Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In Home Entertainment: Mason Jar Science Experiments

Like most other kiddos and parents in the D.C. area, we've all been feeling a bit under the weather lately. And even though it's been warm outside for the past few days, at least one of us has been stuck inside cranky and not up to doing much of anything except complaining about not feeling so hot. But in those brief periods when fevers are broken and we feel up to it, we've been setting up and observing some cool science experiments in mason jars. 

We started on Friday by setting up the "bouncy egg" experiment and observed that all weekend long. And when it was raining outside, we decided to make it rain inside too -- inside a mason jar, that is. In between, to try to lighten everyone up, we made fireworks in a jar. All of these were easy and used up things we had at home, which is always a win win. Turns out, there are a TON of different science experiments you can do in a jar and, believe you me, we've added them to our list (check the links at the bottom of the post for some more ideas). 

Experiment #1: The Bouncy Egg

We thought we'd try the popular experiment of turning a raw egg into a bouncy "ball" by submerging it in household vinegar for 2 days. The acidic vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate egg shell to dissolve it. The membrane inside the egg remains intact and turns rubbery (that's a super scientific explanation).

Both Cam and I loved setting this one up because we got to pour the vinegar in ourselves. And we liked how disgusting it got over the next few days while the shell dissolved. When it was all finished, I played with mine and experimented dropping it from different heights to see how much bounce I got. I then decided to squeeze it. Gently. Then hard. Then it splattered all over my face. Vinegar in the eye, not so great. But I loved this experiment.

Here's the dealio -- you'll need
(1) a glass jar;
(2) a raw egg (the intent is to dissolve the shell, which is easier to see with a brown egg); 
(3) vinegar (we used apple cider and red wine vinegar, both of which worked well); and 
(4) patience -- it has to sit for 48 hours

Carefully place the egg into the glass jar and cover with vinegar. Record your observations if you want and then set it aside. After 24 hours, carefully change the vinegar. After 48 hours, carefully remove the egg and try to bounce it. 

My experiment notes:
- 1/11/2013: egg is floating; the egg is yellow because of the vinegar; it smells kind of sour; the egg is getting fizzy.
- 1/12/2013: egg is starting to feel bouncy (I pressed on it with a spoon).
- 1/13/2013: the egg feels like rubber; it is bouncy; it doesn't break when I roll it.

Experiment #2: Make it Rain (Inside a Jar)

It was raining outside, so we figured what the heck. We've talked a lot about what makes it rain generally -- how when clouds get so full of water, they let the water go and rain falls. This experiment shows how rain falls when warmer, moist air meets cold air, which causes the water in the warm air to condense and fall like rain.  

This experiment worked, but it wasn't all that spectacular. I liked eating the ice cubes though.

To make it rain, get yourself: 
(1) a glass jar; 
(2) hot water; 
(3) a plate; and 
(4) ice

Fill the glass jar 3/4 of the way with hot water. Cover it with the plate and let it sit for a few minutes and warm up the air inside. Then place ice cubes onto the plate and watch it cool the air inside and make condensation run down the sides of the jar.

My experiment notes: the jar feels hot; the plate feels hot; I can tell it's raining because I read your mind (I like my science served with a side of magic).

Experiment #3: Fireworks in a Jar

This mesmerizing experiment is a good one to demonstrate the scientific principle of density and is just plain pretty to watch. Oil mixed with droplets of food coloring floats on the top of water because it is less dense. The food coloring droplets are denser than the oil and they "drop down" into the water and, upon impact, burst into "fireworks." Just make sure to follow the directions, we did it a bit differently the first time and ended up with muddy water straightaway.

You will need:
(1) a glass jar; 
(2) a shallow plate;
(3) warm water; 
(4) 3 tablespoons cooking oil; and 
(5) food coloring (we used four colors). 

Fill the glass 3/4 of the way with warm water. ON A SHALLOW PLATE, pour the oil and then carefully drop drops of food coloring onto the oil. Mix GENTLY, but make sure the food coloring stays in droplet form -- you want to mix the food coloring droplets into the oil, not into each other. Pour the oil/food coloring into the water and watch the fireworks.

The first go-around we mixed the food coloring in a cup with the cooking oil -- it sank and started mixing together too much before we could pour it into the water jar. So, stick with the directions on this one.

My experiment notes: I was tired of taking notes. This science business is hard work.

More mason jar science ideas
*A real volcano (much more accurate than baking soda explosion)
* Get cooking with a few more involved "experiments" that will help you ferment, cold smoke and more

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