Category Archives: Science

Plastic Bracelets and Other Creations

I got the idea to make melted plastic art forms from the blog ARTASTIC! . They melted sheets of plastic like Shrinky Dinks as well as plastic cups for really neat results.  I changed it up a bit and tried it with melting plasticware.  My niece and I did this activity together. It was super easy and so much fun for both of us. We made really cool plastic bracelets and other modern-art-like plastic forms.


Here’s what you’ll need to try the project yourself:
* Clear plastic cutlery (#6 Polystyrene Plastic)
* Colored Sharpie Markers
* Toaster oven (or regular oven)
* Cooking tray or cookie sheet
* Aluminum foil
* Metal tongs

The process is fairly simple. You will first want to pre-heat your oven. We heated it up to 350. Then, cover the tray or cookie sheet with tin foil to protect the tray.
To make plastic forms, simply chose a plastic fork, spoon, or knife. Then color designs on it with the Sharpie markers. When you are satisfied with your design, set the plasticware on the foil lined tray and put it in the oven (this is obviously an adult duty). Now, watch the magic happen! These work a lot like Shrinky Dinks, they will shrink and curl up as they heat up. Keep an eye on it; it’s neat to watch and it happens quickly. When they are the size and shape you like, an adult can take them out of the oven using oven mitts. Do not touch until they have cooled and hardened. If you’d like to adjust the shape of them a little, an adult can use the metal tongs to shape it a bit immediately after it comes out of the oven and is still hot and moldable.

To make the bracelets, we used the plastic knifes. If you’d like, you can sand down the serrated edge before you start.  Just like with the plastic forms, color the knives however you’d like using the Sharpie markers.  When finished, put the knives on the foil lined sheet colored side down.  Putting the colored side down ensures that  the colored side will be on the outside of the bracelet and the colors won’t rub off on your skin.  An adult can put  the cookie sheet in the preheated oven and watch carefully.  The knives will shrink and the sides will probably start to curl up into a bracelet shape on their own (if they don’t, don’t worry, you can shape them in the next step).  When the bracelets look to be about the right size for the person who will be wearing them, the grown-up should take them out of the oven quickly using oven mitts.  Then, while they are still hot, the adult can shape the bracelets using the metal tongs.  The bracelets will probably be about the right shape already, but you will want to make sure the opening is big enough to slip a wrist through.  Also, if the edges did not curl in the oven, now is the time to curl them using the tongs.

Once they have cooled and hardened, the bracelets will be ready to wear.  Since the colored side is on the outside of the bracelet, the color should not rub off much.  However, if you’d like a little more protection to help your bracelet last longer, I suggest painting it with a layer Mod Podge and letting it dry.


** Some people are concerned about the safety of eating out of #6 plastic containers.  If you have a concern, please use discretion.  Personally, seeing as it is the same kind of plastic as Shrinky Dinks (see here), I found this project safe enough.**

Happy About Angry Birds

It’s been a number of months since I’ve blogged.  My husband and I were busy buying a house -a beautiful 120 year old Victorian style farmhouse that’s everything I’ve ever wanted (might have to start a blog about it)- and the last semester at preschool got crazy busy for its own reasons, so blogging kind of fell by the wayside for me for a while.

The preschool is closed during the summer, and I keep myself busy nannying for my niece and nephews (ages 6, 10, and 13) so you will see some of the fun activities they’ve been doing show up here on this blog as well.

Many of the preschoolers -as well as my nephew- have been obsessed with Angry Birds lately.  It’s a pretty good, simple game, too, as far as video games go.  There is a lot of physics going on with figuring out the projectiles and the speed and everything.  Plus there’s sling shots and destroying/knocking things down- of course kids love it!

So, how much more fun and educational would it be if kids could play Angry Birds in real life?  Wouldn’t it be great if they could have a favorite game and hands-on science all rolled into one?  That was our thought when we started brainstorming at preschool how we could make this happen.  We were so excited when our plans finally came to fruition.

Here’s what we did:

Our wonderful preschool director sewed little Angry Bird bean bags in three different styles and weights- red birds being the lightest, yellow birds being a  medium weight, and black bomb birds being the heaviest.

We used exercise bands for the sling shots.  We found them on sale in the Target dollar section (yes, less than a dollar each).  We tied on a little piece of cardboard to nest the birds in and wrapped the ends of the band around the legs of an upside-down chair. Voila, slingshot!

We used foam blocks to build structures and taped pictures of piggies to small stacks of Legos.

The kids spent a lot of time building structures, placing pigs, and taking turns trying to knock them down by slinging birds at them.  This was so much fun.  One of my classes in particular really enjoyed this.   One boy even asked me if we could shut off a bank of lights so they could play Angry Birds Space!


Last fall, I saw a wonderful backyard Angry Birds game from Simply Styled Home on Pinterest.  I’ve been waiting all year to make it happen.  Now, with our new house, we had the perfect opportunity since we now have our own backyard and plenty of moving boxes to build with!

I bought some balls and drew Angry Birds faces on them with Sharpie markers.  I didn’t make the fancy sling shot like the one at Simply Styled Home, but instead bought a three-person water balloon sling shot (once again) from the Target dollar section.

Yes, those are adults on lawn chairs holding the ends of the slingshot!

We built with boxes, and we tried to use balloons as pigs, but we had trouble getting them to inflate or stay inflated.  But it was still fun knocking down boxes!  Great times!



Tie Dye Ice Sculptures

This is something we do every year in January.  The ice sculptures always turn out so cool!

To do this activity, we ask each child to bring in a uniquely shaped piece of ice.  We get all kinds of fun ice from creative families.  For example, we get ice frozen in balloons, rubber gloves, Tupperware, jello molds, bowls, and cups among other things.

They bring their ice into school and put it in the water table.  At play time, we give the children kosher salt to sprinkle on the ice and watch the effects, making little craters in the ice.  Then, after the ice has melted a bit, they can use the salt and press two pieces of ice to gether, fusing them together. Their coldness re-freezes the parts that have melted and makes the pieces of ice stick together.

After the children have had some time to create their sculptures, we give them  eye droppers (great for fine motor)and liquid watercolor paint to color their creations.  The results are beautiful!

Good, Clean, Fun with Ivory Soap Clouds

Today was another one of those “I-saw-it-on-Pinterest-and-had-to-try-it-myself” kind of days for me at preschool.  I’ve had this idea pinned for a while now, and since today was White Day, I thought making Ivory soap clouds would be the perfect science experiment.

I brought a microwave down from the kitchen and put it on the counter next to our circle time area.  I started circle time by doing a flannel board for the book “It Looked Like Spilt Milk,”  which talks about all the different shapes clouds make and all the different things they can look like.  Then, I took out the bar of soap (we had to talk a little bit about what a bar of soap is; most of the children were only familiar with liquid soap).  I told them that this kind of soap has little pockets of air inside of it.  We also talked about how when air gets hot, the molecules move away from each other and expand.  I had the children make predictions as to what would happen if I heated the soap up in the microwave.  They had some really great guesses.  Some thought we would see the air bubbles come out of the soap, some thought it would melt, some thought it would expand in the microwave but then get smaller when we took it out.

Then I cut just a small piece of the soap off, put it on the plate, and put it in the microwave.  I set it for 2 minutes, but the reaction was over in about 1 minute.  The air bubbles expand and cause the softened soap to enlarge in puffy mounds.  It ends up looking like a big fluffy white cloud. Once it stops growing, it doesn’t do much else, so it doesn’t hurt to leave it in the microwave longer, but there’s not much point in it, either.

During play time, the children had a chance to come over and I helped them make their own soap cloud.  This was nice because they got a chance to see the process up close better than they could at circle time.  I reminded them to be careful and not touch the cloud until it has cooled a bit because it is a little hot when  you take it out of the microwave.  To go with the story, I had them tell me what they thought it looked like once it came out of the microwave and I wrote that on the paper plate.  That way they got to take home their soap clouds and I told them they could use in their bath tonight.

Dancing Oobleck!

Here’s the post I promised you (and one I’ve been very excited about writing!):  Dancing Oobleck!

Right about now you may be asking yourself “What is oobleck?”  Oobleck is a Non-Newtonian Fluid.  Which basically means it is a substance that can be both a solid and a liquid at the same time.

In preschool terms it is that cool stuff you can make with cornstarch and water that you can form into a ball when you press on it, but drips through you fingers when you let go.

How To Make Oobleck:

The day before we did this experiment, we had made dough in the water table using flour and water, which made for great predictions when I pulled out another white powder (cornstarch) and asked the children to guess what would happen when I mixed it with water.

After the children made their predictions, I went ahead and mixed the solution.  My method is usually to mix until it is the right consistency, but if you prefer to measure, it is about one part water to two parts cornstarch.  Once I had it mixed up, the children realized it did not make dough.  In the bowl, it displayed liquid qualities.

The words solid and liquid have become part of the children’s vocabulary from exposure to these words through other science activities.  So, I asked the children if I had made a solid or a liquid.  They said liquid.  Then I asked them what they thought would happen if I slapped the oobleck with my hand.  Expecting it to act like a liquid, they guessed it would splash all over them, and braced themselves as I went to hit it!

With pressure, it is a solid.

When there is no pressure, it is a liquid.

But my hand hit the oobleck as if it were a rock.  We then had a discussion on how this acts as both a solid and a liquid.  When pressure is applied, it acts as a solid, but when the pressure is released, it acts as a liquid.  We also let a toy sink into the bowl of oobleck and saw how it acts like quicksand.  The toy got stuck and was very hard to pull out!

Then we moved on to the best part:  making the oobleck dance!

How To Make Oobleck Dance:

Oobleck “comes to life”  making little mounds and worm-like forms that move up and wiggle around when it is set on a speaker cone with a tone of a certain frequency. I had seen this on YouTube before and had been wanting to make it happen for a good, long time.  So I was very excited when I finally decided to try it with the preschoolers.  It took a lot of prep time and figuring out before I could do it with the kids.  I had so much fun being the scientist at home, tweaking and  experimenting until I figured out how to make it work!

I happened to have an old stereo lying around, which worked perfect for this experiment.  I popped the plastic cover off the front of the speaker to reveal the speaker cone on the inside.  On this speaker, the cover would pop right back on, so it would be possible to do this experiment without ruining the stereo.  It can, however, be quite messy, so I would recommend using a stereo you can devote only to oobleck dancing if you can.  The experiment can also be done using a subwoofer, but we had better luck with the speaker.

The hardest part was figuring out what frequency I needed to make the oobleck dance and how to get the tone from my computer to play through the speaker (I even tried rigging a set of headphone speakers to connect the speaker directly to my laptop.  It didn’t work.)  After a bit of researching, I found out the oobleck moves the best with lower frequencies, around 20 hertz or so.  I also found a tone I could download, burn to a disk, and play through the stereo.

I later found out the tone I burned to a disk was actually a wave; it moved up and down in frequency.  As you can see in the video, the oobleck dances better at certain points in the sound than it does in others.  I think the oobleck will dance better with a steady, static tone at the right frequency.  That is what I will do next time I do this with the children.  You can find free tone downloads here.

I set the speaker on its side and covered the speaker cone with plastic wrap.  Then we were set to go!  I told the students one of the best things about oobleck is that it loves to dance; but it has a funny taste in music!  I poured some of the oobleck onto the plastic-wrap-covered speaker cone, turned on the tone, turned the volume up, and watched the oobleck take on a life of its own!  This gave us a great opportunity to talk about sound waves and vibrations.

We noticed the oobleck moved best when the plastic wrap was tight, so I held it extra tight with my hands.  It was so much fun listening to the kid’s reactions as the oobleck formed little finger-like shapes and moved around on its own!  We also added some liquid watercolor to the oobleck and watched as the dancing oobleck mixed the colors together.  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of this.

Squeezing oobleck to make it solid.

After the lesson, I put the oobleck in the water table to let the kids play with and explore.  I also put a few small toys in with it, so they could see how easily toys can get stuck inside.  Many of the children really enjoyed getting their hands in the messy  oobleck (while some preferred to use spoons to play with it), and I heard a lot of great science vocabulary coming out of their mouths as they played!

Letting oobleck drip through fingers as a liquid.

A few kids even asked for a re-play of the dancing oobleck during playtime.  That is when we shot the video.  By this point, the oobleck had dried out a bit, so the reaction here is not as good, but still really neat!

For more oobleck fun, check out these videos:

Running across a pool of oobleck

Kids playing in a pool of oobleck

Maybe some day we will fill a pool with oobleck!  But for now, I am happy with our oobleck dancing success!

Note:  Do not wash oobleck down the drain!  It will settle and clog the pipes.  When you are done, just scoop it up and plop it in the garbage!

Thanks for reading!  Please leave any comments on your thoughts or experiences with oobleck!

Crafty Crayon-Melting Creativity

This whole melting-crayons thing is all over the internet right now.  On Facebook, on Pinterest, I have seen it just about everywhere.  I have also seen all different variations on this project:  adults melting crayons on huge canvases as art to schools in Phoenix leaving the crayon projects outside in the hot sun to melt.

At any rate, it just seemed to cool not to try.  I, of course, took my own variation on it.  First of all, I wanted to be sure each child had the opportunity to experience this science-art hands-on.  Which meant they would not just watch the crayons melt, but they would make it happen.  Second, I wanted the children to choose their crayons to put more free-choice into the project.  Third, while I wanted each child to be able to make their own creation and be able to take it home, it was not exactly in my budget to run out and buy each child their own brand-new box of Crayola crayons and a canvas (Between two classes, that would be about 30 students and since I like to make art myself at home, I know canvases can get expensive).  However, we did have a large bag of used crayons on hand at the preschool, and there is always plenty of construction paper.

This activity worked really well for the week the children were learning about the letter C.  We talked a lot about crayons and colors.  Also, since we are a Catholic Christian School, we did a lesson that day about something else that is made of wax and begins with C – candles.  They learned about and saw first hand what candles are used for in church.  But I digress.  Back to the crayons.

We’ve been talking a lot about liquids and solids with the children, and we’ve been exploring these properties in different ways.  This time, I pulled out a crayon and we talked about it.  Is it a liquid or a solid?  What is the crayon made out of?  What happens to wax when it gets hot?  After discussing, I pulled out a hair dryer and we tested the kid’s theory of what would happen when I heated up the crayon. Sure enough, the wax started to drip.

We told the children we would be doing art and science at the same time.  I absolutely love when art and science meet.  Those are my favorite kind of activities (and often the children’s favorite, too).  At free play time, we set up two hair dryers, one for each side of our easel (we discovered very quickly that we needed to plug them into different outlets if we wanted the both to be running at the same time!).  That way two children could work at once.  We let the kids choose about four or five crayons and tape them to the top of the paper.  We did not mess around with hot glue or anything like that.  As long as the crayons still had paper on them, the tape worked just fine.  We put the crayons at the top to get the full effect of the dripping.  Next time, though,  I think I might let the children tape the crayons any way they want to and explore what happens!

It took a good bit a patience for the children to wait for the crayons to get hot enough to melt, but once they did, the kids got so excited!  “Wow, look, there goes red crayon!”  “Now blue is dripping!”  And because anything of this nature becomes a race to children:  “I think green is going to win”

The students were really good scientists for this project, making all kinds of observations about what was happening with the crayons.  They noticed one hairdryer made the crayon wax drip down the paper, while the other splattered the wax more (it had a stronger blower).  Some used both thick and thin crayons and noticed they melted at different speeds.  They noticed different colors melted faster than others.  They even noticed certain crayons (the cheap ones) although colored, melted clear.

I found it to be a very fun, educational and successful project.  To go along with this project, in addition to the candles in church lesson, we read “The Crayon Box That Talked” by Shane Derolf and talked friendship and teamwork.  The children also had a lot of fun color mixing with paint at the art table.

Have any of you tried this crayon project with your children?  How did it work out in your classroom (or home)?  Post your comments and let me know your tips and suggestions!

Glue-Goo Galore!

Today we tried a really fun experiment with glue.  It is “G Week” in our classroom, so this fit right in rather nicely.  Plus, with Halloween coming up, I thought it would be fun to play with goo (it was)!  Of course, this activity could be done any time of the year.

We made the “Glue-Goo” solution (I’ll explain how below), which is really fun to play with by itself.   Then, for even more excitement, we placed it inside a colander hung from the ceiling and watched what happened.

I first heard about this great idea from the “Ooey Gooey Lady” (yes, she is as fun as she sounds!).  Then I saw really great pictures of the fun in action at a blog called Play-Based Classroom.  It looked like so much fun, I just had to try it out in my classroom!

I changed the experiment a little by changing the mixture.  The ladies mentioned above used something called “Flubber”- a mixture that includes glue and borax.  Instead of flubber, we made a very similar solution using glue and liquid laundry starch.  This is commonly called home-made silly putty.  We, of course, in honor of “G Week” called it Glue-Goo.  I would like to try it again another day with the “Flubber” recipe. 

We started by mixing the solution with the children.  I like doing this part with the kids so they can see and experience the transformation.  I picked up the gallon of glue and started pouring some into the water table and watched as the kids’ faces’ looked a bit shocked and excited at this.  Then I took out the liquid starch and started pouring some of that in, fielding questions as to what it is and what it is used for.  At this point you might be wondering if I measured or how much of each component I used.  To answer, no I did not measure, I’m more of an “add a little of this and little more of that till it’s just right” kind of girl.  That being said, it’s about 2 parts glue to 1 part starch.  We also added some paint right out of the bottle.

It will start out really sticky, which some kids really enjoyed (while others really didn’t)!  One girl asked me to not put any more starch in, so it could stay sticky.  Another girl just said “ew!” and asked me how she could get it off her hands.  When the substance has become well mixed, it will be somewhat smooth and slimy, and only a little sticky (like silly putty).

Catching the drips!

Once we had it all mixed up, I put some of it in the colander and left some of it in the water table for the kids to play with.

It took a bit of time, but it slowly started to drip teardrop-shaped balls and as those tear drop fell down, they pulled long spider-webby, hair-like strings down with them.  This gave us the opportunity to talk about another G word: gravity!

You can see here that we have two different batches, the bright orange and the lighter orange. The brighter orange was thicker and did not string out from the colander.

We left this up all day, even through snack time so we could watch the effects.  The children were so interested in watching the strings coming down that they didn’t even touch it very much after play time was over.

Look at those strings!

All and all, a fun day with sensory experiences, chemistry, physics and phonics!

Bubbles, Bubbles, Everywhere!

You already know how much kids love bubbles (and let’s face it, you probably love them, too).  What could make bubbles even more fun?  These great experiments and activities we did brought bubbles to the next level and intrigued students, parents, and teachers alike!

We did these activities the week the students were learning about the letter B.  It made a real nice tie-in between the letter sound and all the fun things we were doing in the classroom.  We started by reading the book “Bubble Bubble” by Mercer Mayer.  The little boy in the book makes magic bubbles in the shapes of all kinds of animals.  Then we asked the children if they thought we could make magic bubbles and told them we had some experiments to find out.

Experiment 1:  Shaped Bubbles?

The first experiment was simple.  We had made some bubble wands out of pipe cleaners in different shapes: square and triangle are some simple ones to make.  I asked the children to make a prediction (yes, I used this word.  I believe the more we use vocabulary with children, the more they will understand it and use it themselves).  They guessed what would happen if I made a bubble using a square-shaped bubble wand.  I got all kinds of responses.  In fact, after reading the story, one child thought maybe a dragon-shaped bubble would come out!

Unfortunately, we cannot make a dragon bubble.

Of course, after trying it out, we found that no matter what shape our wand, the bubbles will always come out round.  This is because of surface tension; the wall of the bubble will automatically make the shape with the least surface area it can.  I told the kids the air inside the bubble pushes out evenly on all sides, which makes the bubble a circle (or technically a sphere, but we won’t get into that).

Experiment 2:  Popping Bubbles (and Putting Things Inside Bubbles)

The next experiment got a little more fun.  Now I asked the children what makes a bubble pop?  They decided that things that are sharp are what will pop bubbles.  We tested this with a pencil.  Sure enough, the pencil popped the bubble.  But wait, what if we try something that is not sharp?  Next, we tried a toy that had smooth edges.  It popped the bubble, too.  We decided that it must not be sharpness that pops a bubble.  I told the kids that bubbles most often pop not because they touch something sharp, but because they touch something dry.  Bubbles are wet  and they need to stay wet, but when they touch something dry, that dry thing absorbs (we’ve been using this word with the children a lot at school and many of them understand what it means now) a bit of the bubble’s water and makes a hole in the bubble.

So then the fun began; I showed the kids what would happen if I tried to pop the bubble with the same pencil I used before, but this time I dipped it in bubble solution and got it nice and wet first.  The pencil went right through the bubble!  We tried this with the toy, too, and then our fingers!  We had bubble solution in our sand and water table, and let the kids try this themselves during playtime.  They had so much fun!  One girl was so excited to show me the bean she put inside her bubble!

Experiment 3:  Bouncing Bubbles and “Boo” Bubbles

Okay, this one was really more of a science activity than an “experiment,” but it was really fun for everybody!  We owe our thanks here to for showing us these really neat things we can do with bubbles.  To be honest, we have really become a bunch of Steve Spangler groupies around here.

*Please remember to use caution when doing this activity!*

We made our own contraption with a pickle jar and some tubing (actually my boss’ husband made it).  We gave each of the children a sock, which worked the same as the glove in the video.  We blew these little smoke-filled bubbles all over and let the kids catch them and bounce them in their hands!  An interesting fact:  since the CO2 is so heavy, these bubbles go down instead of floating up like most bubbles do!

Look at the bubbles bouncing!

A few things to remember:

1.  Never touch dry ice!

2.  Do not fill the water past the hose or seal off the jar in a way in which no air can come out.

When we were doing the experiment, something somehow got clogged and we felt the pressure building up in the jar!  We had to take the lid off and let the air out so there wouldn’t be an explosion!

Since hands-on, self-guided exploration is so important to young children, we made sure there were opportunities for bubble exploration in (and outside of) the classroom, including the art table and easel, the sand and water table, and outside on the playground.

Bubbles is one of my favorite things to do with the kids (especially with the dry ice bubbles).  In addition to the kids’ own excitement about the activities, they fed off my enthusiasm.  Children can always tell these kind of things.  The more you are interested in something, the more likely it is that the kids will be interested in it, too.  This was one of the great examples of how fun and learning can (and should) go hand-in-hand.