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Saturday Science: Build a Bird's Nest

Build a Bird's Nest Saturday ScienceThis week's Saturday Science is based on an activity by the Bake at 350 blog, with some added family learning inspiration from our science educator, Becky Wolfe. For more on bird nests, read Becky's latest blog about nests found in our collection.

To get into the springtime spirit, try building your own (yummy!) nest. 

Materials

  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups dry chow mein noodles
  • small candies, jelly beans, or m&m's.

Process

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Over low heat, melt the marshmallows and butter in a large saucepan.
  3. Once melted, stir in the vanilla, then the chow mein noodles.
  4. Coat your hands liberally with shortening, (butter doesn't work as well) and have some nearby for re-coating.
  5. Grab a clump of noodles smaller than a tennis ball and larger than a golf ball. Form into a ball while pressed your thumbs into the middle, forming a nest.
  6. Allow the nests to cool, then fill with with the candy of your choice.
     

Extend the Family Learning

Observing a bird nest can be a fascinating way to learn more about birds, even more fun if you are able to watch the birds hatch! Around your yard, look carefully where branches meet or under large overhangs. You might even consider a bluebird box or wren house for your hard to encourage birds to make a home. 

While observing your bird nest, it’s best to leave the nest where it was built and observe from a distance. As good stewards of our environment, it’s important to make sure that migratory birds have places to build a nest. Last year, a mallard duck made a nest in our family’s yard. My daughter and I watched carefully, making sure we didn’t startle the duck or get too close. We were so excited when the eggs hatched, and it was such a great moment for me to teach my little one about nature!

How might you build a nest if you were a bird? Where would you want to build it? High in the tree or under branches? Would it be big, or a small, cozy kind of nest?  What materials would you use from your yard? 

Keep your eyes open this summer, maybe you will have a front row seat to a birds nest! 

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Ice Excavation

Saturday Science Ice Excavation Did you notice road crews salting your streets this winter? They’re doing this to melt the ice-covered roads, making it easier and safer for drivers. Budding archaeologists wanting to excavate an object frozen inside of an ice cube should use salt just like these road crews. During this week’s Saturday Science, courtesy of Lemon Lime Adventures, find out if you can uncover the hidden treasure!

 

Materials:

  • A small object to be your piece of hidden treasure

  • Ice cube tray or other freezer-safe container (should be large enough for your treasure)

  • Water

  • Salt

  • Toothpicks and/or chopsticks

Process:

  1. Place your object in one of the hollows of an ice cube tray.

  2. Fill the ice cube tray with water and freeze overnight.

  3. Take your ice cube out of the tray.

  4. Use salt, water, toothpicks and/or chopsticks to excavate your hidden treasure!

Summary:

Did the salt and water make excavating your hidden treasure easier?

 

Your answer should be yes! When salt dissolves into water, it lowers the freezing point of ice. If you watch closely, you should see the ice around a grain of salt melt first before spreading out and melting the rest, revealing your treasure!

 

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

 

Saturday Science: Colorful Rainstorm

Saturday Science Colorful Rainstorm They say April showers bring May flowers – let’s see what a colorful rainstorm could bring! In this week’s Saturday Science, courtesy of Juggling with Kids, bring a spring shower indoors.

 

Materials:

  • Drinking glass or vase

  • Food coloring

  • Water

  • Shaving cream

Process:

  1. Fill drinking glass or vase with water.

  2. Create clouds by covering the top of the water with shaving cream.

  3. Squirt food coloring on the shaving cream, concentrating each color in just a couple areas.

  4. Look at the water in your vase. It’s starting to rain!

Summary:

Why does it rain? When the water droplets and water crystals that make up clouds become heavy enough, gravity pulls them down from the sky.

 

This is similar to what happened in your colorful rainstorm. The shaving cream floats on top of the water because it’s made up of so much air that it is less dense. It also happens to be hydrophobic, which means that it repels water. Because food coloring is more dense than the shaving cream, the drops of food coloring easily fall through into the water, like rain drops falling from clouds.

 

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

 

Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Post-Dinosphere Years

Top 10 Dinosaur Events Post-DinosphereHas this happened to you? You think you know a lot about dinosaurs, and then you're surprised to learn that your favorite didn't even exist! Paleontologists are making new discoveries all the time, keeping us dinosaur fans on our toes. Curious if there's big news that you missed? To celebrate Dinosphere's 10th birthday, we've compiled the top 10 dinosaur events AFTER to Dinosphere's grand opening.

Don't miss the first post in this series, the Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Pre-Dinosphere Years.

By Paleontologist and Natural Science Curator Dallas Evans.

1. 2005 — Scientist isolates soft tissue from a 68 million year old dinosaur.
Dr. Mary Schweitzer became one of the first scientists to use the tools of modern cell biology to investigate dinosaurs. Upon examining the thighbone of a T. rex she discovered remnants of soft tissues hidden away within the interior of the bone.

2. 2005 — Evidence is unearthed that early mammals ate dinosaurs.
Excavations in China provide the first direct evidence that early mammals preyed upon dinosaurs. Inside the skeleton of the early mammal Repenomamus, researchers find the preserved remains of a young Psittacosaurus!

3. 2006 — Dracorex is introduced to the world.
Unearthed in the badlands of South Dakota, this new species of dinosaur is given the name Dracorex hogwartsia, or “Dragon king of Hogwarts” thus delighting generations of both dinosaur and Harry Potter fans.

4. 2007 — Gigantoraptor is discovered.
Chinese paleontologist Dr. Xing Xu announces the discovery of Gigantoraptor erlianensis, a 3000 pound, toothless raptor that stalked the Late Cretaceous of Inner Mongolia.

5. 2009 — First fossil pigments give clues to dinosaur colors.
Researchers find fossilized melanosomes, the remains of pigments, in the feathers and protofeathers of dinosaurs and birds from China. For the first time we're given the possibility of finding out what color some dinosaurs may have been!

6. 2009 — Children get on board the Dinosaur Train.
The Jim Henson Company introduces an animated series for preschool children featuring a young T. rex named Buddy. Perhaps the best thing about this series is the appearance of well know paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson, who encourages children to learn natural history, to be thrilled by scientific exploration and to investigate paleontology.

7. 2012 — The first feathered dinosaur specimen is found in North America.
The relationship between dinosaurs and birds was proposed in the late 1800s by anatomist Thomas Huxley. In the 1990s, well preserved fossil specimens of feathered dinosaurs were being excavated in China. However in 2012 Canadian researchers discovered the first evidence of a feathered dinosaur from North America—an ostrich-like dinosaur called Ornithomimus. These dinosaurs would have been just too large to fly, so the feathers may have served another purpose, like attracting a mate or protecting eggs during hatching.

8. 2013 — Edmontosaurus gets a new "do."
One of the most familiar of duck-billed dinosaurs may have looked much differently than we've always assumed. Researchers noticed fossil traces of a crest on top of the skull of an Edmontosaurus. Not the boney structure of the skull, but evidence of preserved soft tissue. This was a dinosaur with a cock’s comb—that's right, like a rooster!

9. 2013 — T. rex is a known predator.
Was T. rex a scavenger or predator? That question has been asked for many years until it was definitively answered. Researchers discovered the vertebra of an injured duckbill dinosaur. The backbone had a broken T. rex tooth embedded in it. Not only was the dinosaur bitten by a T. rex, but there were signs that the wound was healing. So the duck-billed dinosaur survived the attack!

10. 2014 — Excavations at Ruth Mason Quarry.
Of course we have to brag a little bit,…   this year marks a dozen years of excavating at the Ruth Mason Quarry near Faith, South Dakota. In that time we've excavated thousands of Edmontosaurus bones and introduce hundreds of families to the thrill of paleontology.

Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Pre-Dinosphere Years

Has this happened to you? You think you know a lot about dinosaurs, and then you're surprised to learn that your favorite didn't even exist! Paleontologists are making new discoveries all the time, keeping us dinosaur fans on our toes. Curious if there's big news that you missed? To celebrate Dinosphere's 10th birthday, we've compiled the top 10 dinosaur events prior to Dinosphere's grand opening.

Don't miss the second post in this series, the Top 10 Dinosaur Events of the Post-Dinosphere Years. 

By Dinosphere Coordinator Mookie Harris and Natural Science Curator Dallas Evans.

  1. 1822 — Gideon Mantell discovers the first dinosaur fossil.
    Mantell discovered fossil teeth of an animal that would later be named Iguanodon. He didn't know it at the time, but he had just found the first dinosaur. Nineteen years later, Sir Richard Owen creates the word “dinosaur” to define the group of extinct animals that includes Iguanodon, Hylaeosaurus and Megalosaurus.  That list of three species will grow to over 700 discovered species by the year 2014.

  2. 1858 — The first dinosaur skeleton is found in the United States.
    Hadrosaurus was excavated and described by Joseph Leidy in Haddonfield, New Jersey, just 15 minutes east of Philadelphia. It's called Hadrosaurs foulki. It was discovered and excavated by William Parker Foulke. Dr. Joseph Leidy, a professor of anatomy at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences described and displayed the specimen.
     
  3. 1902 — Barnum Brown finds the first T.rex.
    The first partial skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex was found in Eastern Wyoming by Barnum Brown. It wasn't for another 60 to 70 years, though, before T. rex becomes the most well-known dinosaur. At this time, when someone says “dinosaur,” most people think of Brontosaurus.
     
  4. 1903For the second time, Brontosaurus ceases to exist. 
    Brontosaurus"—such a cool name. It doesn’t get more dramatic and descriptive than “thunder lizard. Elmer Riggs, a fantastic vertebrate paleontologist from The Field Museum, discovered that Apatosaurus is simply a young form of the adult Brontosaurus. But Apatosaurus was named first, so that name had priority. This will confuse people for years to come.  
     
  5. 1933 — Roy Chapman Andrews discovers the first dinosaur eggs. 
    American adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews (the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones) leads the expedition that discovers the first known dinosaur eggs while exploring in Mongolia. Prior to this, it was not known whether dinosaurs laid eggs or gave birth to live young.
     
  6. 1960 — The Flintstones debuts.
    The Flintstones debuts on ABC television, featuring cave people, ice age mammals and dinosaurs all living together. This will confuse people for decades to come.
     
  7. 1980 — The asteroid extinction theory is proposed.
    The Alvarez Hypothesis is proposed, stating that an asteroid struck the Earth 66 million years ago, leading to the demise of the dinosaurs. The same year, Atari releases the arcade video game Asteroids, leading to the rise of video gaming and the eventual demise of human productivity.
     
  8. 1986 — Warm-blooded dinosaur theory is widely accepted.
    Robert T. Bakker’s The Dinosaur Heresies is published, exposing the general public to John Ostrom’s theories on dinosaurs being warm-blooded. This revolutionizes the way they are viewed in pop culture.
     
  9. 1990 — Michael Crichton publishes Jurassic Park.
    Michael Crichton publishes the book Jurassic Park, reminding adults around the world that dinosaurs are still cool, even if you’re not five years old. Steven Spielberg turns it into an awesome movie in 1993 and the mainstream public goes nuts for Velociraptor, so much so that in 1995 the NBA’s Toronto Raptors become the first pro sports team named for a dinosaur. (Although the team’s owner is considering a name change. But that’s appropriate for a fossil isn’t it? Just ask the Brontosaurus.)
     
  10. 2000 — Leonardo the mummified dinosaur is discovered.
    Leonardo the mummified dinosaur is discovered near Malta, Montana. This fully articulated and mummified skeleton of a young Brachylophosaurus includes fossilized skin, tendons, musculature and stomach contents.

Saturday Science: Cretaceous Treat

Saturday Science Cretaceous Treat There is nothing to be afraid of when you are biting and chewing on a T. rex tooth – as long as it's not the other way around! This week, discover the impressive size of a T. rex tooth by creating your own edible, delicious dino tooth!  

 

Materials:

  • Bananas

  • Craft sticks

  • White chocolate

  • Dark chocolate

  • Wax paper            

 

Process: .    

  1. Peel the bananas and cut each one in half across the diameter.    

  2. Insert a craft stick in the cut end of each banana half.

  3. Place on wax paper and freeze overnight.

  4. Melt white and dark chocolate. (Follow the melting instructions on the packaging of the chocolate. Have an adult help you!)  

  5. Carefully dip the pointed end of the banana in the white chocolate first, covering the length of the piece.

  6. Allow the chocolate to cool. (While you wait, we recommend counting the Cretaceous Period by fives. For example: 5 Cretaceous, 10 Cretaceous, 15 Cretaceous – all the way to 65 Cretaceous million years!)

  7. When the white chocolate is cool, dip the pointed end of the banana into the dark chocolate almost all the way back to the cut end to make it look like the strong enamel part of a T. rex tooth.

  8. Use a fork to sculpt serrations on the backside of the tooth.

  9. Let the chocolate cool again.

  10. Enjoy your Cretaceous treat!

            

Summary:

You just created a treat in the size and shape of a T. rex tooth! Do you think T. rex used its 25-centimeter banana-shaped teeth to crush bones or tear flesh? While scientists continue to study and debate what T. rex ate and how he used his teeth, let’s snack on our edible T. rex teeth!

 

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

 

Saturday Science: Mini Dino Dig

Dino Dig Game Saturday Science Grab your chisel and brushes. Bring your curiosity and your brain. It’s time to go on a dino dig – a mini dino dig, that is! For this week’s Saturday Science, we’re bringing the excitement of a real dinosaur dig site to your home. Dig for dinos, map their bones and discover what real paleontologists find when they're searching for fossils!  

 

Materials:

  • Rice

  • Fake dinosaur bones or objects to bury

  • Plastic containers or boxes (one for each little paleontologist)

  • Tweezers

  • Spoons

  • Grid paper

  • Pencils

  • Masking tape

 

Process:

  1. Set up the dig site!

    1. Arrange your plastic containers side by side so that they represent the grid of a dinosaur dig site.

    2. Label each container.

    3. Place one or two fake dinosaur bones inside each plastic container.

    4. Fill each container with rice.

    5. On an empty wall or the floor, use masking tape to recreate your dig site. Make sure to label each section so that your dig site matches the plastic containers. Each section should be the size of the grid paper.

  2. Start digging!

    1. Give each little paleontologist his or her own container and explain that each container is a section of the grid on the wall or floor.

    2. Have your paleontologists dig for the dinosaur bones with their tools. They should use the spoon first, adding each spoonful of rice to a separate container that’s out of the way. Once they hit bone, have them switch to the tweezers and finish uncovering the dinosaur bone.  

  3. Map the bones!

    1. Paleontologists never remove a bone from a dig site before it’s been mapped. Now it’s your kiddos’ turn! Once they uncover a bone, have them draw a picture of it on a piece of grid paper.

    2. When they’re finished drawing, place the grid paper in the corresponding section of the dig site on the wall or floor.  

  4. What was found?

    1. When every little paleontologist is finished with their digs, have each kid describe what was discovered in the dig pit.

    2. Based on where the bones were found and their size, which bones might be from the same dinosaur?

 

Summary:

You just simulated a real dinosaur dig!

 

Just like your dig site, paleontologists always divide their site into a grid so that the scientists and researchers can focus on one area. It’s a tedious process to dig out dinosaur bones. Your spoon represented a clam shucker, which is used first to remove the matrix around the bones. As soon as a bone is found, diggers switch to X-Acto knives and brushes, or in our case, tweezers. This is to protect bones and make sure nothing gets damaged.

 

Did you find a complete dinosaur? If not, don’t worry! Not only do paleontologists rarely find a complete dinosaur in a dinosaur dig, but they also find bones from one dig that are from different dinosaurs. Whether you found a complete dinosaur or bones from all types of dinosaurs, you still found dinosaur bones! How cool is that?!  

 
Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Shamrock Science

The luck of the Irish is upon us! Monday is Saint Patrick’s Day, but we’re celebrating with some shamrock science today. This week’s Saturday Science, courtesy of Momma's Fun World, will have you in a green fizzy frenzy!

 

Materials:

  • 3 cups of baking soda

  • 1/2 cup hair conditioner (white will work best for coloring the mixture green)

  • 1 package of green Kool-Aid

  • Silicone shamrock mold pan (available at Amazon and other grocery stores/retailers)

  • Pipettes (or another type of dropper)

  • Mixing bowl

  • Baking tray or pan

 

Process:

  1. Mix the baking soda and hair conditioner together in a bowl.

  2. Add green Kool-Aid and stir until mixture is green.

  3. Pour mixture into silicone shamrock mold pan.

  4. Put mold pan in freezer and let freeze (overnight is best).  

  5. Once molds are frozen, remove each mold from pan and place on a baking tray or pan.

  6. Use pipettes to squeeze vinegar onto each shamrock mold.

  7. Watch the fizzing begin!

 

Results:

When you add drops of vinegar to your shamrock mold, what happens? It begins to fizz, which appears to be one chemical reaction. However, there are actually two reactions happening in quick succession.

 

First, the acetic acid (what makes vinegar taste sour) from the drops of vinegar reacts with sodium bicarbonate (a compound that's in baking soda) from your shamrock to form carbonic acid.

 

Because the carbonic acid is unstable, it then immediately falls apart into carbon dioxide and water. The bubbles you see from the reaction come from the carbon dioxide escaping the water. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so it flows almost like water when it overflows a container.

 

After the fizzing is finished, a dilute solution of sodium acetate in water and your melted-looking shamrock are left behind.

 

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Dino Parfait

In many parts of the country, buried deep beneath the Earth’s surface, there are dinosaur fossils just waiting to be discovered! Do you know how deep paleontologists must dig to make a dino-mite discovery? In this week’s Saturday Science, we’ll show you how to create a delicious dino parfait to learn how dinosaurs became fossils and how paleontologists determine their age. The deeper you dig, the older the fossils. So let’s create a dino parfait and start diggin’!  

 

Materials

  • Small clear plastics cups

  • Spoons

  • Gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animal)  

  • Vanilla wafer cookie  

  • Fruit slices  

  • Raisins and/or M&Ms

  • Shredded coconut

  • Cookie decorating sprinkles

  • Whipped cream  

  • Grape jelly

  • Green, yellow and red food coloring

  • Paper and colored pencils

 

Process

  1. Split the whipped cream between two clear plastic cups. Use the food coloring to dye one cup of whipped cream yellow so that it represents sandy soil and the other red so that it represents clay.

  2. Use the food coloring to dye your shredded coconut green.

  3. Select a “fossil” from your gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animals). You may want to use scissors to cut apart the gummy candy or break up the cookies to show that most fossils do not survive intact.

  4. Build your dino parfait by adding a spoonful or two of the following ingredients into your plastic cup:

    1. Vanilla wafer cookie  – also known as hardened sediment

    2. A gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animal)  – also known as your buried fossil

    3. Fruit slices – also known as sediment layers

    4. Raisins and/or M&Ms – also known as rocks

    5. Grape jelly – also known as underground water

    6. Red whipped cream – also known as clay

    7. Yellow whipped cream – also known as sandy soil  

    8. Cookie decorating sprinkles – also known as surface dirt

    9. Green shredded coconut – also known as grass

 

Results

Use your paper and colored pencils to draw a picture of your cup and its layers. Each tasty treat represents a layer of what’s beneath our toes when we walk outdoors.

 

Can you tell which layer is the oldest? The deeper layers are the older layers of Earth’s surface, while the top layers are the more recent ones.

 

Can you see which layer your fossil is buried in? When dinosaurs became extinct some 65.5 million years ago, many of their bodies were fossilized between layers of mud and sand that eventually became sedimentary rock. Over time, more layers of rock, clay, water and soil formed on top of the fossilized dinosaurs.

 

Is your fossil old or young? As you can see, paleontologists must dig very, very deep to find dinosaur fossils. When they do  dig deep enough to make a dino-mite discovery, it’s the sediment and rocks surrounding the bones that help these scientists determine the age of the dinosaur fossils.

Now all hungry paleontologists should enjoy their very own dino parfait!   

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest. 

Bringing a Mummified Dinosaur to Life

Leonardo rendering BerglundMichael Berglund is the artist behind the beautiful illustrations of Leonardo the mummified dinosaur, helping to bring Leonardo to life in his new home in Dinosphere. Michael has been a commercial special effects artist, designer, and sculptor for over 27 years. He's participated in dinosaur digs as a volunteer and has contributed art to museums for the past 15 years. His mother claims he could say "Tyrannosaurus rex" before he could say "mommy."

I first met Leonardo at a paleontology conference way back in 2005. As an artist interested in the finer points of muscles and skin on dinosaurs, I was astonished at what I saw when the pictures came up on the screen! It looked like he had just fallen over, well, not yesterday—but you get what I mean. You could really see the living creature in the rock!

Afterwards I approached the people who gave the presentation and struck up a conversation. They looked at my work, and so began my long association with Leonardo. I have done pictures and graphic design for the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, the Houston Museum where Leonardo was briefly displayed, and now, here, for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It’s almost as though he’s my "dino-buddy" at this point, we’ve been through so much together.

The renderings that I've done for the Children’s Museum represent the collected wisdom of scientists and artists through the years, thinking about Brachylophosaurs, and Leonardo in general. I've had the great fortune to be able to learn from, and have my work improved by, association with Dr. Robert Bakker, Dave Trexler, and Peter Larson, to name a few experts in the paleontological world. 

The image I created is a 3D model—a computer graphics rendering. I started by using measurements and skeletal diagrams to get the proportions and overall shapes. Creating a "low polygon, low detail" model is almost like building a sculpting armature (or frame), to refine the overall forms and shapes. Scientists know about dinosaur musculature by studying the fossils—which bear traces of muscle and tendon attachments—and by studying living creatures today. With Leonardo, there's even more information, in the form of preserved muscle and tendon structure! 

Leonardo’s skin is also preserved in large sections, and that's really exciting to me as an artist. While imagination is key to any art, it’s a real thrill to be able to create something with the evidence backing it up, and to be able to stand back, look at it, and think, "Wow, this is probably what he really looked like." All of that detail was added in a 3D sculpting program.

The most speculative thing about the picture is the coloration. We may never know what dinosaurs were colored like, but we can make educated guesses based upon living animals and habitats. Leonardo’s patterned, brownish color is reasonable given the environment he lived in. The coloration was done in a paint program and wrapped around the digital sculpture.

It’s been great fun helping to bring Leonardo back to life, and to contribute to the wonder and discovery of recreating our Earth’s prehistoric past.

Leonardo wireframe Berglund

Leonardo wireframe color Berglund

Images: Michael Berglund, 2013

 

Saturday Science: Green Eggs (and Ham!)

Green Eggs and Ham Saturday ScienceDo you like green eggs and ham? If you do not like them (or so you say), try this Saturday Science experiment and you may! This little pH trick from Home Science Tools will help you make green eggs just like in the book—Have an adult help you!

Materials

  • Frying pan and stove
  • Egg
  • Red cabbage (it's called red, but it looks purple!)

Process

  1. Mix cabbage juice with egg whites to turn them green.
  2. Chop a 1/2 cup of cabbage, cover it with boiling water, and let it sit for 10 minutes until the water is dark purple. Strain out the cabbage.
  3. Crack an egg and separate the egg white from the yolk by carefully pouring the egg from one half of the shell to the other over a bowl. (Or you can pour the egg into a slotted spoon over a bowl instead.) Set the yolk aside.
  4. Mix a little cabbage juice in with the egg white. What happens?
  5. Grease the pan and let it heat up a little, then pour the egg white in.
  6. Set the yolk in the middle of the egg white and finish cooking!

Results

Red cabbage contains pigments called anthocyanins, which change colors when they come in contact with acids (low pH) or bases (high pH), making them a natural pH indicator. When the cabbage juice comes in contact with an acid (like vinegar) it will turn red, but when it is mixed with a base it will turn bluish-green. What does this project tell us about egg whites, then? Egg whites are basic (also called alkaline) and so they turn the red cabbage juice green.

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Frozen Bubble

frozen bubble saturday science

After this winter, it's safe to say we all know what frozen looks like. But what about a frozen bubble? Find out in this week's Saturday Science experiment!

Materials

  • Liquid Soap
  • Water
  • Large bucket or dish
  • Straw
  • Plate
  • Freezer

Process

  1. Prepare your "bubble juice." Mix up water and baby shampoo, or any liquid soap, in a large bucket or dish.
    TIP: To make soapy water that will produce nice, solid bubbles, combine: 125 ml liquid dish soap, 125 ml corn syrup, 750 ml hot water. Mix and let cool.
  2. Dip your straw in the "bubble juice." Get your straw, or your choice of "bubble wand," and dip it in the "bubble juice." There should be a film of the solution at the end of the straw. Carefully move the straw near your plate.
  3. Blow your bubble. Blow a bubble of any size, just make sure it can fit on the plate. Don't blow it directly onto the plate; blow it right over the plate.
  4. Put your bubble on a plate. Carefully place your bubble on a plate. Your bubbles may pop several times before you can finally put one onto a plate.
  5. Freeze your bubble. Put the dish very gently inside a freezer. Wait for about 30 minutes to an hour, checking on your bubble every 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Take out the bubble. When your bubble is frozen, take out the plate very gingerly, making sure it does not crack. It will last for about 10 minutes, more or less.

Results

Some bubbles will freeze instantly, while others will freeze slowly. If you are careful, you can sometimes hold a bubble in your hands without bursting it. Why are the physical properties of frozen bubbles so different? A bubble is formed by a layer of water molecules trapped between two fine layers of soap molecules. When it is very cold, and the bubble wand is waved very slowly, the water layer freezes before the bubble can burst.
 
If you make a bubble by blowing into the wand, the bubble takes more time to set. The air in the bubble has been warmed by your lungs, and when this warm air comes into contact with cold air it contracts, and the surface of the bubble sets slowly. In both cases, the layers of soap freeze, making the walls of the bubble more solid. After a few seconds or a few minutes, the air captured inside the bubble disperses to the exterior, like a balloon deflating, and the wall of ice collapses under its own weight. Look at the frozen soap wall of a bubble — it looks like a broken eggshell.
 
Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

Saturday Science: Kissing Balloons

Saturday Science: Kissing BalloonsIn this Saturday Science from Fizzics Education, we'll help you show your little valentines the science behind a balloon smooch!

Materials

  • 2 Balloons
  • 2 Even length strings
  • 1 Rod or stick
  • 2 Even stacks of books

Process

  1. Stack 2 pillars of books, and place the rod across the two stacks.
  2. Blow the balloons up, tie the balloon ends and attach 1 string to each balloon.
  3. Tie the strings to the rod, so that the balloons hang freely from the rod.
  4. Make sure the balloons are the same height.
  5. Blow between the balloons, can you blow them apart? Try using a hairdryer! Why cant you do it?

Results

The mathematician Bernoulli found that moving air has less pressure than air that is still. In your experiment a low pressure area was created between the balloons when you tried to blow them apart. The faster the air moved between the balloons, the lower the air pressure in that space.
 
The high pressure surrounding the balloons pushed the balloons together. The curved surface of the balloon also makes the air travel faster, causing even lower pressure as the air rushes around the edge of the balloon. Curved surfaces are used to create low pressure areas on plane wings and even F1 race cars! Another simple demonstration of this can be done with a funnel and ping pong balls.
 
Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

 

Saturday Science: Build a Dam

Saturday Science Build a DamCan you make a dam just like mother nature's best builders—beavers? In today's Saturday Science courtesy of PBS Kids, your family can channel their inner busy-beaver and see just how difficult building a dam can be!

Materials

  • Long, shallow, clear Tupperware container
  • Sand
  • Small rocks (like aquarium gravel)
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Bucket full of water

Process

  1. Fill the Tupperware container with sand.
  2. Dig the path of a river in the sand.
  3. Choose a spot somewhere along the river to build your dam.
  4. Use popsicle sticks and small rocks to construct a dam that will let only a little bit of water come through, but not too much. 
  5. Test your dam by pouring water from a bucket down the river path.

Results

A dam is a structure that stops a river from flowing. Keep in mind that the deeper the water, the greater the water pressure. The bottom of your dam will need to support more pressure than the top of your dam. If you built your dam in a triangular shape, then the bottom will be wider and will be able to support more pressure. How did your dam work? Did you have to make adjustments to your design after testing it?

 

If you want to learn more about beavers and other animals, join us in the Animal Secrets exhibit, open now through May 4!

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Saturday Science: Static Snake

Saturday Science: Static SnakeYou don't need to describe the concept of static to your little one—you can show them! In this week's Saturday Science courtesy of Kids Activities Blog, create a static snake and try to defy gravity.

Activities which demonstrate static electricity are always a huge hit with kids for the seemingly magic, gravity defying effects that are produced. Your family can have a blast “charming” this tissue paper snake up, up, up and off the table!
 

Materials

  • Tissue paper
  • Plastic ruler
  • Scissors
  • Something made of wool such as a pullover or carpet (to produce the electricity)
  • Snake template (download here)
  • A tin plate or tin lid (Not pictured. See note at the end of this post)

Process

  1. Download the snake template above. Print out the template.
  2. Place the tissue paper over the template and draw the design onto the tissue paper.
  3. Cut out the snake following the lines you have traced onto the tissue paper. If you like, draw on a face and some wiggly lines with a felt tip pen.
  4. Rub the plastic ruler vigorously over the wool carpet or pullover, then hover the ruler over the snake’s head.
  5. The snake will begin to rise off the table!

    Tip: It can take quite a lot of rubbing of our plastic ruler to generate enough electrical charge to lift the snake off the table. Placing the tissue paper snake on a tin plate or lid could increase the attraction of the tissue paper. Why not test both ways and discover for yourself if there's a difference?

Results

When the plastic ruler is rubbed against the wool, an electrical charge is created. The tissue paper is attracted to the charge and because the tissue paper is so light, the charge is enough to lift the snake off the table.
 
Extend the learning:
  • Try using a different type of paper. Will the thicker paper still lift up?
  • Decorate the snake with sequins or glitter. Will the extra weight affect how the experiment works?
  • Draw your own snake template. Does making the snake wider affect the results? What happens if you make the snake longer or shorter?

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Saturday Science: Growing Gummy Bears

Saturday Science Gummy BearsA gummy bear can change a lot if it's left in water for awhile. Give it a try with this Saturday Science experiment from Teach Preschool and Magdeline Lum.

Materials

  • Water
  • Small Bowl
  • Gummy Bears

Process

  1. Fill a clear plastic cup about half way with water.
  2. Select one gummy bear and drop it into the cup of water.  
  3. Ask your child to make observations about the bear in the water. They can use their eyes, but also their nose (maybe even a taste...afterward!)
  4. Ask your child what they think might happen to the bear if we let it sit in the water for a few days.
  5. Write down these observations to refer back to later.
  6. After making your observations and predictions, set your gummy bears aside for anywhere between 10 hours and 3 days.
  7. After a few days' time, ask your child to observe the gummy bears and the water again. What does it look and smell like?
  8. Give your child a new gummy bear so they could compare their bear in the water with one that hadn’t been in the water. Observe the differences and compare them to your previous notes.
  9. Answer some of these questions:
    Do your gummy bears have bubbles on them?
    Are they larger?
    Did they change the color, or smell, of the water?
    Do they float, and did they before?
    Can you see through the gummy bear?
    How do they feel? Do they bounce?

Results

If you are thinking that water has filled up the gummy bear then you are absolutely right. Water has entered into the gummy bear filling in the spaces making it seem like it grew.
 
Gummy bears begin their lives as a warm liquid solution of sugars, flavors, gelatin and water. As this solution cools and water is drawn out from the solution, they harden into their famous chewy texture. During the drying process the gelatine intertwines into a solid matrix but not all the water is removed otherwise gummy bears would be hard and not at all chewy. Gummy bears contain a small amount of water in them and for purposes of this experiment can be thought of as a solution of water.
 
The water in the glass is another source of water with very little dissolved in it. The gummy bear shaped solution of water has quite a lot dissolved in it. When different solutions of water come in contact with each other, water will want to move to balance the difference. Water from the solution with very little dissolved in it will move towards the solution with a lot of things dissolved in it. This is known as osmosis. The force that behind the movement of water is called “osmotic pressure”.
 
So when a gummy bear is place in a glass of water, it will grow.

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Saturday Science: The Reversing Arrow

Saturday Science Reversing ArrowIt's like magic...but it's science! In this Saturday Science from Play-Based Learningdiscover how you can change the direction of an arrow with only a glass of water. 

Materials

  • Glass of water
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Spoon

Process

  1. Draw an arrow on a piece of paper.
  2. Place it behind an empty glass, pointing to the right.
  3. Fill the glass with water.
  4. Experiment with other glasses to find the ideal shape for the experiment.
  5. Continue to check the arrow to see if it's pointing in the opposite direction.
  6. Try writing letters and other shapes on a piece of paper. Does it still work?

Results

The idea of this experiment is to show how the refraction of light through water changes things. It is an optical illusion, called refraction.  Light only bends when it passes from a substance of one density into a substance of a different density—in this case from air to water.

Next, trying seeing how the concave (turning inwards) surface of a spoon reflects the image upside down. This happens because, being a concave surface, the light waves hit the different parts of the spoon at different angles, so they’re all bent a little bit differently. By the time they come back to you, they’ve all bent differently in such a way that they end up making things look upside down.

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Saturday Science: Magnetic Crumbs

Saturday Science: Magnetic CrumbsIn this Saturday Science courtesy of Steve Spangler Science, use a magnet to prove that there really is iron in your breakfast cereal.

The next time you're eating a big bowl of breakfast cereal, take a closer look at the ingredients. You'll find that your cereal contains more than just wheat and corn. Look closely and you might find iron... you know, the metal. Here's an experiment to see if there really is metallic iron in your breakfast cereal.

Be safe: Keep strong magnets away from metal surfaces or electronics, and keep magnets far apart and never put them together.

Materials

  • Box of iron-fortified breakfast cereal (Total works well)
  • Measuring cup
  • Super strong magnet
  • Quart-size zipper-lock bag
  • Water
  • Dinner plate

Process

  1. Open the box of cereal and pour a small pile of flakes on the plate.
  2. Crush them into tiny pieces with your fingers. Spread out the pile so it forms a single layer of crumbs on the plate.
  3. Bring the magnet close to the layer of crumbs (but don't touch any) and see if you can get any of the pieces to move.
  4. Take your time. If you get a piece to move without touching it, that piece may contain some metallic iron.
  5. Firmly press the magnet directly onto the crumbs but don't move it. Lift it up and look underneath to see if anything is clinging to the magnet. Several little pieces may be stuck there. Is it the magnet being attracted to static electricity or just sticky cereal? It could be the iron.
  6. Throw away the small pile of cereal and clean off the magnet.
  7. Pour water into the plate and float a few flakes on the surface.
  8. Hold the magnet close to (but not touching) a flake, and see if the flake moves toward the magnet. (The movement may be very slight, so be patient.)
  9. With practice, you can pull the flakes across the water, spin them, and even link them together in a chain. Hmmm... there must be something that's responding to the magnet. Could it be metallic iron? In your cereal?

Now try cereal soup!

It's time to mix up a batch of cereal soup to further investigate the claim of iron in your breakfast cereal. 
  1. Measure 1 cup of cereal (that's equal to one serving according to the information on the side of the cereal box) into a quart-size zipper-lock bag.
  2. Fill the bag one-half full with warm water.
  3. Carefully seal the bag, leaving an air pocket inside.
  4. Mix the cereal and the water by squeezing and smooshing the bag until the contents become a brown, soupy mixture.
  5. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Make sure the bag is tightly sealed and position it on a flat side in the palm of your hand.
  7. Place the super-strong magnet on top of the bag.
  8. Put your other hand on top of the magnet and flip the whole thing over so the magnet is underneath the bag.
  9. Slowly slosh the contents of the bag in a circular motion for 15 or 20 seconds.
  10. The idea is to attract any free moving bits of metallic iron in the cereal to the magnet.
  11. Use both hands again and flip the bag and magnet over so the magnet is on top.
  12. Gently squeeze the bag to lift the magnet a little above the cereal soup.
  13. Don't move the magnet just yet. Look closely at the edges of the magnet where it's touching the bag. You should be able to see tiny black specks on the inside of the bag around the edges of the magnet. That's the iron!
  14. Keep one end of the magnets touching the bag and move it in little circles.
  15. As you do, the iron will gather into a bigger clump and be much easier to see. Few people have ever noticed iron in their food, so you can really impress your friends with this one.
  16. When you're finished, simply pour the soup down the drain and rinse the bag. 

Results

Many breakfast cereals are fortified with food-grade iron particles (metallic iron) as a mineral supplement. Total® cereal is the only major brand of cereal that claims to contain 100% of your recommended daily allowance of iron. The chemical symbol for iron is Fe. Metallic iron is digested in the stomach and eventually absorbed in the small intestine. If all of the iron from your body was extracted, you'd have enough iron to make only two small nails. 
 
Iron is found in a very important component of your blood called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the compound in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs so that it can be utilized by your body. It's the iron in hemoglobin that gives blood its red appearance.
 
A diet deficient in iron can result in fatigue, reduced resistance to diseases, and increased heart and respiratory rates. Food scientists say that a healthy adult requires about 18 mg of iron each day. So, as you can see, iron is a very important part of what you and your friends and family need to stay healthy. Eat up! Cereal for dinner!
 
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Saturday Science: The Breathing Balloon

Saturday Science: Breathing BalloonTake a deep breath. Those lungs are an essential organ not only to humans, but to all mammals. Discover how they work in this week's Saturday Science experiment, brought to you by Science Sparks
 

Materials

  • A plastic bottle
  • A straw
  • An elastic band
  • Scissors
  • 2 balloons
  • Play Doh

Process

  1. Cut and remove the bottom of your bottle.
  2. Tie a knot in one end of a balloon and snip off the fat end.
  3. Stretch this end around the bottom of your plastic bottle.
  4. Put a straw in the neck of the other balloon and secure tightly with the elastic band but not so much that you crush the straw.The air must flow through, so test it with a little blow through the straw to see if the balloon inflates.
  5. Put the straw and the balloon into the neck of the bottle and secure with the Play Doh, making a seal around the bottle. Make sure that you don’t crush straw.
  6. Your lung is finished—now for the action.
  7. Hold the bottle and pull the knot of the balloon at the bottom and watch what happens. You should find that the balloon inside the bottle inflates, and that as you let go it deflates.

Results

As the knotted balloon is pulled it creates more space inside the bottle. Air then comes down the straw and fills the balloon with some air to fill the space! When you let go of the knot the space no longer exist, so the air from the balloon is expelled and deflates.
 
This demonstrates how our lungs work. Air is taken in through the mouth and nose, passes down the windpipe and into our lungs. The diaphragm at the bottom of our chest moves down to create more space. As we breathe out the diaphragm raises again. The knotted balloon represents the diaphragm and balloon inside the container represents the lung.
 
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Saturday Science: Blubber Gloves

Saturday Science Blubber GloveHow do animals—like the museum's polar bear, Martimus—stay warm in the winter?  Try this Saturday Science experiment, brought to you by Steve Spangler Science, to find out!

The animals of the Arctic and Antarctic circles spend their lives surviving subfreezing air temperatures and frigid water. Their secret is blubber, a thick layer of body fat that comprises up to 50% of some marine mammals. Is there any way for humans to replicate this cold-weather adaptation? With the Blubber Glove experiment, you'll test a blubber substitute on a small scale and see what it's like to take a dip in cold water without turning into a human popsicle.

Materials

  • Two large zipper lock bags (your hand should be able to fit inside)
  • Shortening
  • Spoon
  • Duct tape
  • Water
  • Ice (crushed/cubes)
  • Bucket

Process

  1. Since we can't afford to send you to the polar regions, you have to recreate a typical Arctic or Antarctic circle scenario—so make an ice bath! Fill a one or two gallon bucket half full with cold water. Add a bunch (scientific measurement) of ice. This ice bath will be a great representation of the near-freezing waters of the polar regions.
  2. Since you aren't a seal, walrus, or whale, you don't have blubber. You need to find a suitable blubber substitute.
  3. Fill a zipper lock bag (make sure the bag is big enough to fit your whole hand inside) with three or four heaping spoonfuls of shortening. Seriously... get at it!
  4. Put your hand inside a second zipper lock bag of the same size and push it into the shortening-filled zipper lock bag.
  5. Spread the shortening around the zipper lock bags until the inner bag is mostly covered.
  6. Fold the top of the inner zipper lock bag over the top of the outer zipper lock bag, keeping the shortening between the two. Duct tape the fold in place so that the shortening may never escape (just like blubber, because whales can't use a treadmill).
  7. Now you have a blubber-filled glove, ready to test the frigid waters of the bucket in your kitchen. Stick your hand in the glove and dip your blubber-gloved hand into the icy water. Crazy… your hand doesn't get cold in the water!
  8. Try comparing a hand inside the Blubber Glove to a hand stuck in the water without the glove. What do you experience? It's probably a little chilly!
Try using other materials in the same fashion to find out which insulator works best.
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Cotton balls
  • Starch peanuts
  • Dirt or sand

Results

Uses for shortening: making cookies, frying chicken, melting chocolate, insulating a Blubber Glove?!?

How does a cooking ingredient double as a perfect insulator? Easy. Shortening is a fat, just like blubber, and is great for thermoregulation. That means fat keeps heat in and cold out. Fats work well as insulators because of their high density and low thermal conductivity relative to water. Despite being submerged in incredibly cold water, fats can maintain a constant temperature. Blubber, in particular, requires very little blood supply, allowing more blood to be circulated to skin surfaces that are more directly exposed to the frigid temperatures. Using the Blubber Glove, your hand isn't directly exposed to the water, so the fat takes the full brunt of the cold.

Watch museum staff try the Blubber Glove experiment in this blast-from-the-past This Week's WOW!

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