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Kickbutt's Science Notebook

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As you all have no doubt seen, I've been writing one post per day on a kitchen experiment. I just thought, for reference, it would be easier to have in one location. I'll just add a new experiment each day in the replies. Keep on learning!

Ok, I admit it, I'm addicted to science. I would happily throw away all other subjects and just devote my kids learning to that one, if it were possible. Lol! As many of you know, I used to be an aeronautical/electrical engineer. I hold degrees in Physics & Geology. In this post I'll be posting my favorite science experiments. They most often include products found around your house (no fancy equipment needed!)

Each of my kids has a Science Journal. In it they write out every experiment, hypothesis and result. I have them format it the way many colleges require for Lab classes. The journal is one of those bound notebooks.


Experiment title

Supplies: a billeted list of all supplies, with exact measurements and weights

Process: a numbered list of the step by step process used, plus any variations

Hypothesis: what the kids think might happen as a result of the experiment

Conclusion: what the final result of the experiment was, did it match their hypotheses - why or why not. This also includes a paragraph or so explanation of what happened.

Voila. Science is complete! We don't stick to a specific form of science usually, we tend to mix things us. But we do an experiment just about every day.


 Home Educators Toolbox  / Articles / Kicbuttmama's Crazy Lapbooks / Kickbuttmama's Home Education
Albert Einstein -- 
   "Everybody is a Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid." 

by on Jul. 16, 2012 at 8:29 AM
Replies (121-130):
by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:16 PM

Blue Sky -- Red Sunset

Whenever it's not completely filled with clouds, we can see that the sky is blue. As the sun rises and as it sets, it looks red. These two observations are related, as this experiment will show.

You will need the following materials:

  • a flashlight
  • a transparent container with flat parallel sides (a 10-liter [2½-gallon] aquarium is ideal)
  • 250 milliliters (1 cup) of milk

Set the container on a table where you can view it from all sides. Fill it ¾ full with water. Light the flashlight and hold it against the side of the container so its beam shines through the water. Try to see the beam as it shines through the water. You may be able to see some particles of dust floating in the water; they appear white. However, it is rather difficult to see exactly where the beam passes through the water.

Add about 60 milliliters (¼ cup) of milk to the water and stir it. Hold the flashlight to the side of the container, as before. Notice that the beam of light is now easily visible as it passes through the water. Look at the beam both from the side and from the end, where the beam shines out of the container. From the side, the beam appears slightly blue, and on the end, it appears somewhat yellow.

Add another ¼ cup of milk to the water and stir it. Now the beam of light looks even more blue from the side and more yellow, perhaps even orange, from the end.

Add the rest of the milk to the water and stir the mixture. Now the beam looks even more blue, and from the end, it looks quite orange. Furthermore, the beam seems to spread more now than it did before; it is not quite as narrow.

What causes the beam of light from the flashlight to look blue from the side and orange when viewed head on? Light usually travels in straight lines, unless it encounters the edges of some material. When the beam of a flashlight travels through air, we cannot see the beam from the side because the air is uniform, and the light from the flashlight travels in a straight line. The same is true when the beam travels through water, as in this experiment. The water is uniform, and the beam travels in a straight line. However, if there should be some dust in the air or water, then we can catch a glimpse of the beam where the light is scattered by the edges of the dust particles.

When you added milk to the water, you added many tiny particles to the water. Milk contains many tiny particles of protein and fat suspended in water. These particles scatter the light and make the beam of the flashlight visible from the side. Different colors of light are scattered by different amounts. Blue light is scattered much more than orange or red light. Because we see the scattered light from the side of the beam, and blue light is scattered more, the beam appears blue from the side. Because the orange and red light is scattered less, more orange and red light travels in a straight line from the flashlight. When you look directly into the beam of the flashlight, it looks orange or red.

What does this experiment have to do with blue sky and orange sunsets? The light you see when you look at the sky is sunlight that is scattered by particles of dust in the atmosphere. If there were no scattering, and all of the light travelled straight from the sun to the earth, the sky would look dark as it does at night. The sunlight is scattered by the dust particles in the same way as the light from the flashlight is scattered by particles in milk in this experiment. Looking at the sky is like looking at the flashlight beam from the side: you're looking at scattered light that is blue. When you look at the setting sun, it's like looking directly into the beam from the flashlight: you're seeing the light that isn't scattered, namely orange and red.

What causes the sun to appear deep orange or even red at sunset or sunrise? At sunset or sunrise, the sunlight we observe has traveled a longer path through the atmosphere than the sunlight we see at noon. Therefore, there is more scattering, and nearly all of the light direct from the sun is red.

The  path of sunlight is much longer at sunset than at noon

by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:18 PM

Bending Water

Static electricity can be a problem whenever the humidity is low. It causes shocks and makes dust stick to surfaces, and it can literally make your hair stand on end. In this experiment, you will see that it also can move things around.

For this experiment you will need:

  • a nylon comb
  • a water faucet

Adjust the faucet to produce a small stream of water. The stream should be about 1.5 millimeters (1/16 inch) in diameter.

Run the comb through your hair several times. Slowly bring the teeth of the comb near the stream of water, about 8 to 10 centimeters (3 or 4 inches) below the faucet. When the teeth of the comb are about an inch or less away from the stream, the stream will bend toward the comb.

Move the comb closer to the stream. How does the distance between the stream and the comb affect how much the stream bends?

Run the comb through your hair several more times. Does the comb bend the stream more now?

Change the size of the stream by adjusting the faucet. Does the size of the stream affect how much the stream bends?

If you have other combs, you can try these to see if some bend the stream more than others.

Static electricity is the accumulation of an electrical charge in an object. The electrical charge develops when two objects are rubbed against one another. When the objects are rubbed together, some electrons (charged components of atoms) jump from one object to the other. The object that loses the electrons becomes positively charged, while the object that they jump to becomes negatively charged. The nature of the objects has a large effect on how many electrons move. This determines how large an electrical charge accumulates in the objects. Hair and nylon are particularly good at acquiring charge when they are rubbed together.

A charged object attract small particles, such as dust. The charge in the object causes a complementary charge to develop in something close to it. The complementary charge is attracted to the charged object. If the complementary charge forms on something tiny, such as dust particles, these tiny particles move to the charged object. This is why your television screen becomes dusty faster than the television cabinet. When a television operates, electrons fly from the back to the screen. These electrons cause the screen to become charged. The charge on the screen attracts dust.

The comb attracts the stream of water in the same way. The charge on the comb attracts the molecules of water in the stream. Because the molecules in the stream can be moved easily, the stream bends toward the comb.

When you comb your hair with a nylon comb, both the comb and your hair become charged. The comb and your hair acquire opposite charges. Because the individual hairs acquire the same charge, they repel each other. Perhaps you noticed that after running the nylon comb through your hair, the hairs on your head stood on end. This is a result of your hairs repelling each other because they are charged.

Static electricity is more of a problem when humidity is low. When humidity is high, most surfaces are coated with a thin film of water. When objects coated by a film of water are rubbed together, the water prevents electrons from jumping between the objects.

by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:18 PM

Pure water does not conduct electricity very well. However, when certain substances are dissolved in water, the solution does conduct electricity. You can make a simple device that shows how well a solution conducts electricity. This device uses a flashlight bulb to indicate how well the solution conducts electricity. The better the solution conducts electricity, the brighter the bulb will glow.

Conductivity Tester

To construct the conductivity tester you will need:

● a 12-volt AC adapter
This converts the 110-volt electricity from a wall socket to safer 12-volts. It must be 12 volts AC, not DC, because DC will not work for this. You may have a suitable adapter around the house from an old device you're no longer using, or you may get one from an electronics store (e.g. Radio Shack, catalog number 273-1631).
● an audio cable with a 1/4-inch or 1/8-inch monaural plug on one end
The plug will become the probe for testing conductivity. You may have an unused cable around the house. What is on the other end does not matter because it will be removed. You may also get a suitable plug-and-cable assembly from an electronics supply store (e.g., Radio Shack, catalog number 42-2381).
● a 12-volt flashlight bulb and socket
The bulb will provide a visible indication of how well a material conducts electricity. You can get these from an electronics store (e.g., Radio Shack, catalog numbers 272-1143 for the bulb and 272-357 for the socket).
● a block of wood about 4 by 4 by 1 inch
The electrical connections will be made on this block, and the lamp will be mounted on it, too.
● two 1-inch wood screws
These hold the lamp socket to the block of wood.
● one 3/4-inch round-headed screw and washer
These will be used to make an electrical connection.
● wire cutter and wire stripper
These are used to prepare the electrical connections.
● a screw driver

Cut the plug from the end of the cord of the AC adapter. Separate about four inches of the cord into its two conductors. Remove about 1 inch of insulation from each of the conductors.

Cut the cord of the audio cable about 2 feet from the plug. Remove about four inches of insulation from the cut end of the cable. This will expose bare stranded wire wrapped around insulation that covers a center wire. Unwrap the stranded wires from the insulation and twist the strands together to make a single bundle. Strip about 1 inch of the inner insulation from the center wire.

Electrical connections

Use wood screws to attach the lamp base (socket) to the block of wood. Put the washer on the round-head screw and screw it into the block next to the lamp base, but do not tighten the screw yet.

Wrap one wire from the AC adapter (it doesn't matter which) around the screw above the washer. Wrap the end of the bundled wire from the audio plug around the same screw. Tighten the screw to fasten the two wires together.

Attach the remaining wire from the AC adapter to one of the terminals of the lamp base. Attach the remaining wire from the audio plug to the other terminal of the lamp base.

Screw the 12-volt flashlight lamp into the lamp base.

To make the connections more secure, you can use a heavy staple to hold each of the two wires to the wooden block.

The conductivity tester is now complete and ready to use. To test that it works properly, plug the AC adapter into an AC outlet. The lamp will not light. Touch the audio plug sideways to a piece of metal, such as a coin. When the two metal conductors of the plug are shorted by the coin, the lamp will glow brightly. The bright glow indicates that current is easily flowing through the piece of metal.

Testing a solution

Put some water into a cup. Insert the end of the audio plug into the water. If you use distilled water, the lamp will not glow. If you use tap water, the lamp may glow dimly, if at all. If it glows, it shows that the tap water conducts electricity only poorly. Add some table salt to the water and stir the mixture. The lamp will glow brightly when the plug is put into the solution, because salt solution conducts electricity very well, almost as well as metal.

You can investigate different materials from around your house to see how well they conduct electricity when mixed with water. Some things to try, in addition to salt, are sugar, baking soda, shampoo, laundry detergent, rubbing alcohol, and antacid tablets. Anything that dissolves in water can be tested. In order to avoid mixing the materials you're testing, be sure to rinse the plug in water and dry it before testing a different substance. Do not put the plug in a solution for more than 10 to 15 seconds, because doing so will cause the plug to corrode rapidly. Keep a record of which substances conduct electricity well, which conduct poorly, and which do not conduct at all.

Sometimes, mixtures of substances conduct differently than the separate substances. As an example, test the conductivity of vinegar. Then test the conductivity of laundry ammonia. Then, pour a little ammonia into the vinegar and test the mixture. You will see a big difference between the separate substances and the mixture!

An electric current is a flow of electrical charge. When a metal conducts electricity, the charge is carried by electrons moving through the metal. Electrons are subatomic particles with a negative electrical charge. When a solution conducts electricity, the charge is carried by ions moving through the solution. Ions are atoms or small groups of atoms that have an electrical charge. Some ions have a negative charge and some have a positive charge.

Pure water contains very few ions, so it does not conduct electricity very well. When table salt is dissolved in water, the solution conducts very well, because the solution contains ions. The ions come from the table salt, whose chemical name is sodium chloride. Sodium chloride contains sodium ions, which have a positive charge, and chloride ions, which have a negative charge. Because sodium chloride is made up of ions, it is called an ionic substance.

Not all substances are made up of ions. Some are mode of uncharged particles called molecules. Sugar is such a substance. When sugar is dissolved in water, the solution does not conduct electricity, because there are no ions in the solution.

Some substances that are made of molecules form solutions that do conduct electricity. Ammonia is such a substance. When ammonia dissolves in water, it reacts with the water and forms a few ions. This is why laundry ammonia, which is a solution of ammonia in water, conducts electricity, but not very well.

Sometimes, when two different solutions are mixed, the substances they contain react with each other and form ions. This is what happens when ammonia and vinegar are mixed. An ammonia solution contains only a few ions, and it conducts electricity only poorly. A vinegar solution also contains only a few ions and conducts only a little electricity. But when these solutions are mixed, the ammonia reacts with the acid in vinegar (acetic acid), and they form a lot of ions. This is why the mixture of ammonia and vinegar conducts electricity very well.


by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:19 PM

urassic Park Terrarium

Make a Jurassic Park terrarium for your child's dinosaur toys

This is a fun activity that let’s the kids get their hands dirty, and it only requires a few basic supplies.

You will need:

  • Clear plastic container with a lid
  • Sand
  • Soil and rocks
  • Plants
  • Water
  • Plastic dinosaur


  1. Fill the bottom of the container with sand. this should be about an inch deep.
  2. Pour in some soil to the half way mark of your container.
  3. Plant your plants and decorate with rocks and pebbles.
  4. Place the dinosaur in its new home.
  5. Pour in a little bit of water to get the soil and sand wet.
  6. Screw on the lid and keep the container indoors.
by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Ringing Fork

What You Need:

  • 3 foot length of string or thread
  • Fork


  1. Tie the fork to the center of the string.
  2. Tie one end of the string around your right index finger, and tie the other end around your left index finger.
  3. Touch your fingers to your ears and let the fork hang in front of you.
  4. Have a friend tap the fork with a spoon and you’ll hear a loud ringing in your ears! The sound has traveled up the string to your ears.


Try tying other metal objects to the string and see what sounds they make.

by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Make a Fossil

Create a Fossil Fossil

What You Need:

  • Aluminum Foil
  • Plaster of paris
  • Seashell


  1. Make a “bowl” out of a sheet of aluminum foil.
  2. Fill the bowl with plaster of Paris.
  3. Press the sea shell into the plaster of Paris.
  4. Wait 20-30 minutes and then carefully remove the seashell and foil, and you have a fossil!
by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Gumdrop Architecture

What You Need:

  • A bag of gumdrops
  • A box of toothpicks


  1. Start out with a foundation of gumdrops, and build up from there!
  2. Use the toothpicks to poke into the gumdrops at each intersection of toothpicks, to hold the structure together.
  3. Make squares, cubes, pyramids, triangles, anything you like!


Instead of gumdrops, you can use balls of clay or mini marshmallows. Each of these will dry to make a solid structure.


Which shapes make stronger structures? Make a bridge out of different shapes and see which one can hold heavier objects. This could make a good science project!

by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Geodesic Gumdrops

3/4 Hour
What do I need?

  • A bag of gumdrops (If you can't find gumdrops, try using bits of rolled-up clay, mini-marshmallows, or partly-cooked beans. Be creative!)
  • A box of round toothpicks
Girl with gumdrops & toothpicks

What do I do?

Making squares & cubes

1Start with 4 toothpicks and 4 gumdrops. Poke the toothpicks into the gumdrops to make a square with a gumdrop at each corner.

2Poke another toothpick into the top of each gumdrop. Put a gumdrop on the top of each toothpick. Connect the gumdrops with toothpicks to make a cube. (A cube has a square on each side. It takes 8 gumdrops and 12 toothpicks.)

3Use more toothpicks and gumdrops to keep building squares onto the sides of the cube. When your structure is about 6 inches tall or wide, try wiggling it from side to side. Does it feel solid, or does it feel kind of shaky?

Squares & Cubes


Triangles & pyramids

Making triangles & pyramids

1Start with 3 gumdrops and 3 toothpicks. Poke the toothpicks into the gumdrops to make a triangle with a gumdrop at each point.

2Poke another toothpick into the top of each gumdrop. Bend those 3 toothpicks in toward the center. Poke all 3 toothpicks into one gumdrop to make a 3-sided pyramid. (A 3-sided pyramid has a triangle on each side. It takes 4 gumdrops and 6 toothpicks.)

3Use more toothpicks and gumdrops to keep building triangles onto the sides of your pyramid. When your structure is about 6 inches tall or wide, try wiggling it from side to side. Does it feel solid, or does it feel kind of shaky?

Making 4-sided pyramids

You can make a very big structure out of squares and cubes, but it'll be wiggly and will probably fall down. If you try to make a structure out of only triangles and pyramids, it won't be wiggly, but you'll probably run out of gumdrops and toothpicks before it gets very big. A 4-sided pyramid has a square on the bottom and triangles on all 4 sides. When you make a structure that uses both triangles and squares, you can make big structures that are less wiggly.

1Build a square, then poke a toothpick into the top of each corner.

2Bend all 4 toothpicks into the center and connect them with one gumdrop, to make a 4-sided pyramid.

4-sided pyramids

3What other ways can you use squares and triangles together? How big a structure can you make before you run out of gumdrops?

What's Going On?

Stretching and squashing -- some basic principles

Even though your gumdrop structures are standing absolutely still, their parts are always pulling and pushing on each other. Structures remain standing because some parts are being pulled or stretched and other parts are being pushed or squashed. The parts that are being pulled are in tension. The parts that are being squashed are in compression.

Sometimes you can figure out whether something is in tension or compression by imagining yourself in that object's place. If you're a brick and someone piles more bricks on you, you'll feel squashedÑyou're in compression. If you're a long steel cable attached to a couple of towers and someone hangs a bridge from you, you'll feel stretched -- you're in tension.

Some materials -- like bricks -- don't squash easily; they are strong in compression. Others -- like steel cables or rubber bands -- don't break when you stretch them; they are strong under tension. Still others -- like steel bars or wooden toothpicks -- are strong under both compression and tension.

What's the big deal about triangles?

Squares collapse...As you've probably already discovered, squares collapse easily under compression. Four toothpicks joined in a square tend to collapse by giving way at their joints, their weakest points. A square can fold into a diamond, like this:

But if you make a toothpick triangle, the situation changes. The only way to change the angles of the triangle is by shortening one of the sides. So to make the triangle collapse you would have to push hard enough to break one of the toothpicks.

Triangular structureIf you want to, you can use your gumdrops and toothpicks to build some strong structures that are made by combining triangles and squares. The pattern on the left is one that's similar to some used in modern bridge design.

Looking for other triangles in structures around you may give you ideas for other designs you can build with gumdrops and toothpicks.

by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Sugar in Soda?

by on Mar. 31, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Sound Wave

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