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Chemicals in the STEM Lab

Does your grade have a chemicals standard? There is likely some connection to chemicals in your Science standards lists. Maybe, solutions and suspensions, or chemical vs. physical reactions.

If you have anything similar to these then I have a resource for you!

Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!

This fabulous study can be divided into several parts. There are lab sheets provided, as well as folding graphic organizers, to use in science notebooks. We will be taking a look at these parts of this study:

  • Observing a Chemical Reaction
  • Lab Coats
  • Test Trays
  • Elephant Toothpaste
  • Insta-Snow

Are you ready to take a close look at fizzing and bubbling in the classroom? Just so you will know- I have used all these ideas with third graders- many times!

Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!

Observing

Students take a close look – use hand lenses if you have them- at a powder. The powder is baking soda. I usually do not tell them what the powder is, but many of them will already know.

Behind the scene I have added baking soda to a balloon and while students are looking at their powder I deliver a plastic bottle with vinegar in it with the balloons stretched over the mouth of the bottle.

We talk about what happens when you mix two things together. There will always be a student that says things will explode.

Then, on my signal, the students lift the balloon and pour the powder into the bottle. The chemical reaction that happens creates a gas that will make the balloon fill. It won’t pop, but it might get quite large. (By the way, my resource tells you how much powder and vinegar to use, but you should always try this yourself to make sure it will work!)

Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!

Safety

Let’s insert a little right here about being safe with chemicals.

We do several things. Students wear safety goggles. I also have lab coats they wear. They love both of these!

The lab coats are just extra large white t-shirts that I have cut down the middle. These are not needed for safety, but the students like being called a scientist and ‘looking like one’.

To be completely safe, we also have rules.

  • Never taste in science class- even if you think you know what the substance is.
  • Never put your fingers in your mouth when you have been working with the chemicals. Wash your hands.
  • Clean up any spills as soon as they happen.
Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!

Testing Powders

We test several different powders by dropping vinegar on them to see what happens. The goal is that students will recognize which powder might have been in the balloon.

Students have a test tray (it’s a meat tray) that is covered with a piece of waxed paper. They place a tiny amount of the powder on their test mat and drip the vinegar with a pipette. Their results are recorded.

We use a data table on the lab sheets. If you have science notebooks you can use the graphic organizers to record the results of the drip test. We learn words like liquid-resistant and solution or suspension with this experiment.

Elephant Toothpaste

Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!
Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!

With a few simple ingredients you can demonstrate this spectacular chemical reaction. Students love this so much that I usually repeat it a few times. I have never tried it with students each performing their own experiment. We always gather around a central table and watch the reaction.

Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!

Insta-Snow

The study culminates with this amazing reaction using a product called Insta-Snow.

I give every student a tiny cup- it’s a 2-ounce cup from Wal Mart.

They observe the chemical in the cup and record their descriptions on the lab sheet.

After a few minutes they are instructed to pour a cup of water into their tiny cup of powder.

This powder will begin to gel and then grow until it almost overflows the cup! It is really fun to listen to the kids exclaim and see them get excited as this happens.

Then they finish their lab sheet by writing about whether this reaction was chemical or physical and state reasons why.

Y’all, this is an amazing study! I know you have questions- so let me tackle a few right here.

  • How long does this take? We complete this over a three – four week time period. The first day is the balloon day and a discussion about the difference between chemical and physical changes. This includes a sorting activity. The second day is testing the powders which can take the whole class period. Day 3 is elephant toothpaste and a reading passage with questions to answer. Day 4 is Insta-Snow.
  • Do students keep the Insta-Snow? Yes, I give every student a zippered bag, with their name on it, and they pour their snow into the bag. They are told to NOT open the bag util they get home. Ha! They are also told not to add any more water to the bag. It does not grow bigger if you do that- it just gets sloshy. By the way, Insta-snow in that bag will dry out and revert to its original form. It can then be re-used. It might not get as big the second time. Also, it it the same ingredient found in disposable diapers.
  • How much do all these ingredients cost? Baking soda and balloons will be less than $5. The ingredients for elephant toothpaste are liquid soap and peroxide, and yeast. A container of yeast will be the most costly, but will last for years. The Insta-Snow is priced at $8-12, depending on how much you buy. I have found it at Hobby Lobby or Amazon.
  • What are the powders that are tested? We use baking soda and then whatever I pull out of the cabinet that is white or clear. Salt, epsom salts, crushed chalk, sand, talcum powder.
Chemical experiments in the elementary classroom! This post focuses on several things you can try that your students will love!

Note-booking

For those of you that use science notebooks, I am including this image to give you a peek at the folding graphic organizers.

TIP: Use astro-brights card stock. It makes the best and most colorful displays.

Have fun with your chemical study! Click on any of the images to see the resource!

Comments

  1. Rissa Webber says

    So do you do all of these activities in one 45 minute block? I'm curious how you manage your time?

    Rissa
    Keep Calm and Hoot On

  2. Carol Davis says

    Thanks for visiting! Time Management is a HUGE issue with me. The Chemical and Physical Changes activities of this post took four sessions with third graders. It is taking me 4-8 weeks to work through an entire topic. For example- fifth grade just finished an Engineering Design topic that took from mid November to mid- January. Occasionally we complete a one day design challenge,but for the most part everything has been a long term project. It's hard to explain in the comment forum. I guess I need to devote a blog post to how the lab is working! Thanks again!

  3. Mrs. Spriggs' Kindergarten Pond says

    Love the experiments! Cannot wait to try some with my Kinders. They will love it!!!!
    Mrs. Spriggs’ Kindergarten Pond