Friday, July 6, 2012

Firework Chemistry

For our first day of the Fireworks Unit, we started with the basics: a discussion of elements and compounds and chemical vs. physical changes. There are tons of fun activities to do along with this, and I had a hard time choosing among them---we probably did too much in this one day (we went far into naptime), but we had a really fun time. If I were doing it again I'd take two days or even three for this part.

We had a big chart up on the wall where we wrote things down in either the "Physical Change" or "Chemical Change" column. We added to it all week, which was fun.

To go along with our books on this day, we watched a whole bunch of videos from "The Happy Scientist." To access most of his content, you need a subscription (I think it's $20 for a year)---which I think is totally worth it. He has really a clear and engaging style, and he has tons of great ideas for fun experiments to try. We all love him. Here are some videos that deal with chemical change/chemical reactions: (we did this ourselves, also) (this was amazing to me: though I had learned the concepts in this video many times, I had never really understood them completely.  His descriptions finally made it all come together for me.)

We made this sugar/caramel glass (Sam told us they use this in movies when they need to break lots of glass. Ours got overcooked a bit, but was still interesting.)

Dry ice is always fun (note Junie pointing at it in the background)

I have been at Halloween Parties where rootbeer was made (maybe at Rachael's birthday parties too?) but have never attempted it myself before. We used this recipe, with slightly less water, and it was great. We ended up using two batches of dry ice because it didn't seem fizzy enough, which was all to the good, as we got to witness more sublimation at work. :)

The film canister rockets were a big success. They work best with just the canisters, but it was to make the rocket bodies anyway, and see the boys gradually realize that the smaller they were, the farther their rockets flew. We experimented with both alka-seltzer tablets and the baking-soda-and-vinegar method. Abe finally perfected the latter by putting the soda in the rocket lid first (which tip I had read earlier, but didn't tell him---he figured that out on his own).

My favorite part of this activity was watching the sheer anticipatory terror with which these people ran away after setting up their rockets to launch.

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