Posts tagged: science books

Molecules in Motion (“730 Easy Science Experiments” – Book Review)

By , September 22, 2008 10:45 pm

I must admit, my heart sank when my sister gave my kids the book 730 Easy Science Experiments: With Everyday Materials by E. Richard Churchill, Louis V. Loesching, and Muriel Mandell.

This confession will certainly earn me yet another “Mom of the Year Award,” but here it is:

Was my first thought:  “730?? Oh hooray! Think of all the wonderful projects and what we will learn together!!”  Noooo…. My first thought was:  “730?? Who is going to have to do those 730 science experiments with them?? Oh no!”

My childless sister seemed to pick up on my silent consternation and left with a sadistic smile (or so I thought) and the parting words of: “Have fun!”

Well actually, we are having fun.  The book sat on a shelf for a while until my 8 year-old daughter recently rediscovered it.

On Sunday, when I was planning a “Fun With Mom Day,” she showed me some experiments that she wanted to do.  Since we were going to have Fun With Mom no matter what, I was willing to assist in any and all experiments.  We did several.  The one I will share with you today involved the motion of molecules.

This sounds fancy, but actually, like most of the experiments in this very thorough (did I tell you already that there are 730 experiments?) volume, this experiment involved only items we had on hand here in the house.

You need food coloring, two clear glasses, and hot and cold water.  Put hot water in one glass (I used very hot tap water) and cold water in the other (I used super-cooled water from our refrigerator water dispenser).

Put just one drop of food coloring in each glass and watch what happens.  The molecules are moving faster in hot water so the food coloring blends with the water very, very quickly.  In the slower-moving cold water glass, the food coloring barely moves at all.  In fact it makes some beautiful slow-motion droplet shapes that reminded me of a lava lamp.

This glass was the hot water:

And this one was cold (see the “lava lamp?”):

This was just one of 730 experiments.  That means I have another 729 to inflict on you all!!

Seriously, I do like this book.  As I mentioned earlier, the ingredients are mostly household items, or are easily obtainable: no enriched uranium needed here.

The experiments vary in complexity from ridiculously simple yet not boring for young ones (Straw Wheels – moving a heavy book more easily using drinking straws as rollers – p.23) to more complicated yet still easily doable (Seeing Sound Waves p.110 or Balloon Barometer p.249).

The chapters are interesting and fun:  Clutching at Straws; Paper Capers; More Than Lemonade; Dairy Dozen; Adventures With a String; Soap Suds; Slow Start-Fast Finish; Keeping Your Balance; How to Have All the Moves; The Sound of Science; Feeling Stressed? Try Some Surface Tension; Science Can Give You a Warm Feeling; Blown Away; Being Earth Conscious; World Travellers; Leafy Lessons; Dirty Words: Soil, Sand, Humus, and Mud; Gravity and Magnetism: Attractive Forces; Don’t Fiddle With Old Fossils; Weather; Whirling Winds and Gentle Breezes; Water, Water, Everywhere; Building a Weather Station; Air, H2O, and Other Things; Here’s Superman, But Where’s Clark?; Salty Solutions and Sweet Success

Each experiment has a “What to do,” a “What Happens,” and most importantly, a “Why” section.

You’ll be seeing more experiments from us I am sure.  Remember, we still have 729 of them to show you!

A Seed is Sleepy (Aston, Long) – Book Recommendation

By , March 1, 2008 10:19 am

Spring is in the air which means that seeds of all kinds will soon be sprouting: flower seeds, tree seeds…weed seeds. (Big sigh.)

Now is a good time to teach your little ones a bit more about seeds. I can’t think of a more lovely book for this purpose, than A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.

This book is packed with interesting facts about seeds. Each two page-spread presents a one sentence fact, followed by a short explanation. For example the first page says: “A seed is sleepy.” Followed by: “It lies there, tucked inside its flower, on its cone, or beneath the soil. Snug. Still.” The information is presented in a sweet, almost poetic way that makes it easily accessible and enjoyable for a variety of ages.

What really makes this book truly wonderful though, are Sylvia Long’s amazing illustrations reminiscent of old, botanical prints. Her colorful paintings are incredibly rich and detailed. Ms. Long has a real eye for seeing and reproducing the beauty and wonder of even the simplest natural objects.


We love this book so much, that next on my wish list is Ms. Aston and Ms. Long’s other collaboration: An Egg Is Quiet

Kids Bored? Whack a Geode!

By , June 7, 2007 6:55 pm

My 6 year-old daughter is obsessed with rocks. I find rocks in her pockets, in her little purses, in jars on her desk, in her nightstand drawer, and once, even in her bed! She even likes to look at and read books about rocks. I list her favorites below.

We got started on geodes when one of her school book fair books came with a small, uncracked geode. She brought it to school on her “Sharing Day” and cracked it in front of her class, a performance which was, apparently, a big hit with her classmates.

In case you have never encountered one, a geode is a very unimpressive looking rock on the outside, as you can see here:

Geodes form in porous rocks such as limestone or lava. If a hollow cavity exists in the rock, water containing dissolved minerals can seep in through the rock’s pores and crystallize on the inside walls of the cavity. If the crystals do not completely fill the cavity, then a geode is formed. The type of minerals in the water determine what type of crystals form inside the geode.

Geodes are a fun surprise of nature. You can’t know what you will find on the inside of a geode until you break it open!

During our trip to Phoenix we visited the Arizona Science Center. My daughter was very excited to find a large unopened geode in the gift shop. Here it is in its package:

The instructions said to keep it in its bag and bash it with a hammer. Here is my mini-geologist giving it a whack:

Well, it took a lot of banging and I was the one who had to deliver the final, fatal blow. I am not sure we centered our hammering too well (apparently it works MUCH better if you use a chisel first to score a line around the “equator” of the geode – see here for good instructions), but the crystalline interior is clearly visible:

Here is a close up of the surprise contents of our geode in the sunlight. Looks like lots of quartz and chalcedony:

You can find geodes in many science and museum stores, or order small and large geodes online at stores such as The Geode Gallery, The Desert USA Store or Mama’s Minerals.

My 6 year-old daughter’s favorite rock books:

Some good DK Publishing books for older children (9-12):

If you get REALLY into this geode-thing, here is a fascinating-sounding book all about geodes (written for adults, but mini-geologists might enjoy the photos):

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