Stuck at home? Try these three cold weather science experiments with your kids
Posted February 11, 2014
Considering the forecast, I'm going to make a wild guess that many of us will be stuck at home this week.
I checked in with the Museum of Life and Science for some cold weather science activities that kids can do at home. Anna Englke, museum education specialist, provided these three activities that require items you probably have around the house. With each one, you'll find a materials list, instructions and a quick "what's happening" section so kids can understand the science behind the experiment.
1. Melting and Freezing
2 plastic cups
1. Fill both plastic cups 2/3 full of water. Label one cup ‘salt’ and the other cup ‘no salt.’
2. Add 4 teaspoons of salt to the cup marked ‘salt’ and stir well.
3. Place both cups outside on a flat surface. (If temperatures are above 32°F, cups can be placed in the freezer.)
4. After 3 to 4 hours have passed, check on the water in the cups. Are both cups frozen? Do they look different?
5. Optional: To do this experiment in reverse, put an ice cube into each plastic cup. Add salt to one and have a race to see which ice cube melts first.
The cup with the salt won’t freeze as well as the cup of plain water, because salt lowers the freezing point of water. This is why people spread salt on roadways and sidewalks even before they ice over, because it prevents ice from forming as easily. If ice has already formed, salt works to lower the water’s freezing point so that the ice melts more quickly.
2. Warm in the Winter
Muffin baking tin
Insulation test materials (tinfoil, newspaper, cloth, bubble wrap, etc.)
1. In this experiment, we’ll take a look at how insulation keeps us warm in the winter. The muffin tin will serve as our experiment headquarters, with a different ice cube (or “test subject”) in each section.
2. Choose how you want insulate each of your ice cubes – you could wrap one in bubble wrap, one in newspaper, etc. Leave one ice cube uncovered as your control.
3. Put each ice cube in a different section of the muffin tin and set it on a stable surface. Check on your experiment periodically to see how fast each ice cube is melting.
The ice cubes wrapped in various materials will take longer to melt than the ice cube left uncovered. That’s because those materials are insulators – they trap the cold air (chilled by the ice) next to the ice cube. Our coats and clothes insulate us in the wintertime – except instead of keeping cold in, they keep in warmth!
3. Make a Snow Gauge
A tall, clear container
A permanent marker
1. Make a snow gauge to measure how much snow falls. Start by finding a tall, clear container.
2. Get a 6-inch piece of masking tape and put it on the outside of the container, running in a straight line from bottom to top.
3. Use the measuring tape to mark out several inches on the masking tape with a permanent marker.
4. The day before an expected snowfall, place your snow gauge somewhere outside. Try to find an open area where the snow can fall freely to fill up the gauge.
5. The next day, check your snow gauge to see how many inches you’ve collected. How does your snowfall collection compare to the local weather report? How is the snowfall in your area different from other places around the country?