Here’s a new “spin” on an old toy. In this modern adaptation of a classic toy—the spool racer—a plastic water bottle is propelled by energy stored in a wound-up rubber band.
Watch water boil at room temperature. The temperature at which water boils depends on pressure. You can demonstrate this by dramatically lowering the pressure on a water-filled plastic syringe at room temperature.
Construct a protein through cereal additions. Model the central dogma of molecular biology by constructing a colorful chain using a simple code (and some delicious cereal).
In this activity, learners observe what happens when they give a light source like a neon glow lamp a "Bronx Cheer." The lights appear to wiggle back and forth and flicker when learners blow air through their lips. However, learners will discover that the only thing vibrating is themselves. Use this activity to explore different forms of light as well as visual perception.
In this activity, learners observe as soap bubbles float on a cushion of carbon dioxide gas. Learners blow bubbles into an aquarium filled with a slab of dry ice. Learners will be amazed as the bubbles hover on the denser layer of carbon dioxide gas, then begin to expand and sink before freezing on the dry ice. Use this activity to discuss sublimation, density, and osmosis as well as principles of buoyancy, semipermeability, and interference.
Create giant bubbles! Bubbles are fascinating. What gives them their shape? What makes them break or last? What causes the colors and patterns in the soap film, and why do they change?
Turn an old CD into a spectroscope to analyze light—you may be surprised by what you see. Try pointing your CD spectroscope at the fluorescent light in your room, sunlit clouds in the sky, even your friend’s colored shirt to reveal the wavelengths of light that mix together to create the color you see!
Use your cell phone to explore the mini-scopic world. Open your eyes to the amazing world of the ultra-tiny when you convert your cell phone into a portable, picture-taking Miniscope using a simple plastic lens from a laser pointer.
Every cell in your body needs to take in nutrients, oxygen, and raw materials and export wastes and other substances—but it’s not just a random traffic jam! A cell membrane (also called a plasma membrane) regulates what comes in and what goes out. Explore the properties of soap films and relate them to the properties of plasma membranes and the mechanics of transport across membranes.
In this activity about electricity, learners produce a spark that they can feel, see, and hear. Learners rub a Styrofoam plate with wool to give it an electric charge. Then, they use the charged Styrofoam to charge an aluminum pie pan. Essentially, learners build an electrophorus (Greek for "charge carrier"). This resource also contains instructions on how to build a large charge carrier called a "Leyden Jar" using a plastic film can.
In this activity related to magnetism and electricity, learners create a magnetic field that's stronger than the Earth's magnetic field. Learners use electric currents that are stronger than the field of the Earth to move a compass needle. The assembly is made using a lantern battery, heavy wire, a Tinkertoyă˘ set, and poster board and utilizes 4-6 small compasses and 2 electrical lead wires.
In this optics activity, learners discover that not all shadows are black. Learners explore human color perception by using colored lights to make additive color mixtures. With three colored lights, learners can make shadows of seven different colors. They can also explore how to make shadows of individual colors, including black. Use this activity demonstrate how receptors in the retina of the eye work to see color.
In this activity, learners make their own heat waves in an aquarium. Warmer water rising through cooler water creates turbulence effects that bend light, allowing you to project swirling shadows onto a screen. Use this demonstration to show convection currents in water as well as light refraction in a simple, visually appealing way.
The phenomenon is thermal expansion of copper. This demonstration allows an observer to see the effect of heating (and cooling) a copper tube. When heated, the copper tube lengthens and thickens. When cooled, the tube shrinks. The lengthening of the rod rotates a toothpick with an attached flag to make the expansion visible and measurable.
In this optics/mathematics activity, learners use two hinged mirrors to create a kaleidoscope that shows multiple images of an object. Learners discover that the number of images reflected in the mirrors depends on the angle between the mirrors. Learners also observe that when they set the hinged mirrors on top of a third mirror, they create a reflector that always sends light back in the direction from which it came. Use this activity to introduce basic principles of light and optics including angle of reflection and angle of incidence.
In this optics activity, demonstrate diffraction using a candle or a small bright flashlight bulb and a slide made with two pencils. Learners will observe the diffraction pattern and learn that light has wavelike properties.
This activity from the Exploratorium provides an introduction to the diffraction of light which indicates its wavelike properties. Two pencils are used to create a slit through which a flashlight bulb or candle˘ďď_s light is examined. The site contains an explanation of the observed interference patterns, additional materials that can be experimented with, and an extension activity. This activity is part of Exploratorium's Science Snacks series.
The Drawing Board consists of a marking pen that remains stationary and a platform that swings beneath the pen, acting as a pendulum. As the platform swings, the pen marks a sheet of paper that is fastened to the platform, generating beautiful repetitive patterns. These colorful designs contain hidden lessons in physics. This resource includes instructions for making a large-scale Drawing Board as well.
In this activity related to magnetism and electricity, learners discover that a magnet falls more slowly through a metallic tube than it does through a nonmetallic tube. Use this activity to illustrate how eddy currents in an electrical conductor create a magnetic field that exerts an opposing force on the falling magnet, which makes it fall at a slower rate. This activity guide also includes demonstration instructions involving two thick, flat pieces of aluminum to illustrate the same principle.