As your kids begin studying college-level courses, they will likely spend more time hitting the books than delving into hands-on learning. Obviously, studying and reading is important, but don’t neglect all the learning that comes from experimenting and trying new things.
Here are two science experiment ideas that you can save for a rainy day or a time when your teen just needs a break from bookwork.
Make a Smoke Bomb
This is a relatively safe project, suitable for most teenagers, but not younger kids. Your teens can make the smoke bomb inside, but should light it outside. Here’s what you need:
Potassium Nitrate – can be found in garden supply centers or pharmacies
A frying pan
The quality and rate of burn for your smoke bomb will depend on the ratio of sugar to potassium nitrate and the size and shape of the smoke bomb. In general, a ratio of 3 parts potassium nitrate to 2 parts sugar works well. The more sugar you add, the slower it will burn and the harder it will be to light, and it’s fun to experiment with different ratios to see what happens.
Add your sugar and potassium nitrate to a frying pan and heat gently while stirring until the mixture caramelizes and melts. Once the mixture is liquified, pour it into a molded piece of aluminum foil and let it harden. Be sure to clean your skillet immediately.
Bring your smoke bomb outside and light it with a long-handled barbecue lighter. It should begin smoking immediately. You can experiment using different shapes and sizes for your molds to see how it affects the smoking.
Oobleck is that famous substance from the Dr. Seuss book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. It’s a non-newtonian substance, which means it has properties of a solid and a liquid. Making oobleck is fun for younger kids, and even teenagers get a kick out of making it and playing with it.
1 part water
2 parts cornstarch
Optional food coloring
Pour the water into a bowl and mix in the cornstarch. That’s it! Sometimes it feels like a liquid, sometimes a solid, but it’s really fun to play with. Visit Live Science for ideas about what to do with oobleck after you create it.
You probably don’t hear your teen complain of being bored very often, but there may come a day when they need a good scientific distraction.
Smoke bombs and oobleck will fit the bill nicely, and your teenagers may be inspired to create their own reactive experiments, but as always, remind them to use caution as they are dealing with chemicals.
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