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3 DIY Science Experiments You Can Do At Ho Ho Home!

8 months ago

The person writing this blog is a massive Christmas nerd. She’s the kind of person who would have the Christmas tree up in October, if there was any chance it would survive until Christmas! But this year there’s been a real lack of pre-Christmas cheer. Thanks to Covid, there’s no wandering through early Christmas markets, no big ‘Christmas Light Switch-Ons’, no promise of large carol services throughout December. And as for our children… do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

So here at Empiribox, we’re here to bring some festive flare to some science lessons! Whether done at home or in the classroom, these easy DIY experiments bring a little bit of magic into your science lessons.

1. Crystallised Snowflakes

This experiment allows you to explain a whole host of scientific principles, ranging from how crystals are formed, to evaporation, to saturation. Plus the results look awesome, and can be hung on the Christmas tree or in the window afterwards. What’s not to love?!

Equipment:

Table salt
Water
Paper
Scissors
Tray or dish
Measuring jug
Spoon
Ribbon (to turn them into ornaments!)

Method:

1. Make your paper snowflake in the classic method. You know the one- cut your piece of paper into a circle, fold repeatedly until it looks like a slice of pizza and then cut shapes out of the edges and unfold to reveal your unique paper snowflake

2. Create your salt-water solution by filling a measuring jug with very hot or boiling water. Gradually add a tablespoon of table salt, stirring it thoroughly each time until full dissolved. Repeat this process until the water is saturated.

3. Place the opened snowflake flat on a tray or dish and pour the water solution over it until it’s just submerged.
Set aside the tray or dish and wait for the water to evaporate, leaving behind your crystallised snowflake!

How does it work?!

Ah, the magic of chemistry! As your salt solution cools and the water evaporates, the sodium and chlorine atoms start to bond together because they’re no longer separated by the water molecules, leaving behind unusual cube-shaped salt crystals.

Key learnings:

– Hot liquids are able to suspend solubles in them more easily
– Saturation points in liquids
– Symmetry (good way to integrate maths into your science lessons!)
– Crystal formation

2. Festive Skittles Magic!

A science experiment that’s festive, seems magical AND involves sweets?! What’s not to love! This experiment is super easy and fun to watch as it goes. Depending on the age of the kids you’re teaching, you can keep it simple by using the experiment to discuss water density, or if you want to make it more advanced, you can use it to talk about water stratification (but we’ll get to that later!)

Equipment:

Red and Green Skittles (you know what to do with the rest!)
Water
White Plates
Christmas Cookie Cutters

Method:

1. Ask the children to arrange the skittles around the edge of the plate in any pattern they like

2. For an additional Christmas touch, place a Christmas shaped cookie cutter in the centre of the plate

3. Before pouring the water onto the plate, ask the children to hypothesise what will happen to the Skittles when they get wet

4. Carefully pour water into the centre of the cookie-cutter. The water will spill out from underneath the cookie-cutter. Keep pouring until it just starts to cover the Skittles. Take care not to shake or move the plate once you’ve added the water, or it will disturb the effect.

How does it work?!

As the sugary coating on the outside of the skittles starts to dissolve, the water will take on the colouring and gradually start to be drawn to the centre of the plate towards the cookie-cutter. In what’s called “water stratification”, the density of the water and food colouring across all the Skittles is the same, which means the colours don’t mix (initially, at least)- resulting in perfect stripes towards the centre!

Key learnings:

– Water density
– Water stratification
– Dissolving substances in water
– Water saturation
– Developing a hypothesis

3. Christmas ‘snowball’ catapult

This is a great cross-curricular/STEM activity, as it straddles physics, maths and engineering all in one- with a little bit of a creative, festive twist!

Equipment:

10 large lollipop sticks
3 elastic bands
Mini pom-poms (these are your snowballs!)
Plastic milk lid
Paints/pens/glitter or other supplies to decorate

Method:

1. Stack eight lollipop sticks together and tightly bind them together with rubber bands

2. Take two separate lollipop sticks. Paint/colour one in red, and one in green.

3. Make two notches on either side of the red and green lollipop sticks towards the end of each (might be best to get an adult to do this part, especially for more junior scientists!) These will be used to ensure the elastic bands don’t move too much when in action later.

4. Push the green lollipop stick through the stacked bunch of lollipop sticks so that it rests on the bottom stick in the pack, with the end with the notches sticking out away from the rest of the pack.

5. Place the red lollipop stick on top, parallel with the green lollipop stick. Where the notches line up, tie the two lollypop sticks together securely with a couple of elastic bands.

6. Glue the milk lid to the top of the end of the red lollipop stick. Once this is dry, your catapult is ready!

7. Place the catapult on a firm flat surface. Place a pom-pom in the milk lid, press down towards the table, and release!

8. Feel free to decorate the catapults as festively as possible

How does it work?!

Thanks to gravity, we can push down with a much greater amount of force than we can lift up. You can use this simple catapult to explain how catapults are used to throw very heavy objects incredibly far, with a minimal amount of human strength required. A good way of expanding this experiment is to substitute the ‘snowballs’ for other objects, like paper balls, for instance. Encourage the children to measure the distance the objects can get each time with the catapult, and assess why some can travel further than others.

Key learnings:

– The fulcrum point (i.e. the point that doesn’t move)
– Forces
– How levers work
– Potential and stored energy
– Design principles