If you’re looking for activities to get the young people in your life to step away from the TV or computer, consider teaching them some science! Now, I understand that most young people probably will not jump at the opportunity to learn when they are “playing” online with their friends, but once they see how cool science can be, maybe they will change their minds.
A great resource is Scifun.org created by Chemistry Professor Bassem Shakhashiri at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. This website is packed with information, but one of my favorite parts is the first option in the “Explore” section: Experiments You Can Do At Home. Most of the experiments listed are relatively simple and use materials you can probably find in your home in common living areas, basement, or garage. The individual experiments are listed by name with a picture to tease your curiosity. If you click on the experiment name, you will be taken to a page with a protocol for the experiment along with an easy to understand explanation of the scientific phenomenon you are studying.
For example, one experiment called “Layered Liquids” involves adding food coloring to things like water, vegetable oil, and corn syrup, slowly pouring them into a glass and noticing how each layer remains separated within the glass. The experiment page explains the physical properties of liquids like density and viscosity that keep them separated. Once you’re finished, this experiment makes a nice piece of art to display in your home for a while.
Another fun experiment, although maybe a bit more complicated, is “Build An Electric Motor” using materials like D batteries, copper wire, and magnets. This experiment involves suspending a wire coil between two paper clips attached to a plastic cup and using the properties of electromagnetism to make the coil spin. Very cool!
If you make your way through all the chemistry experiments on this web page, you can check out the links at the bottom of the page such as the “Wonders of Physics Home Experiments” by University of Wisconsin Physics Professor Clint Sprott.
Professors Sprott and Shakhashiri hold amazing demonstrations open to the public that are loads of fun for all ages. If you are in the Madison, WI, area, check out SciFun.org to see if you can catch one of them. Try these things out, and you too will be declaring that Science is Fun!
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