Weird Science: Slightly Strange (or Gross) Science Activities
Curiosity is natural to the soul of man, and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections.
– Daniel Boone
Ever since the beginning of time, humans have been trying to make sense of the world around us. Curiosity prompts us to question why things are the way they are, and how things work. It’s the eternal quest of human beings to want to really know, to understand how to unlock the secrets of the universe. As the above quote by Daniel Boone illustrates, objects and ideas that fire our imaginations can become potent interests, or even passions.
Curiosity has long fueled the study of the sciences, and is the driving force behind scientific experiments and advances. In general, most students enjoy conducting experiments. The opportunity to handle materials, and to watch the changes that occur as a result, can be very gratifying to many students. It’s even better if the experiments involve something out of the ordinary, such as something strange, unexpected, or gross. Making invisible ink and working with acids and bases can be fun, but experiments that simulate burps, flatulence, and snot are always crowd-pleasers, regardless of the students’ ages, ability levels, or language proficiency. Experiments dealing with yucky stuff, especially those registering high in the “eww” factor, rarely fail to engage students. All teachers know that an engaged student is a focused student, and that’s when the very best learning can occur.
This week I’ve selected three hands-on activities that are sure to appeal to a broad range of students. Although the odd and/or gross factor is the hook to get kids to buy into the experiments, these activities still present solid science concepts in biology, chemistry, and physics. Throughout the week, we’ll be posting many more science resources with an odd or yucky twist on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Be sure to check out my colleague Peggy’s column (linked below), as she offers additional ideas for hands-on science projects. Take a look at these highlighted resources and more, and let us know how you like them – registered users of the Gateway can now add comments and extension and modification ideas to all Gateway resources. Have fun!
Freak out your friends with this strange experiment! Snot actually serves an important purpose in our body, so let’s make some fake snot and learn how it relates to sugar and protein strands. This experiment immediately appeals to students – while the phrase “protein strands” may not wow them, we’re all aware of their continued fascination with bodily secretions. This activity was produced by Science Kids, a web site created by Rene Smith that aims to provide educational resources for teachers and parents that help to make science fun and engaging for kids.
The Fireproof Balloon
Subjects: Physical science
What happens when you hold a lighted match up to a balloon? For obvious reasons, adult supervision is required. This activity is hard to beat as an attention-grabber for students. During the experiment, they’ll learn about heat absorption and conduction; I’m a big fan of learning by stealth! This resource is a product of Chymist.com, a website offering lots of science activities and experiments from chemist and educator David Katz.
Make a Mold Terrarium
Grade: 7-12, Community College
Mold is fascinating! In this science activity, students make a mold terrarium. What I like about this activity is the simplicity – glass jars with lids, leftover food, and a little water and – presto! – your terrarium is on its way to luxurious growth. This activity is a product of Weird Science Kids, a web site that offers educational hands-on science toys, science fair kits, and supplies, as well as learning activities.