An Invitation to Explore
I really want to teach my daughter think like a scientist. It means that I want her to be able to ask questions, formulate a hypothesis and test it with experimentation. I am trying to challenge her with science that doesn’t come from a book with neatly organized steps. She is well familiar with a traditional soda+vinegar experiment and its variations, but I was curious to see whether she will be able to apply the knowledge from these classic experiments to a new setting. Before I picked her up from her afterschool program, I set up a table with a small box of baking soda, a dropper, a test tube, a plate, and a couple of pages to record her observations.
When Smarty came home, I told her the following story, Imagine that you are a scientist, and you have this substance in front of you. Use your senses and ask me for whatever else you might need to discover properties of this substance. Remember – this substance is precious, and once it’s gone, you cannot get more. Also remember – scientists don’t taste things.
A Discovery Process for Kids
The first thing that my six year old Smarty asked for was a special paper to test if this stuff is acidic or the other one that is opposite of acidic. After I recovered from this surprise, I explained to her that pH paper works on liquids, not on solids. This set her on the right track of dissolving her substance in different liquids and seeing the results. After seeing her substance react with pomegranate juice, she was ready to announce what it is – baking soda or baking powder.
Science + Writing = Memorable Experience
Smarty absolutely loved this activity and is hoping that we can do it every week. I enjoyed seeing how her mind works and how much she knows already about chemistry and reactions (thank you, Mad Science!). Eventually we took out some pH paper that came in one of her Mad Science home kits and tried it on vinegar, pomegranate juice, milk and baking soda solution. We learned that vinegar is a little more acidic than pomegranate juice, and that soda is a mild base. Smarty was amazed when I told her that strong acids and bases can burn through fabric and even through human flesh. I am sure a chemistry set is somewhere in our not-so-distant future.
More Activities for Future Scientists
- Think Like a Scientist - Separate Two Materials
- Think Like a Scientist - What Failed Experiments Can Teach You