Organic and Biochemistry

Anthocyanins: A Colorful Class of Compounds

In this Activity, students extract anthocyanins from flower petals and other plant matter. They observe what happens when vinegar or ammonia are added to the extracts. This Activity could be used as an introduction to the study of plant pigments and the idea that specific substances are responsible for the colors of objects.


In this Activity, students make soap using vegetable shortening as a base. They then test its properties and compare it to commercial soap. This Activity introduces students to an important reaction of organic chemistry. It helps students connect chemistry to something that they see and use every day and provides an opportunity for cross-curricular work.

Cabbage Patch Chemistry

In this Activity, students investigate the fermentation process by making sauerkraut and test the effect of changing one variable in the sauerkraut-making process. The Activity involves students for an entire month, the length of the fermentation process.

Acid Raindrops Keep Fallin' in My Lake

In this Activity, students simulate acid rain falling on lakes by adding vinegar to bowls of water. Several of the bowls contain solids such as crushed, low-dust chalk, sand, and lime. Students determine whether the solids affect the acidity of each solution over two days by periodically removing samples of each solution for testing with red cabbage indicator.

Chemical Methods for Developing Latent Fingerprints

In this Activity, students collect fingerprints and use three different methods to develop them: fingerprint powder, ninhydrin solution, and silver nitrate solution. The Activity could be related to the solubility of polar and nonpolar molecules, precipitation reactions, and oxidation-reduction reactions.

What's Gluep? Characterizing a Cross-Linked Polymer

In this Activity, students make a cross-linked polymer called "gluep" using white glue and borax solution. They then investigate its properties, and "un-gluep" and "re-gluep" it using vinegar and baking soda. This Activity can be used in discussions of polymers or properties of liquids and solids. It demonstrates the composition and alternative use of a common household product.

Liver and Onions: DNA Extraction from Animal and Plant Tissues

In this Activity, students extract DNA from liver and onion cells, and precipitate the DNA. The Activity fits well with a discussion of nucleic acids, hydrogen bonding, genetic coding, and heredity. DNA extraction can also be used in conjunction with a discussion of polymers and their properties.

Soup or Salad? Investigating the Action of Enzymes in Fruit on Gelatin

In this Activity, students observe gelatin samples treated with substances that may or may not have an enzymatic effect on the protein in the gelatin. Substances used are fresh pineapple, canned pineapple, fresh pineapple that has been frozen and microwaved, and meat tenderizer.

Blueprint Photography by the Cyanotype Process

In this Activity, students prepare cyanotype paper and use it to "photograph" different items using sunlight. This Activity demonstrates catalysis of chemical reactions by ultraviolet (UV) light using one of the earliest photographic processes, the cyanotype process. It is useful as an introduction to the damaging effects of UV radiation on living organisms and the role of sunscreens.

Pigments of Your Imagination: Making Artist's Paints

In this Activity, students make and examine the characteristics of egg tempera paint. Instructors may also wish to emphasize the chemistry of paint and pigments, the history of the development of different types of paints, or to attempt to duplicate commercial paints as closely as possible. This Activity might be used to integrate chemistry into an art class.