The Science Behind Milk Plastic

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Have you heard of milk plastic before? Not only is it a project you can do with kids, but it’s also how they made many plastics before the advent of synthetic plastics! Many of those old buttons in a jar you have from your grandma are probably milk plastic (actually called casein plastic, Galalith, or Erinoid). They have a beautiful marbled or tortoise shell look, and are often pastel colored or two toned. The milk plastic you will make with this project won’t be exactly the same as the old casein plastics, the main difference being a pretty toxic step where you would need to wash and harden the plastic with a formaldehyde solution. That’s not something kid-friendly, soooo crumbly squishy curds it is!

This is a very easy project. All you need is milk, vinegar, and some basic household items.

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Make your own color changing paint with red cabbage

 

This activity is for kids 2.5 and up!

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Get ready for an incredibly simple set up with an incredibly entertaining result. You won’t believe how easy it is to make your own color changing paint with just two ingredients: red cabbage and white paint (and honestly, you can leave out the white paint and it still works, just more like water colors). Red cabbage has a huge amount of the highly pigmented group of molecules called anthocyanins. Widely known for their antioxidant capacity, these molecules also have the amazing ability to change color when exposed to a pH change. Read on for the method to make your own color changing paint and a little science lesson below!

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Why does milk foam? The science behind your latte.

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Oh it’s fall in the Northeast again- the perfect time to switch from iced coffees to silky lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. When I was younger, I remember wishing there was something warm that tasted as good and had a mouth feel as good as ice cream. Luckily, I’ve pretty much lost my sweet tooth and these coffee drinks have fulfilled that wish. Though espresso alone is one of the most delicious things on Earth, add some foamed milk and those tiny velvety bubbles transform it into perfection.

I was making a latte for myself one morning and my daughter asked if I could froth her milk, too. What a great idea, I thought! So these first few chilly mornings of the fall, we’ve been cuddling up and sharing some warm, silky drinks together. I’ve included some coffee-free recipe ideas for you to try with your little ones, too. It’s a great way to bond and also explain a little science. So, what is special about milk that allows it to foam?

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Experimenting with Real Enzymes: Bromelain

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This post is part of our Summer of Science series! Check back periodically to find more fun, easy, and affordable experiments and projects you can do at home with your kids this summer. This project is about the enzyme, bromelain, which degrades other proteins. You will use it to turn chicken to mush while learning about experimental set up, controls, and the wonderful world of enzymes.

Oh, the first time I learned about bromelain was in college on a trip to Hawaii (I got a chance to observe Mars on the NASA IRTF on Mauna Kea). My friends and I flew there a week earlier than our telescope time to explore the islands a bit. One day, we each bought a fresh pineapple and each ate. the. whole. thing. Never do this, it was awful. I mean it tasted absolutely delicious, but our tongues and mouths were sloughing skin off for a few days as they recovered from being eaten themselves by the enzyme, bromelain.

Pineapple fruit has a very high concentration of fruit bromelain, a protein that can break down other proteins, aka a “proteolytic enzyme”.

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Make your own pH strips with turmeric

This post is part of our 2017 Summer of Science series! Here you’ll find quick and easy projects and experiments you can do this summer to keep your kids’ brains active and curious! As always, you can go as much or as little into the science explained below based on age and interest. Enjoy!

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This project actually came about kind of by accident, but honestly that’s how lots of science discovery happens! I was washing the extract of turmeric from a bowl in my sink (we were making dye for tie-dye!) and realized the color changed from bright yellow to brownish-red when I added water. I googled the color change and found that curcumin, the main compound responsible for turmeric’s color, will turn red in solutions with pH greater than 7.5. I took out my (real) pH strips and clocked the pH of my tap water at 9. After making sure that it’s not big deal to drink pH 9 tap water, I decided to see if we could make some pH strips with the turmeric extract, and it worked splendidly!

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Kitchen science: Making oil-based fluorescent chlorophyll paint

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This post is part of a series on chlorophyll! Check out our previous post about how to easily extract chlorophyll from spinach and use it as a paint. Using a black light, you can also observe the beautiful red/pink fluorescence of chlorophyll, too! This post is how to further purify chlorophyll through a technique called liquid-liquid extraction or solvent extraction. Don’t be intimidated by the name! You are totally capable. This can be done with common, inexpensive things from your kitchen and it’s a great way to learn about solubility, polarity, and the way chemists approach problems. Younger kids will not grasp the concepts of polarity and solubility, but they can track the location of chlorophyll throughout the experiment (through color) to begin to learn about these concepts.

This tutorial is written for the parent or educator. There is a section called “A quick science lesson” to help give you a background to present this to a class or your kids. You can go as little or as much into the details as you want, so this project can be done with a large age range of kids.

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Flower Petal Chromatography

 

This is a quick easy science project you can do with children of all ages. You can make it very simple for young ones, or more complex for older children. In this project, you crush flower petals with a household solvent, then separate the colorful components of the petals using paper chromatography.
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Painting with Chlorophyll: How to make your own fluorescent paint

This post is part of a series on chlorophyll, a molecule both plants and humans owe their lives to! This specific activity is a fun, easy, and art-inspired introduction to chlorophyll for children 2 years old and up where we will make paint from the chlorophyll in spinach leaves, then observe the fluorescence of the chlorophyll artwork with a black light! If you can paint, and not eat the paint, this activity is for you!

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