For many of us, the summer brings with it some extra free time, and that's the perfect time to sit down for some science exploration. In the spirit of scientific discovery, we've listed only the procedures to each experiment, but feel free to click the links in each one to learn more about the science in action—especially if you've already hypothesized, experimented, and observed first.
1. Capillary Action & Chromatography: All in a Coffee Filter
Coffee filters are perfect to test the limits of water's process known as capillary action.
1. Combine water in a cup with three drops of food coloring.
2. Cut a coffee filter into inch-wide strips.
3. Holding the top of one strip, dip its bottom edge into the colored water.
4. Does the water stay only where you've placed the coffee filter against it, or does it move? What in nature might use this same strength of water?
1. Cut a coffee filter into inch-wide strips.
2. Position the strip in a "portrait" orientation, taller than it is wide. Halfway up one strip, use a black marker to draw a horizontal line across your coffee filter.
3. Grab one end of the strip between your fingers, letting it hang vertically in the air.
4. Dip one end of the coffee filter strip into water. Lower it until the water line is just below your marker line, and then pull the strip out, holding it vertically in the air.
5. Watch as the water climbs past the line, and see which colors climb with it. What's happening to the ink?
2. Dissect a Seed
Did you know that every bean you eat is also a seed? Because of this, any bean that is available not dried (kidney beans, garbanzo beans) are all prime candidates for dissection.
1. Use your fingers to skin the bean.
2. Gently split the bean in two along its natural seam.
3. See if you can tell which pieces protect it from the elements, which feed the growing plan, and where the plant itself will come from.
3. What's in Your Air?
A perfect activity for spring or summer, when plant life is booming, pollen and seeds are spreading, and you want to learn more about what's floating through your local landscape.
1. Draw a circle on a sheet of paper.
2. Fill that circle in with a clear tacky substance, like petroleum jelly or Vaseline.
3. Hang the sheet outdoors, and check in a week to see what it's caught. Are any seeds migrating through the air? What particles did you most commonly catch? What about them makes them so susceptible to the wind—and for plants that evolved those traits, are there benefits?
4. Baking Substitutions
Baking is, among other sciences, chemistry. Experiment with old tried and true substitutions like applesauce or unseasoned black beans in place of eggs to discover your favorite, or work in groups to discuss new ideas for what foods might work in place of milk, eggs, or oil and why. What properties do they have in common? How did the end products differ?