal’s footprint, draw an interesting tree to record and look up later.
  • Binoculars, if you have them! Birds of prey like ospreys like to build their nests on top of power poles and other tall structures. Can you find any?
  • Sunscreen! It’s important for outdoor explorers of all ages to protect their skin from sun exposure.
  • Hand sanitizer!
  • Sunglasses! It’s no fun squinting at a tree trying to figure out if that’s a squirrel or a lump of moss
materials for an outdoor scavenger hunt

Download your outdoor scavenger hunt chart, or learn how to make your own customized animal tracking chart!

outdoor scavenger hunt
orlando science center outdoor scavenger hunt

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Science of Sound Activity ♪ Make Some Noise for Foley Art

Have you ever heard of Foley art? Make your own sound effects with this science of sound activity!

Foley artistry, named for the sound effect professional that pioneered it, originated during radio shows in the 1920s. They had to create sound effects from objects in the studio – anything from horse hoof beats to snow crunching to animal sounds!  

Learn to make your own Foley art sound effects using objects from around your house with this science of sound activity! 

Action!

Snow crunching  

  • You will need:
    • Cornstarch
    • A balloon or zip plastic bag 
  • What to do: 
    • Fill your balloon or bag about halfway full of cornstarch.  
    • Squeeze out all the air you can and seal it up tight!  
    • Squeeze it with your hands. What does it sound like?  
science of sound activity foot steps in the snow

Bats flying 

  • You will need:
    • An umbrella 
  • What to do: 
    • Open your umbrella quickly, then open and close it just a tiny bit a few times.  
    • Experiment with the speed and movement. See if you can make it sound like a group of bats!  
    • Try it in a different room or outside to play with echo!
science of sound activity bats flying

Dog shaking dry

  • You will need: 
    • A mop or a rag 
  •  What to do: 
    • Wet your mop or rag.  
    • Wring out the excess water.  
    • Do the next part over your bath or shower: 
    • If you have a mop – twirl it around as fast as you can!  
    • If you have a rag – grab two corners and flap it back and forth quickly, letting as much fabric hang as you can! 
science of sound activity wet dog

Breaking a glass 

  • You will need:  
    • A set of keys 
  • What to do: 
    • Drop your keys onto the floor from 6 inches above it.  
    • Play with height to get a different sound. Try dropping onto a different surface and see what sound it makes!  
science of sound activity breaking glass

Rain 

  • You will need: 
    • Uncooked rice 
    • A cookie sheet 
  • What to do:  
    • Pour some uncooked rice onto your cookie sheet. You don’t need much – less than a handful.  
    • Tilt your cookie sheet to let the rice roll or slide down to the other side. You created a gentle rainstorm!  
science of sound activity rain

Birds flying 

  • You will need:
    • Leather or rubber gloves 
  • What to do: 
    • Hold the open end of both gloves in one hand.  
    • Shake them!  
    • Experiment with how fast you shake the gloves to make it sound like birds are further or nearer.  
science of sound activity birds flying

Dinosaur sounds  

  • You will need:
    • A plastic cup 
    • A piece of string 
    • Something to poke a hole in your cup (with grownup’s help) 
    • Water 
  • What to do: 
  • Poke a hole in the bottom of the cup right in the center using an embroidery needle or a thumbtack.  
  • Thread the string through the bottom of the cup and tie a knot on the end inside the cup.  
  • Pull the string taught.  
  • Wet your thumb and forefinger with some water.  
  • Run your thumb and forefinger along the string. You may need to do this a few times before you get a sound. 
science of sound activity dinosaur

What next? 

  • Mute your TV when next time you watch a movie – see if you can replicate any for your next science of sound activity! 
  • Try another special effect!
    What if we told you that you could freeze time with just a balloon, tape, and some water? Try demonstrating laminar flow at home!

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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!

Kitchen Chemistry for Kids: Get Hands-On, Then Get Your Snack On

Learning has never been sweeter with this kitchen chemistry for kids of all ages!

Everything we interact within our day-to-day lives is made out of molecules. There are countless different kinds of molecules, each made out of atoms of different elements.

This kitchen chemistry for kids will help build an understanding of atoms and molecules as we create our own atomic marshmallow models!

Materials you will need:

  • Colored marshmallows
    *If you don’t have marshmallows, you can use clay, playdough, etc...
  • Toothpicks 
Materials for Kitchen Chemistry for Kids

Molecules:

Hydrogen (H2):

  • Some molecules are homonuclear, which means they are made up of just two atoms of the same element. Let’s make a homonuclear hydrogen molecule.
  • To make a hydrogen molecule, grab 2 marshmallows of the same color. Then connect them with toothpicks, as shown in the picture.
Kitchen Chemistry for Kids- hydrogen molecule

Water (H2O – Dihydrogen Monoxide):

  • The most important molecule for life on Earth is H2O, or water. It is made of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom.
  • To make a water molecule, grab 2 marshmallows of one color and 1 of another. Then connect them with toothpicks, as shown in the picture. They should make a V shape.
Kitchen Chemistry for Kids- water molecule

Salt (NaCl – Sodium Chloride):

  • Salt molecules form cube-shaped crystals.
  • To make a salt molecule, you will need 8 marshmallows total, 4 of one color, and 4 of another. Connect them together in a cube, as shown in the picture
Kitchen Chemistry for Kids- salt molecule

Expand on this activity!

What other molecules can you make? Can you make methane? What about hydrogen peroxide? What’s the biggest molecule you can make? Check out MolView to see the digital models of all kinds of substances that you can base your marshmallow models off of!

Did you make your own marshmallow atomic models? We’d love to see how they turned out! Snap a photo of your models and submit it to our Science Showcase or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels.

The Science:

  • Real molecules aren’t held together by toothpicks. Instead, the atoms are bound together by positive and negative charges.
  • Water molecules are held together by covalent bonds, meaning they share negatively-charged particles called electrons.
  • Salt is a different kind of molecule, one that is made of ions. This happens when an atom gains or loses an electron. Sodium (Na) loves to get rid of electrons, so it is usually positive. Chloride (Cl) loves to steal electrons, so it is usually negative.
  • Molecules like this do not share electrons like water molecules do with covalent bonds. Instead, one atom gives an electron to the other, resulting in two charged atoms (ions). Just like with magnets, opposites attract. So, the positive sodium atoms and the negative chloride atoms will group together in the pattern that you’ve made. We call this an ionic bond.

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DIY Blacklight: Use This Hack to Turn Any Smartphone Into a Blacklight

Share and decode secret messages with this DIY Blacklight hack!

Have you ever wanted to make something glow under a blacklight? Let us teach you one of our favorite hacks to make glowing highlighter messages and drawings at home with this DIY blacklight tutorial!

Recommended Age: 5+. Younger scientists will enjoy making and revealing their messages and drawings, but may need help putting together the DIY blacklight hack.

Materials you will need:

  • A phone with a camera light
  • Clear tape
  • A blue marker (a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, works best)
  • A purple marker (a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, works best)
  • White paper
  • A fluorescent highlighter (yellow works best)
Materials for DIY Blacklight

Directions:

STEP 1:

Rip off a small piece of tape (fold some of it over to make a tab for easy clean up later) and place the piece of tape over the camera light on the phone. Make sure you place the tape over the LIGHT, not the camera!

DIY Blacklight step 1

STEP 2:

With the blue marker, color the portion of tape over the light. You don’t need to color in the entire piece of tape; you just want to make sure the area directly over the light is colored.

DIY Blacklight step 2

STEP 3:

Place another piece of tape over the first. Color the area over the light blue again.

DIY Blacklight step 3

STEP 4:

Place one more piece of tape on top of the others. This time, color the area over the light purple.

DIY Blacklight step 5

STEP 5:

Draw a picture or message on white paper with your highlighter.

DIY Blacklight step 6

STEP 6:

Grap your picture and turn off the lights or go somewhere dark. Then turn on the camera light on your phone and shine the light onto your picture.

DIY Blacklight end result

The Science Behind This Blacklight Hack:

Many highlighters fluoresce, or absorb then emit light, which makes them glow in the dark. But why?

  • Light is a spectrum. What we can see is called visible light. It ranges from red light to purple light. However, there are other types of light, including infrared and ultraviolet light (or UV) light. UV light is what a blacklight emits.
  • When you colored the tape with blue and purple markers, you created a filter that blocked out all colors of visible light except blue and purple. With the rest of the visible light spectrum blocked out, the resulting blue and purple light were enough to make the highlighter fluoresce because the wavelengths of purple and blue light are close enough to the UV spectrum, even though there is minimal UV light actually present.
  • Highlighters fluoresce under a normal blacklight because the ink absorbs ultraviolet light, which isn’t visible to the human eye, and remits it as visible light.
science of DIY blacklight

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Instructions for Cardboard Animals: Pangolin Project

Follow the instructions for cardboard animals and make a new friend. Literally! 

Pangolins are strange little creatures. They are very hard to keep in captivity, so you probably have never seen one in a zoo. So what are these animals, and why are they important? As you follow along with the instructions for cardboard animals, learn a little more about our pangolin pals!

Pangolins are mammals that are completely covered in scales. They are solitary animals and primarily nocturnal. Pangolins eat ants and termites specific to their region of the world. They have no teeth, so they catch bugs with their sticky tongue. They curl up into a ball when under attack; their scales protect them against most predators. There are eight species of pangolin across Africa and Asia, and all of them range from vulnerable to critically endangered. The primary threat to pangolins is illegal wildlife trade for their meat and their scales. This severely harms the pangolin population, and sometimes harms humans – removing scales can subject people to disease.

Pangolins are extremely important to their ecosystems! They eat most of the time they’re awake, so they control the insect population in a huge way. They also dig up soil while they look for food or when they burrow, which aerates it and creates a healthier surface for plants to grow in. When their burrows are abandoned, other animals move in and are protected.

Materials you will need:

  • A soda box (or a few cereal or granola bar boxes)
  • A hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Optional: a strip of paper for the pangolin’s tongue
Materials for making cardboard pangolin

Instructions for Cardboard Animals: Pangolin

Step 1: Cut out a body shape (like a rounded x) and strips for the neck and tail – make sure it’s wide enough to hold some scales!

Step2: Make a small cone for the head. You can do this by cutting a strip of the box and rolling it tightly from one corner, then cutting off the excess. Glue the cone together.

Step 3: Glue the head cone to the neck and onto the body. DON’T glue the tail on yet.

 

Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin steps 1 - 3

Step 4: Now for the tough part – let’s cut some scales! Scales are teardrop shaped, but they don’t all need to be exactly the same. Variety looks natural.  

  • 20 small scales, about the size of your thumbnail 
  • 35 medium scales, about the size of your thumbprint 
  • 40 large scales, about the size of a guitar pick 
Make scales- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin step 4

Step 5: Start gluing scales to your pangolin's head, legs, neck, and tail.

  • Glue a small scale to each leg with the point facing down.  
  • Glue 7 small scales to the head, layering on top as you move backwards on the pangolin’s body.  
  • Glue 7 small scales to one end of the tail, layering on top as you move forwards on the pangolin’s body.
glue scales- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin step 5

Step 6: Now, let’s create some body structure. Create a trapezoid shape where the smaller end is about the size of the back of the pangolin’s head with the scales on.  

Step 7: Create a slightly larger trapezoid than the first one. Then, create one more, larger than the middle one.  

Give each trapezoid shape some curve, like an arch. 

create body structure for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin steps 6-7

Step 8: Glue some scales onto the smallest trapezoid, starting with layers of small scales. You can use all the rest of your small scales and move onto medium if you have room. Don’t over layer – just fill in spots where you can see the trapezoid underneath.  

Step 9: Glue the smallest trapezoid to the body shape. 

add scales to body structure for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 10: Repeat steps 6-7 with medium and large trapezoids. 

  • Glue some scales onto the medium trapezoid, a row or two of medium and then large.  
  • Glue the medium trapezoid so it’s layered slightly underneath the smallest trapezoid.  
  • Glue some scales onto the largest trapezoid. 
  • Glue the largest trapezoid so it’s layered slightly underneath the medium trapezoid.  

    *If you need it, you can fold up a piece of cardboard to slip between the body shape and the trapezoid for support.  
add body structure to body for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 11: Add the finishing touches

  • Glue the tail onto the largest trapezoid.  
  • Fill in the tail with medium or large scales.  
  • Fill in the legs with medium scales with the point facing downwards. 

    *Optional: curl up a thin strip of paper and glue it in the mouth to represent the tongue.  
add body structure to body for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 12: Name your pangolin!

How can you help pangolins? The biggest challenge is education – most people don’t know that pangolins exist! Tell your friends about these cute little creatures. You can also support wildlife sanctuaries and advocacy groups.

results of instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Expand on this activity

  • Learn more about pangolins!
    • Why do we know so little about pangolins? Because of their natural behaviors and specific diet, only a few sanctuaries exist where their natural behaviors can be observed or they can be studied up close.
    • Check out The Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary in Liberia, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife Rescue, and even some zoos in the United States are working hard to get the pangolin population back up.

  • Have you been online shopping? Check out more ways to get creative with cardboard!

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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!

Dr. Phillips Charities Presents 2020 Leadership Award to OSC

The Board of Directors of Dr. Phillips Charities has awarded the 2020 Dr. Phillips Leadership Award to Orlando Science Center.

In the innovative and philanthropic tradition of their founders, Dr. P. Phillips, his wife Della and their son Howard, the Dr. Phillips Leadership Award, which includes a donation of $250,000, honors nonprofit organizations that demonstrate community leadership, financial stewardship, and sustainable and impactful programs that change lives.

“We are proud to bestow the 2020 Dr. Phillips Leadership Award on JoAnn Newman and the Board of Directors of the Orlando Science Center,” said Kenneth Robinson, President of Dr. Phillips Charities. “They and their team have developed engaging, sustainable science programs and opportunities that help build essential skills and inspire current and future generations to pursue important STEM careers.”

The Dr. Phillips name has been a major economic and philanthropic presence in the Central Florida community since the turn of the 20th century. Dr. Phillips Charities honors the legacy of the Phillips family and its support of organizations that live up to their motto “to help others help themselves” by donating millions of dollars to more than 100 local charities.

Beyond its community impact, the award acknowledges Orlando Science Center and its leadership for their dedication to quality educational experiences by consistently premiering new exhibit areas, expanding resources and STEM learning opportunities, and fostering an environment that simulates creativity and innovation. Recipients receive the award and a $250,000 donation to their organization.

“From our first gift in 1958 to the Dr. Phillips CineDome and our recent support of the Orange Grove in KidsTown, Dr. Phillips Charities has been a longtime partner with Orlando Science Center,” said James Ferber, Chair of the Board for Dr. Phillips Charities. “Having given more than $4 Million in support of their mission and programs, we have seen their commitment to igniting innovation, and to enhancing lives in our community.”

Since 1955, Orlando Science Center has brought together diverse audiences of all ages to discover and explore science learning through immersive experiences. We are dedicated to sharing opportunities that show the relevance of science to people’s lives and create a better understanding of the world around them.

“For 65 years, Orlando Science Center has helped build important skills for the leaders and problem solvers of tomorrow. Science is the key to addressing some of our country’s greatest challenges, whether it’s returning Americans to space or combatting a global pandemic,” Newman said. “Partners like Dr. Phillips Charities are essential to help us as we advance our mission and inspire future generations. Together, we can change the world."