Form & Function

A Kool Reaction from the Fine Print

In this Activity, students gain an understanding of the importance of reading reagent labels both in chemistry class and on consumer products. Students explore the chemistry behind the directive on a package of Kool-Aid "Do not store in a metal container". The Activity illustrates properties of acids and metals.

Cooking Up Colors from Plants, Fabric, and Metal

In this Activity, students dye fabric squares with two plant dyes: aqueous extracts of tea leaves and of marigold flowers. They investigate how the addition of iron to a dye bath affects the resulting color and fastness of the dyed fabrics and observe that the type of fabric affects the results. This Activity can accompany a discussion of the impressive array of chemicals produced by plants.

Flipping Pennies and Burning Candles: Adventures in Kinetics

In this Activity, students collect data to determine whether two processes, flipping pennies and burning small birthday candles, follow zeroth- or first-order rate laws. Students first collect data on the number of pennies remaining "heads up" after several successive tosses and then measure the mass of a burning candle over time.

Cool! Rates of Heating and Cooling

In this Activity, students measure the rate of warming for a chilled thermometer bulb held in room temperature air, for a chilled bulb held between two fingers, and for a few milliliters of ice-cold water. Students discover that the warming process is not linear. This Activity emphasizes the importance of measuring temperature change and its relevance to other experiments.

Out of the Blue

In this Activity, students first prepare a standard formulation for a variation on the classic blue bottle reaction using consumer chemicals. They then make appropriate changes to the formulation and observe the results to determine the roles played by each reactant. This Activity could be used with units on chemical kinetics and oxidation-reduction reactions.

Colorful Lather Printing

In this Activity, students marble paper with shaving cream and food color while exploring water, polarity, and hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials. Although the Activity is familiar, it contains a new twist—exploring how a colored shaving cream mixture behaves when a drop of water is added. This Activity can be used to introduce the concepts of polarity, soaps, and surfactants.

Pondering Packing Peanut Polymers

In this Activity, students compare polystrene and cornstarch packing materials ("peanuts"). Both are made of polymers, but because of their composition, they behave very differently in various solvents. Students extrapolate how these differences in behavior relate to environmental effects, such as filling landfills with non-biodegradable materials.

Fluorescent Fun: Using a Homemade Fluorometer

In this Activity, students investigate the fluorescence of highlighter marker ink and the principles employed in studying fluorescent molecules using a homemade fluorometer and different colored filters.

Bath Bubblers

In this Activity, students use citric acid and baking soda to make "bath bubblers" similar to those sold in bath and body stores. They investigate the fizzing reaction that occurs when the bubblers are added to both cold and hot water. Bringing this real world product into the classroom adds interest and can lead to creativity, while introducing both acid/base concepts and rates of reaction.

Testing for Iodide in Table Salt

In this Activity, students use supermarket chemicals to test samples of table salt for the presence of iodine, an essential micronutrient added as iodide ion. The presence of iodide in the salt is made apparent by the appearance of a blue color.