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February 7, 2017
Our friends at MOSI are always full of great ideas on how we can engage our kids at home when away from school and cool museums like…MOSI. We asked them to share three fun and easy experiments to incorporate STEM into the home.
Explore with a Magnifying Glass
One of the best, most under-appreciated tools for kids is a magnifying glass. Going out into nature and looking at things with a magnifying glass opens up a whole new world for kids. If your kids like collecting leaves and rocks they’ll find a whole new fascination when they see the details on the leaves and the hidden colors and shapes in the stones—not to mention a worm up close and personal!
Magnifying glasses are inexpensive and easy to find. We have several in our ELEMENTS Gift Shop at MOSI, but they can also be purchased online from various retailers for as little as $5. As the child gets older, you can keep upgrading to more powerful lenses until you eventually step up to a microscope and allow your child to discover all the life that’s hiding in one tiny droplet of water.
Become Citizen Scientists
Instead of heading to a theme park on your next day off, how about forming a science team with your family and taking on a real research project? Sound intimidating? It’s not! At nationalgeographic.org, for example, you can become a citizen scientist by counting birds or butterflies in your neighborhood; test the quality of water in pond near your home; or use an app to measure the brightness of the night sky at your home and learn how light pollution makes it tougher to see the stars.
At MOSI, we’ll be doing a day-long BioBlitz in March, where a whole group of kids from our YES! Team youth leadership program will use an app called iNaturalist to take pictures of different creatures. We’ll work together to identify what they find and scientists can use that information to track the populations of animals, see how they migrate, and check whether they’re surviving or struggling.
Make Rock Candy in Your Kitchen
This is crystal growth in action and it’s good to eat! This one’s a favorite in our Summer Science Camps at MOSI. Here’s what you do, and only with an adult: Heat up water in a pan and keep adding sugar until the mixture is almost syrupy and you just can’t get any more sugar to dissolve in it (that’s called a “super-saturated solution”). Use a candy thermometer to try for a temperature of 200-230 degrees and aim for LOTS OF SUGAR – 2-4 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of water. Add some food coloring if you’d like, then pour your sugar water into a mason jar.
Tie one end of a piece of yarn or kite string around a paperclip (that’s the “seed crystal”) and tie the other end of the string to the middle of a chopstick or pencil. Dangle the string into the jar without letting it touch the sides, cover the opening with wax paper, and let it sit. Within hours, the sugar starts to crystalize on the string, and soon you’ll have tasty rock candy. What happened? Hot water can hold more sugar than cold water, so as the water cools, the sugar needs some place to go and that string sure looks mighty inviting!
Want to read more STEM related stories? Check out some of our favorite local STEM topics: