Do The Salsa


WHAT IT TEACHES: Acids and bases, culinary prowess
WHAT YOU NEED: Three tomatoes, a red onion, an avocado, one red, one green, and one yellow bell pepper, cilantro, one can of black beans, one can of shoepeg corn, the juice of three limes, a bag of tortilla chips, 2" strips of pH paper, knives (think plastic!)
WHAT TO DO: Help kids to chop these good-for-you ingredients into 1/2" pieces. Then, using pH paper, have them test and record the acidity of each of the separate ingredients. Which are acids and which are bases? (Our quick refresher course: A pH less than seven means acid; greater than seven, base.) Mix ingredients, and invite kids to test the new pH. Discuss the results before scooping them up with chips. Yum!
BOOK CONNECTION: The hilarious Chato’s Kitchen, by Gary Soto

Science Pops

WHAT IT TEACHES: Scientific method, variables, popcorn expertise
WHAT YOU NEED: Various types of loose popcorn kernels and deer corn (many grocery stores now carry yellow, black, blue, and red corn), popcorn popper
WHAT TO DO: Discuss the structure of the kernel with students and what causes it to pop. (Find a no-brainer explanation at, “January/February Links.” ) Then ask, “How do you think freezing will affect the popcorn? Will more kernels pop if the corn is unfrozen or frozen?” Discuss, then divide students into groups according to the types of corn. Give each group one cup of corn and ask kids to count the kernels. Record the amounts on a chart, then pop each type of corn. Have groups record the numbers of popped kernels. Put a second cup of kernels in the freezer overnight. The next day, remove the frozen corn and have students observe any changes in the outer appearance. Then pop, counting the popped kernels. Why do kids think fewer frozen kernels popped? How do they think freezing affects the structure of the corn kernels?
BOOK CONNECTION: The Popcorn Book, by Tomie dePaola or Popcorn, by Elaine Landau and Brian Lies
EXTRA CREDIT: Soak kernels in water for 24 hours. They’ll be super-easy to dissect. Have kids create a cross-section of a kernel, like the kind they’d see in one of David Macaulay’s cool science books.

We All Swing For Ice Cream

WHAT IT TEACHES: Freezing point
WHAT YOU NEED: For each small group: one cup milk, a half-cup sugar, two
teaspoons extract or flavoring (vanilla, peppermint, chocolate, etc.), a quart-sized re-sealable plastic bag, a gallon-sized re-sealable plastic bag, two cups ice, a half-cup rock salt, a thermometer
WHAT TO DO: Invite kids to channel Ben and Jerry by mixing the milk, sugar, and flavor in the smaller bags. Ask them to measure the temperature of the ingredients, remove the air from the bag, and seal. Then combine the salt and ice in the large bags and measure the temperature. How do the temps compare? Put the small bag into the big one and seal.
Now for the fun part! Have kids swing the bag side to side until the ice cream has the texture of soft serve. Before students dig in with spoons, have them take final temperature readings of the ice cream and the ice mixture and compare with the originals.
BOOK CONNECTION: Ice Cream, by Jules Older
EXTRA CREDIT: Get health conscious: Use milks with various levels of milk fat and compare the freezing points and textures of the final frozen delights.

Chocolate Hugs and Kisses

WHAT IT TEACHES: Qualitative data collection, graphingWhat you need: Stopwatch, chocolate kisses, hungry kids
WHAT TO DO: Give each student a chocolate kiss. (Plenty around this time of year!) As they work up an appetite, invite kids to hypothesize how long it will take for the kiss to melt in their mouths and then record their guesses on a chart. Allow students to unwrap the kisses (hooray) and then, at the same time, place them on their tongues (no cheating). Put on your referee hat and keep time with a stopwatch, announcing the seconds. As the kisses melt completely, have students record their times. Compare the times as a class and have students hypothesize how long a frozen kiss will take to melt in their mouths. Announce that, sadly, you’ll have to repeat the experiment with a frozen kiss. Create a bar graph that illustrates the difference in melting times for a frozen kiss compared to a non-frozen kiss.
BOOK CONNECTION: Chocolatina, by Erik Kraft
EXTRA CREDIT: Repeat the experiment with Hershey Hugs.

Can You Bounce An Egg?

WHAT IT TEACHES: Chemical reactions, acids, trusting your teacher
WHAT YOU NEED: Four plastic cups, four eggs, white vinegar, a can of cola, a can of tomato juice, a can of orange juice
WHAT TO DO: Ask students, “Can we make an egg bounce?” (And look out for their incredulous stares.) Then place one egg in each cup. Pour one of the liquids into each cup until the egg is completely submerged. Challenge students to hypothesize what will happen to each of the eggs. Place cups in an area where students may observe them. Every other day, remove the egg, discard the liquid, and have students observe and record the appearance of the eggshell. Place the egg back in the cup and refill the cups with fresh liquid. Continue for one week. On D-Day, invite kids to bounce the eggs in the schoolyard. (The smoother the surface, the better. Rough cement may burst the eggs. We recommend dropping eggs from a height of about two feet.) Discuss the results. Why do some of the eggs bounce more easily than others? If kids are stumped, give them a hint: It has to do with the levels of acidity in the four liquids. Break out the pH paper to test and discuss.
BOOK CONNECTION: Chicken Sunday or Rechenka’s Eggs , both by Patricia Polacco, one of our all-time favorites

Growing Bean Soup

WHAT IT TEACHES: Scientific outcomes, seed growth, measurement, good old-fashioned self-reliance
WHAT YOU NEED: A bag of mixed bean soup, tap water, plastic bags, labels, paper towels, a little patience
WHAT TO DO: As a class, create a chart with the names and characteristics of each type of bean included in the soup mix. (All you’ve ever wanted to know about beans is at
instructor, “January/February Links.”) Have each student select two beans of every variety and line the interior of a plastic bag with three paper towels. Ask kids to wet the paper towels with a spray bottle, making sure all three layers are wet, and then to place their beans in the bags. Help them to huff, puff, and blow some air into the bags and seal. Place the bags in a sunny spot or outside. Invite students to check their bags daily for two weeks, observing growth from the seeds. Keep a classroom chart that shows the growth rate and size of each sprout. After two weeks, plant the sprouts in a school garden or in small pots for students to take home.
BOOK CONNECTION: Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert