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Hands On Science...
With Everyday Objects!

Program Demonstrations & Activities

Here is the order that a typical program follows. You can adapt and change, shorten or lengthen as you like. A breif explanation of the activity

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Starting the Program...

Get started by having the kids sit in front of the table where you've laid out all your stuff...(pic)
Parents/Adults can sit in chairs behind the kids.
Most kids will sit with the group...but don't make a big deal about it.  Some just are shy & want to sit with the adults.  Usually they all come down & mingle with the group.  The challenge is keeping them seated & not kneeling.  Watch & make sure the littlest ones are up front so they can see.


  * * * KIDS * * * * 
  * * *  ON * * * * *
  * * * FLOOR* * * 
  * * * * * * * * * * *


Welcome everyone & go through whatever introductions are appropriate.  Then start out by explaining that the program today is all about science & doing experiments that you can try at home that don't cost anything & that use things they probably have around the house.

But first...let's do an experiment for the they don't feel left out.  This is the only one that you have to have an adult help you with.

Balancing Fork & Spoon
You'll need: a glass jar or glass, spoon, fork, flat toothpick , match

Connect the spoon & fork together by inserting the spoon between the tines of the fork (pic)
Insert the toothpick between the tines of the spoon/fork.  At this point you'll have everyone's attention...believe me.

Now...say this...
"Let's think like a scientist.  Scientists ask questions...and a scientist looking at this would ask...'What will happen if I balance the spoon/fork on the edge of the glass?  How many think it will fall?  How many think it will stay?  That's the a scientist will experiment to find out what happens.
Balance the spoon/fork on the edge of the glass jar/glass as pictures (pic) This will take some practice...but balanced right you'll have a bit of toothpick hanging over the inside of the jar...& the spoon/fork hanging over the outside of the glass.

Now...say this...
"Let's keep thinking like a scientist.  Scientists ask questions...and a scientist looking at this would ask...'What will happen if I light the end of the toothpick?  Will the spoon/fork fall or stay?  How many think fall?  How many stay?
Light the end of the toothpick inside the glass (pic)
The toothpick will burn down until reaching the glass & the spoon/fork will still be balanced.

This experiment should be done our of the way of the table...otherwise it'll get bumped.  You can now speculate on how long it'll stay that way, etc. etc.  Have someone note the time...keep track, etc.  Now you're ready to move on to the main've got everyone focused & ready to watch, listen & have fun.

1. Balloons on the Wall
You'll need: wool cloth or a kid's clean, dry head of hair and a balloon. (pic)

Blow up one of the balloons and ask for a volunteer from the audience.  (pic)
Rub the balloon on the Clean, Dry hair of the volunteer. (pic)
Rub the balloon long enough to generate enough static electricity to allow the balloon to stick to the wall.
Gently hold the balloon up to the wall or should stick too the wall because of the static electric charge.  (pic)
While you're blowing up the balloon & charging it...explain to the kids that the next time they go to a party, save their balloon...this is an experiment they can do at home, and all they need is the balloon.

The fun with this one is to try it with a girl's hair and then a boy's fact, I ask them a question to illustrate what scientists do..."I wonder what might happen if we try this with a boy's hair...will it work the same?  Which will stay longer?  Emphasize that this is what scientists do...they ask questions, experiment and check out what happened.  Keep track through the program as to how long the balloons stayed stuck to the wall, which fell first, etc.

This is a good way to get the program off to a good start.  The biggest problem you'll have is getting too many volunteers!

Tip: Keep your eye open for kids with longer her.  WIth the girls it's not much of a problem, but boys seem to often have shorter hair...and to charge up your balloon you need some length.  Plus...make sure it's DRY & CLEAN.  A challenge on a hot, humid day.

Tip:  Be prepared for the balloon not charging...usually due to it being too humid indoors...& usually never outdoors. prepared to not have it stick to the wall very long.  The kids will let you know when it falls!  If it doesn't work...don't waste time with it.  Explain that not all scienctist's experiments work, talk a bit about why it didn't work...and move on.

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2. Balloons moving the can
You'll need: a balloon, an empty soda can, wool cloth(pic)

Ask the group if any of them like to drink soda pop?  You can guess the answer...Point out that the next time they have a the can because you can do a fun experiment with it & your baloon.

Blow up one of the balloons and use the wool cloth to generate the static electricity.
Rub the balloon with the wool cloth.  I don't use the kid's hair for this one.  It's good to show that other everyday objects can be this case...some wool yarn.
Explain as you charge up the balloon that a wool sock, scarf, shirt, anything wool will work as well.  THINGS YOU'D FIND AROUND THE HOUSE!

Rub the balloon long enough to generate charge the balloon with static electricity. (pic)
Place the empty soda can on its side on the table.  (pic)
Hold the balloon an inch or two away from the empty soda can...pull away and the can should move....attracted to the charged balloon.

This one is pretty neat and everyone seems to like it. You can point out differenct things that might be tried at home...Again...thinking like a scientist & asking questions...How far could you pull the can if you had a long space to work in? Would it work with an empty soup can? Would it work with a full soda can?'re constantly pointing out how easy the experiment is...and how many different questions and experiments might be tried at home.

Tip:  Be prepared if this doesn't work.  A hot humid day, damp wool, etc. can cause the balloon not to charge up.  Keep your wool dry & don't use the balloon more than 5-6 times.  New balloons charge up nicely.

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3. Balloon Picking Up Paper
You'll need: a balloon, paper punch, newspaper, typing paper, wool scarf

This is the last of the static electricity experiments.
Point out that now you're going to once again...use things that you probably have at home...some newspaper...& some typing paper.

Punch out some small bits of dry newspaper on to the table top.  You can use a paper punch...but explain that you don't need it.  You can accomplish the same thing by tearing up the paper into little bits by hand.   (pic)
Blow up one of the balloons.
Rub the Balloon with the wool cloth to charge it with static electricity (pic)
Rub the balloon long enough to generate charge the balloon with static electricity
Hold the balloon an inch or two away from the bits of paper...adjust as needed and watch....the paper bits are attracted to the charged balloon and should jump up onto the balloon.  (pic)
Ask the question  "What if we tryed it with white typing paper?
Repeat again...only use bits of white typing paper...this demonstrates experimenting and questioning in an easy way.

This one is also very popular. You can point out differenct things that might be tried at home...Would it work with different kinds of paper? Dried leaves? String? Pieces of cloth?'re constantly pointing out how easy the experiment is...and how many different questions and experiments might be tried at home.

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4. Magnet and Paper Clip Picture
You'll need: a small magnet, sheet of paper, paper clip & a small picture of an airplane, car, etc.(pic)

A very simple activity.  I start it out by asking..."Can science be fun?  You bet!  Point out that the kids might need to save up to buy a small magnet.  Or maybe use one of the little refridgerator magnets if their mom won't mind.

Take the paper clip and tape a picture to it.  I use the picture of the elephant.  But you could draw one...cut one from a magazine, whatever. (pic)
Ask for two kids to come up and hold the sheet of paper.  I have one drawn with clouds & all, to look like the sky. (pic)

Hold the magnet in one hand behind the paper. reach around with the paperclip/picture & catch the paper clip to the magnet.(pic)
Slowly draw the magnet around & around the paper.  The picture will move...all by itself.(pic)

Point out that a scientist...after having some fun...might ask some questions.  Will this work with cloth?  With different kinds of paper?  Can it work upside down, etc.  All questions to experiment with at home.  For next to nothing...& using things you propably have at home.

When finished... I just fold up the paper...tuck the paperclip, magnet & picture inside. And then point out that I now have a fun science activity that can literally be carried around in a pocket.  (pic)

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6. Soda and Vinegar & Tissue Cork
You'll need: some vinager, some tissues, baking soda(pic)

I like this one because it's so exciting to see the paper cork shoot off the bottle.  But much, much safer than using a cork.

First...wet some tissue & jam it into the end of the soda bottle to form a cork (pic)
Put one cup of vinegar in the empty liter soda bottle(pic)
Wrap one teaspoon of baking soda in a tissue, making a little rolled packet of baking soda. (pic)Putting it in the tissue delays the action allowing time to place the balloon on the bottle.
Drop you baking soda packet into the vinegar(pic)
Quickly place the tissue cork in the top of the liter'll need practice a bit...make sure the tissue cork fits tight.
If all goes well...the carbon dioxide gas created by the vinegar and baking soda will build up enough pressure to pop the tissue cork out of the bottle.  It's an exciting moment when this pops out...makes everyone jump.

Point out the importance of pointing this up & away.

Many kids have seen this one and the next two experiments before so they know what's going to happen. But they seem to enjoy it over and over.

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7. Cup and card
You'll need; a cup, a card, some water (pic)

I always start this out by asking "who likes to go swimming?"  Most do & they often help with the dishes.  Well, these are all experiments that can be done in & around next time you're swimming, taking a bath or even washing the dishes...try these.

Note: You'll also need some kind of container to use.  A small goldfish bowl works...or some kind of clear container. (pic)
Point out that science happens even when you're washing the dishes or taking a bath.  And this is one that uses things that are around the house.
Fill the cup with water...about half full...or half empty as the case may be.(pic)
Place the card completly over the cup(pic)
Turn the cup over...remove your hand...and the card should stay in place.(pic)

Air pressure at work. You can try different size cups...different types of paper. And encourage the group to do so at home. This is a fun on to use volunteers from the audience to try depending on the situation.  Remind them not to try this over the coffee table in the living room or above their dads' head while he's having a nap.  Good for a laugh.

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Cup and tissue
You'll need: a cup, water, tissue (pic)

Note: You'll need to do these next two over a bucker of some kind of container to catch the water.  Take time to have the goldfish bowl filled with water beforehand.  Plus...fill a couple of liter bottles with water to pour from.  It saves alot of time.

Science questions on this one are pretty basic..."If we stuff the tissue in the cup & put it under water...will it be dry or wet when it comes out?"

Take a dry tissue & stuff it inside one for the paper cups. (pic)
Turn the cup over...and slowly lower the cup into the water.  Don't tip it!  .(pic)
After it's completely submerged...slowly pull it Straight Up...(pic)
The tissue should be dry.(pic)

Now try it with either a boy or girl from the audience.  You'll need to help...they must keep the cup straight up & slowly submerge it.  You might need to do it more than once.
After they are successful...try this.  Thinking like a scienctise invite the group to question whether it would make any differnece if the cup was held under the water for a longer time.

Repeat the process again...only this time have the volunteer hold it under for a minute.  Have someone keep track.  While the minute passes...chatter with the group about whatever seems appropriate.  I usually remind them about using only paper or plastic cups...clean up after themselves, etc.

After one minute...take it out slow & the tissue will be dry.

Again, Air pressure at work. You can try different size cups...different types of paper. Would it still work if you held it down of an hour...all night with a brick on top of the cup?  Encourage the group to try to answer these questions at home.

Bottle with hole
You'll need: a bottle , a nail, water(pic)
Once again...a fun experiment using something that is easy to come by.  I encourage people to save the next soda bottle they empty from a picnic, party or just from home.

Take a liter bottle & punch a hole about 1 inch from the bottom, through the side of the bottle. (pic)
Fill the jar with water...keeping your finger on the hole you just made. (pic)
Ask..."What's going to happen when I take away my finger from this hole?"  (everyone will know)
Now...a scientist will ask a question..."Can the water be stopped from leaking out the hole...without covering it with my finger?  How many say yes?  How many say no?"

Remove your finger...(the water comes out so hold it over the bucket)...& place your hand over the top of the bottle...and completely seal off the top.  (pic)
The water will stop flowing.  Remove your starts again...stop...start...stop...start.
Pretty cool.

This is a great one to try with the kids.  It's one even the littlest of folks can do, although you'll need to help if their tiny hands don't completely cover the hole.

Scienctist's questions?  Would it make any difference if the hole was in a different spot?  What if there were two holes?  Three? Four?   Plenty of things to find out experimenting at home.

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Who Sank the Boat
You'll need: The book Who Sank the Boat by Pamela Allen, some tin foil, 100 pennies

Point out that science is all around us...even in a picture book.
Read the story...Who Sank the Boat by Pamela Allen
Explain that you're going to experiment with your own row in the bay...but with things everyone has right at home

Fill the goldfish bowl or clear bucket with water and put it on the table where everyone can see it.(pic)
Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil and form it into a small boat. 4-5 inches long, 2-3 inches wide...with a flat bottom. Not to want it to eventually sink (pic)
Place it in the water. (pic)
Now have some fun involving the audience in guessing how many pennies you can put in the boat before it sinks. Involve the group in making estimates and start small. The fun here is to go beyond what people think it will hold.
Place the pennies in one by'll eventually get so many in...the boat will go down.
This activity goes with reading a story and illustrates the point that science really is all around us...even in a fun picture book.

Balloon Rocket - need: string, balloon, straw, tape

I always end with this activity.  By now the kids are getting restless...they want to go home & try some of this stuff.  So say your thank-you's & goodbyes now...remind them about all the good science books in the collection & that you've put on display & encourage them to check them out.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much goes out the door.

Ask for two TALL volunteers.  I usually pick two of the older kids...tall works best.
Have one person take the end of the string to one end of the room...and the 2nd person holds the end near you.  You're going to shoot the rocket over the heads of the kids in the audience.  So


Balloons - 6 large & 6 small
Empty Soda Can...any brand
3-4 Sheets - White Typing Paper 
Paper Punch (hand-held)
String - 20 feet
Paper Clips
Wool cloth or yarn
1 Nail
Picture of animal, car, airplane, boat...something. 
Box of Tissues
Large Glass Goldfish Bowl or Clear Bucket
Index Cards or paper squares (large enough to cover tops of paper cups)
Paper Squares (large enough to cover tops of paper cups)
12 Paper Cups (small to medium size)
Empty, clear plastic liter soda bottle - for holding water 
Empty, clear plastic liter soda bottle - to punch a hole in
Box of Baking Soda & spoon
Bottle of vinegar
11 x 17 or 81/2 x 11 sheet of paper
Roll of Aluminum Foil
100 pennies
Copy of book Who Sank the Boat by Pamela Allen


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Last Update: 3/3/02