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Category: Learning

Walking Rainbow Experiment

Walking Rainbow

By Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

We share a lot of different science experiment projects at CMNH. Many of these experiments have instant results - things like vinegar and baking soda bubbling, popcorn dancing, and invisible ink appearing. What I really like about this “walking rainbow” experiment is that it takes some time to see the results (as in, it takes hours to fully see the results!) Although it may not be as exciting in the moment, it is a perfect experiment to practice making predictions and thinking like a scientist. It really gives young scientists time to think and hypothesize and even change their guesses throughout the day. 

To make your own rainbow you will need:

  • 7 clear cups--these can be glass or plastic, just make sure they are perfectly clear (not colorful)
  • Water
  • 6 paper towel pieces (this could be three large sheets cut in half, or 6 of the little half sheets)
  • Primary colors of food coloring or liquid watercolor

Set-up:

  1. Set out the 7 cups in a line
  2. Fill cups 1, 3, 5, & 7 about halfway with water
    1. Leave cups 2, 4, & 6 empty
  3. Fold your six paper towel pieces in half lengthwise and then in half again. Take that long skinny strip and fold it in half so that it can stand up in the cups (pictured above)
  4. Invite young scientists to help you add some food coloring to the cups. 
    1. Ask them--what is the first color of the rainbow? Red! Add about 6 drops of red food coloring to the first cup.
    2. What is the second color? Orange! That cup is empty though, so we will skip that one. 
      1. Add yellow to the 3rd cup
      2. Skip the 4th cup (green)
      3. Add blue to the 5th cup
      4. Skip the 6th cup (purple)
      5. Add red to the 7th cup and ask your scientists why they think you may have done that…!
  5. Next, carefully place your paper towel pieces in between each cup so that they are resting in the colorful water. 

That’s it for set up! Now it’s time to think like a scientist!

Ask your young scientists…

  • What do you think will happen with the cups?
  • Why do you think we left some cups empty?
  • What do you know about primary colors?
    • How do you think what you know about primary colors (that they make secondary colors) will come into play in this experiment?
  • What do you notice is already happening with the paper towel pieces and the water?

Feel free to have your scientists write or draw what they are seeing!

This experiment will take awhile to completely finish and make the rainbow design. It’s a good idea to either do this experiment at night before bedtime, make some predictions, and then wake up and see the walking water rainbow. You could also do this experiment first thing in the morning and then watch it change all day long!

Have fun making a walking rainbow and thinking like scientists! 

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Wacky Art: Tin Foil Printmaking

By Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

This printmaking is so fun and easy to do with materials you probably already have at home! The best part is it can be done over and over again with very little clean-up in between! Here’s how to get started:

Materials Needed:

  • Piece of paperboard (like a cereal box) or cardboard, slightly bigger than an average piece of paper (10in X 12in-ish)
  • Piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to cover the paper/cardboard. If needed, you can use two seperate pieces to cover the board
  • Tape
  • Acrylic or tempera paint
  • Cardstock, printer, or construction paper
  • A paintbrush
  • Q-tips
  • Paper towels or old kitchen rags

Directions (prep):

  • Make your printing board
    • Cut your piece of paper/cardboard to the appropriate size
    • Cover with aluminum foil
    • Fold the foil over the piece of cardboard and tape on the back so it does not move around
  • Prep/gather paint, brushes, q-tips, paper towels, etc

Directions (activity):

  • Drizzle a small amount of paint onto your printing board
    • NOTE: Start with quite a small amount, you do not want too much paint on there for this activity--you can always add a bit more!
  • Use the paintbrush to spread it out across the printboard so it is completely covered
  • Use q-tips to quickly draw designs and pictures directly into the paint
    • NOTE: Do this fast! Since you are using such a small amount of paint, it will dry quickly
  • Place a piece of paper onto the painted printboard and gently press down
  • Peel away to reveal your print!
  • Use a damp paper towel to clean your printboard, dry it off, and try again!

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First Friends: BIG and small

By Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

Hello Song:

Hello it’s time to play
Let’s have some fun today!

Let’s clap our hands
And wiggle our toes
A hug...and a kiss...and away we go!

Hello (insert name here) it’s time to play
Hello (insert name here) it’s time to play
Hello (insert name here) it’s time to play
We’ll have so much fun...hooray! 

Open Them/Shut Them (action song)

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Give a little clap-clap-clap

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Lay them in your lap-lap-lap

Creep them, creep them, creep them, creep them
Right up to your chin-chin-chin
Open up your little mouth…
But do not let them in! 

Five Little Kittens (action rhyme)

Five little kittens standing in a row,
They nod their heads to the children so!

They run to the left,
They run to the right
They stand and stretch in the bright sunlight!

Along comes a dog who’s looking or some fun…
ME-OW! See those little kittens run! 

Sugar Babies (action rhyme)

Roll, roll sugar babies
Roll, roll sugar babies
Push! Pull! Clap-clap-clap!

“   “
BIG! Little! Clap-clap-clap!

“   “
Up! Down! Clap-clap-clap!

The Royal Duke of York (bounce/movement rhyme)

The royal duke of york,
He had 10,000 men,
He marched them up the mountainside
And marched them down again!

Oh, when you’re up you’re up
And when you’re down you’re down
And when you’re only halfway up…
You’re neither up nor down! 

Hurry, Scurry, Little Mouse (action rhyme/tickle)

Hurry, scurry, little mouse
Starts down at your toes…

Hurry, scurry, little mouse
Past your knees he goes... 

Hurry, scurry, little mouse
Past where your tummy is…

Hurry, scurry, little mouse…
Gives you a mousey kiss!

Shake your shaker! (prop song)

If you’re happy and you know it, shake your shaker...one time! ONE!
If you’re happy and you know it, shake your shaker...two times! ONE! TWO!
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it, shake your shaker...three times! ONE! TWO! THREE!

If you’re happy and you know it, shake your shaker...four times! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!
If you’re happy and you know it, shake your shaker...five times! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! FIVE!
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it, shake your shaker!!!

Goodbye Rhyme (action rhyme)

This is big, big, big
And this is small, small, small

This is short, short, short
And this is tall, tall, tall!

This is fast, fast, fast
And this is slow, slow, slow

This is yes, yes, yes
And this is no, no, no

This is hi, hi, hi
And this is bye, bye, bye! 

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Science Magic: Secret Rainbow

By Colie Haahr, CMNH Educator

This project is fun and easy, and only requires a little bit of prep ahead of time. Kids will enjoy magically making a rainbow appear by adding water to a paper towel. This activity is fun on its own, or it can be set up as an experiment that they can try a few times and record the results.

Materials Needed:

Paper towels
Washable markers
Black permanent marker
Cup for water
Tray or plates 
Pipette, eye dropper, or small spray bottle
Optional: Different brands of markers, highlighter, permanent markers, pencil, pen 

Directions:

  • Prep ahead: This project requires some prep ahead if you want to create a truly “secret” rainbow! You can create more sheets for kids to try as you go if they enjoy the activity! -Use a water based marker to create a rainbow on a paper towel. Remember ROYGBIV! 

-Thin lines work well for this- do not make them too thick because you need to cover them with permanent marker

-Use a black permanent marker to carefully draw over each line, hiding the colorful lines under the dark lines. 

-Optional: create shapes that are different colors, and use the same process to cover them with permanent markers. 

-Optional: Set up the color mixing part of the activity the same way coloring two circles next to one another in primary colors (red and yellow, red and blue, and yellow and blue)

  • Place one of the prepared paper towels onto a plate or tray that is okay to use for an art project (it may get marker ink on it!), with a cup of water and pipette or spray bottle
  • Make a prediction- ask: what do you think will happen when we add water?
  • Ask kids to slowly add some water to the picture
  • The rainbow will “magically” appear when the water based marker dye spreads, and the permanent ink stays in place
  • Try the same method with color mixing, or the colors hidden behind shapes
  • Let the artwork dry completely, and some of the dye will stay on the paper towel once it dries. Too much water can cause the color to wash out completely
  • Alternatives: This also works with a tray of water, and kids can carefully place the paper towel in the water and watch what happens. 

-Make an experiment! To make this a true experiment, try using different types of writing utensils, like markers, pens, pencils, highlighters, etc., and testing each one to see if water changes anything. Compare different brands of markers to see which ones work the best. Make predictions and write down the results! 

Science Information: 

For this activity there were two types of markers used, and they were made of different types of dyes or inks. One was water soluble, and one was not. If the experiment went as planned, the water based markers should have spread color out on the paper towel. These markers have dye that is water soluble, which means that it is able to dissolve in water. 

The permanent marker has a different kind of ink or dye, and it is not water soluble, which means that water will not wash it away. The permanent marker is alcohol based, so it will dissolve in alcohol. If rubbing alcohol were added to the paper towel, it may have changed the permanent marker, but because only water was added, the permanent marker stayed the same.  

The paper towel also played an important part in making this activity work. This activity did not work well on other types of paper, like card stock and copy paper. Paper towels are absorbent, and designed to absorb or suck up liquids. If the paper were waxed paper or something similar, the water would bead up into droplets because water molecules like to stick together. Water molecules still like to stick together on paper towels, but there are tiny air pockets in paper towels, and a soft cellulose material that allows the water molecules to move around the paper towel together. 

References:

https://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/how-do-paper-towels-absorb-water.php

https://www.thebestideasforkids.com/surprise-rainbow-activities/

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Oil & Water Mixing Sensory Bottles

by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

There are so many fun experiments that you can try using oil and water. If you’re at the grocery store and thinking about picking up one or two items for your young scientist’s “at home chemistry station” I definitely recommend a big jug of vegetable oil. It’s inexpensive, easy to find, and can be used for tons of science! 

This experiment does some simple MESS FREE oil and water mixing. I especially like this experiment because the experiment itself is quick and can be done over and over again. Some people also use these oil & water mixing bottles as sensory bottles - moving the oil back and forth and watching the gentle waves it makes can be very relaxing. Who doesn’t need a bit of extra relaxation these days? 

Here’s how to make your own:

Materials needed:

  • Small jar or container with a lid that can be securely screwed on (plastic or glass--although with very young scientists you may want to go the plastic route and duct tape that lid on there, too!)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Food coloring

Directions:

  • Fill your container halfway with water
  • Pour vegetable oil in to fill up the rest of the container
    • Watch and see what happens!
  • Add a drop of red or blue food coloring
    • Watch closely again! 
  • Tightly secure the lid of your container
    • Optional: add some duct tape to really seal it in place
  • Watch as the oil and water in your bottles become completely separate and the drop of food coloring makes its way down to the water portion of the bottle - it will take a few seconds. 
  • Gently move the bottle around and watch the oil and water - they stay separate when moved gently
  • SHAKE your bottle! Really shake it and watch as the water and oil temporarily mix
    • What else happens?!
  • Watch closely again as the oil and water slowly separate

The Science: 

There are several different science “happenings” going on during this experiment. 

Oil & Water:

  • Your scientist’s will notice that the oil and water do not mix! The oil sits on top of the water and it always will. This is because water and oil are immiscible. Basically what this means is that water molecules only want to hang out with other water molecules and the same with oil molecules. The oil sits on top because it is less dense or less heavy than the water so it happily floats on top of it. 

Primary/Secondary Colors:

  • Vegetable oil is used for this experiment because it is yellow in color. If we used another kind of oil, like baby oil, you would have to purchase oil based food coloring which isn’t all that easy to find. The yellow vegetable oil automatically gives us one of our primary colors. Blue or red food coloring is added so that when you mix, you get a secondary color! 
    • There are lots of great books you can read/find videos of online to explore primary/secondary colors, check out: 
      • Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
      • Mix It Up by Herve Tullet
      • Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin

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Science Magic: Glitter & Soap

by Colie Haahr, CMNH Educator

Try out this easy experiment with materials you already have at home! This experiment is about surface tension, and you can make glitter magically “dance” in a bowl of water! The reaction is quick, but kids love trying it more than once. This could be a good experiment to try before transitioning to water play, which always seems to be a hit! 

Materials Needed:

Shallow bowls or plates
Water 
Glitter, Pepper, Cinnamon, or All Spice 
Toothpicks or Q-tips
Dish Soap
Toothpaste
Cooking Oil

Directions:

  • Set up: Pour water into bowls, and place a very small amount of all of the other liquids into lids or small bowls. A pitcher of water is helpful to reset the experiment. The experiment works best with dish soap, but using a few other substances makes it more of a true experiment, where some will work and some will not. 
  • Optional: have a pencil and paper handy to record observations and hypotheses 
  • Pour about a teaspoon of glitter into one bowl of water, and a teaspoon of whatever spices you would like to use into another. You want the glitter and spices to cover the surface of the water
  • Make an observation: what happened when we poured the glitter/spices into the bowl? 
  • The glitter or spices stay on the surface of the water because they are hydrophobic, and they do not dissolve in water like salt or sugar would. 
  • Carefully dip the end of a clean toothpick or Q-tip into the liquid dish soap, and poke it right into the center of the bowl
  • Make an observation: What happened to the glitter/spices? The glitter should move quickly to the edges of the bowl when the soap touches it. 
  • Repeat the process with the toothpaste, cooking oil, hand soap or anything else you decide to try
  • Optional: write down what happens each time you try the experiment 

Science Information: 

Water molecules like to stick together, so when you pour a drop of water onto something non-porous, like waxed paper, the water beads up. Kids usually can picture this happening on a windshield when it’s rainy the rain drops stick together and roll down the windshield. 

When you pour water into a bowl or plate, this creates surface tension. 

During the experiment, you observed that the glitter and spices in the water bowls stayed right on top. Even though water molecules like to stick together, they do not always stick to other things, like the glitter and spices. The surface tension of the water allows these small particles to float on top! They do not dissolve, and usually, they do not get saturated and sink. 

When you added different substances to the water, some caused the glitter and spices to move away to the sides of the bowl. Now experiments can be tricky, and they do not always work perfectly, but the oil should have made no changes to the water bowl, and the soap and toothpaste should have caused the particles to move. The substances that made the glitter and spices had something in common: they all clean things! 

Dish soap should have worked the best, and this is partially because dish soap has molecules (teeny tiny parts) that are BOTH hydrophobic and hydrophilic. Wait, that would mean the soap molecules repel water molecules, and attract or bond to them! This is true, soap is a good cleaner because it can pull things like oil out of water because of the hydrophilic properties, like when we wash dishes, dish soap helps to get rid of grease and oil that water alone can’t remove. 

When the soap touched the water bowl, it broke the surface tension of the water, and that’s why we could see the glitter and spices move. Soaps and cleaners are designed to break down the surface tension of water. This helps make them good cleaning tools. When you added the dish soap or toothpaste to the water it broke up the surface tension. The water molecules, however, want to stick together and maintain that tension, so they move away from the soap, carrying the glitter and spices with them! We can see the reaction because there are particles floating on the top of the water. The water would still move when soap is added, but because it is clear, we can’t see it. The glitter and spices help us see what’s happening in the water bowl! 

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First Friends at Home: Animals!

by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

Hello Song:

Hello it’s time to play
Let’s have some fun today!
Let’s clap our hands
And wiggle our toes
A hug...and a kiss...and away we go!

Hello (insert name here) it’s time to play
Hello (insert name here) it’s time to play
Hello (insert name here) it’s time to play
We’ll have so much fun...hooray! 

Open Them/Shut Them (action song)

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Give a little clap-clap-clap

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Lay them in your lap-lap-lap

Creep them, creep them, creep them, creep them
Right up to your chin-chin-chin
Open up your little mouth…
But do not let them in! 

Wise Old Owl (action rhyme)

There is a wise old owl,
With a pointed nose,
He has pointed ears,
And claws for toes!

He sits in a tree,
And looks at you,
Then he flaps his wings and says:
Whoooooo! Whoooooo!

Puppy Dog (bounce)

Did you ever see a puppy dog,
A puppy dog, a puppy dog
Did you ever see a puppy dog
Go this way and that?!

Go this way...and that way...and this way..and that way!
Did you ever see a puppy dog,
Go this way and that?!

(It’s fun to use any and all animals in this song! Did you ever see a kitty cat? A bunny rabbit? A great big elephant?!)

Sleepy Bunnies (song/movement)

See the little bunnies sleeping ‘til it’s nearly noon
Shall we wake them with a merry tune?
They’re so still...are they ill?!

No! Wake up bunnies!

Hop little bunnies hop, hop, hop
Hop little bunnies hop, hop, hop
Hop little bunnies hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop aaaaaaaand...stop!

“  “

Jump little bunnies!

“  “

Dance little bunnies!

Scarf Opposites (prop song)

Wave your scarf up high,
Wave your scarf up high,
Wave it up high! Wave it up high!

Wave your scarf down looowwwwww
Wave your scarf down looowwwwww
Wave your scarf! Wave your scarf! 

Wave your scarf fast/slow

Wave your scarf in front/behind

Wave your scarf a little/a lot! 

Colors in the Air (prop song)

Colors, colors
Colors, colors
Floating in the air!
Floating in the air!

Red, Orange, Yellow
Green, Blue, Purple
Floating in the air!
Floating in the air!

Goodbye Rhyme (action rhyme)

This is big, big, big
And this is small, small, small

This is short, short, short
And this is tall, tall, tall!

This is fast, fast, fast
And this is slow, slow, slow

This is yes, yes, yes
And this is no, no, no

This is hi, hi, hi
And this is bye, bye, bye! 

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Tie-Dye Butterflies

by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator

I love this art activity. It’s easy to do with items you probably already have at home. It’s such an interesting and fun process-art activity that your young artists will probably want to try it again and again and again!

Materials:

  • White basket coffee filters
  • Washable markers
  • A binder clip 
  • A pencil/straw/craft stick
  • Clothespin
  • Small pieces of colorful paper or pipe cleaners

Directions:

  • Give each young artist a coffee filter and invite them to create a circular design on it using washable markers
  • Once finished, fold the coffee into a triangle
    • Attach a binder clip to the top/wide end of the triangle
    • Slide a pencil through the top of the binder clip
  • Put a tiny bit of water into a glass or jar
  • Place the triangle in the jar
    • The pencil will help to hold the triangle in place across the top of the cup or jar so that it does not fall in
    • There should be JUST enough water that the tip of the triangle is barely touching
  • Watch closely as the water climbs up the coffee filter triangle!
    • What happens to the designs?! 
  • When the water has climbed all the way up, carefully remove the pencil and binder clip and unfold your triangle
  • Place it on a drying rack and let it to dry fully
    • This should take about 20 minutes

Assemble your butterflies!

  • Scrunch the coffee filter up to make wings
  • Clip a clothespin in the middle to make the bod
  • Add small pieces of colorful paper to the top to make some antennae 
  • Draw a happy face on your butterfly! 

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