I made ScienceFix.com to share my favorite demos that I do in my middle school science classes.  

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  • Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon
    Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon
    by Sara Howard
  • NOVA - Origins
    NOVA - Origins
    starring Neil Degrasse Tyson
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    Human Body: Pushing the Limits
    starring Bray Poor

pH Pipes

Indicators are chemicals that show what type of chemical reaction occurred. I decided to have some fun with some pH indicators--chemicals that signify if a solution is acidic or basic. In the video, 3 different pH indicators, bromothymol blue, phenol red, and phenolphthalein (and ammonia) are used. The solutions are in long plastic pipes whereupon Alka Seltzer tablets are dropped. The Alka Seltzer tablets react with the water to produce carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide dissolves in water creating carbonic acid and thus making the solution more acidic. The color of the solution changes as a result. Later ammonia, a base, is added to show how the color changes when the solution turns basic.


Sodium Acetate Crystallization

Crystals are solids that are formed from regular repeating patterns of molecules. One of the most spectacular crystal formations is sodium acetate. I made sodium acetate by using a procedure from instructables. It was interesting, but very time consuming, so purchasing a bottle of it maybe a better way to go. When sodium acetate, CH3–COO Na+, is dissolved in a little water, the oppositely charged ions dissociate. If left undisturbed and cooled, the ions do not form crystals and the sodium acetate remains a liquid, far below its melting point. If disturbed, or a tiny sodium acetate crystal is introduced into the solution, the oppositely charged ions (CH3–COO and Na+) form a solid crytal structure quickly. The process is exothermic, releasing heat energy, which explains why this process is commonly referred to as "hot ice".


Hydrogen Egg Bomb

I have always wanted to do the hydrogen gas/oxygen gas balloon explosion in class, but it isn't very practical or very safe. Once again Steve Spangler shows a much easier and safer way to do the reaction. Of course I had to try it myself and it works beautifully. Making the egg hollow is quite easy as shown here. The most common chemical reaction taught to middle school students is 2H2 + O2 ----> 2H2O. They rarely see it live though. They also have a hard time understanding that water gas is produced by this explosive exothermic reaction (the same chemical reaction that is used in the space shuttle main engines). 


New and Improved Fire Hand

This is a new variation on my "Fire Hand" demonstration. I never did like the size of the methane bubbles that were produced, so I got an idea from a Mythbusters' segment on methane bubbles. They used a tube with many small holes to create the small methane bubbles. I decided to to do a variation of it using aquarium tubing. The result is a bigger handful of methane bubbles which means a bigger flame!



A major standard our students have to learn is the difference between elements and compounds. Compounds are substances that are made of two or more elements bonded together. The elements that comprise a compound have different properties when they are bonded together than when they are separated. Students have great difficulty with this. I introduce the unit by doing a simple activity on mixtures. Educational Innovations sells a simple Mixture Separation Challenge kit. Students are first forced to separate the mixture into 3 groups. Students usually use the simplest property of color to do it. There are other properties such as relative density or optical properties (opaqueness, transparency, etc.). The main idea is that the substances can be separated by their properties, because those properties do not change when forming a mixture, unlike when a compound is formed.

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