Many of the science experiments in my blog originated with the Steve Spangler science for kids site, so you can imagine my delight when I was browsing the kids’ section of my local bookstore with my grandson and spotted Spangler’s book, Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes.
I haven’t had success with all of Spangler’s experiments – I tried the Naked Eggs, for instance, and, though it works, I had the reaction of “OK, that’s nice. So, what?”
For this reason, I didn’t write it up as an activity to do with your grandchildren, but I still have an egg soaking in vinegar in my refrigerator, its shell dissolved.
And, I never could get the straw to poke through a potato, like he shows on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
However, Spangler’s focus is different from mine.
He looks for science experiments that will delight a roomful of children – kind of like the difference between stage magic and close-in magic. I look for activities grandparents can do with one or a few grandchildren.
His model is the classroom. He first discovered the delight of science when a fifth-grade science teacher’s demonstration of a live volcano activity went awry and burned a hole into the table. Spangler thought that was way more fun than the dry science books he’d been taught from before this live demonstration.
Spangler’s first job was teaching elementary school science. It turns out, entertaining a classroom full of children translates well into entertaining a tv audience and for years, he brought his science experiments to the Ellen DeGeneres show.
This means his experiments tend toward the dramatic, may require outdoor spaces, and sometimes are better shown by an adult than performed by children.
I’ve done the experiment with pingpong balls and a hair dryer, for instance. What I have not done with my grandchildren is have them point a hair dryer at a roll of toilet paper and watch it unroll in the air, though I may try it now, after reading this book.
Nor have I taught them how to make a potato gun or experiment with dry ice.
But, there are many experiments in this book I know I am going to want to try with grandchildren.
For instance, what happens when you fill a plastic soda bottle with water, put the top on, poke tiny holes in it, then pick up the bottle and squeeze it slightly or take off the cap?
Of course, the kid in Spangler turns this into a practical joke by instructing you to put a DO NOT OPEN sign on the bottle, knowing that no one can resist such a sign, then watching to see the mess someone else will cause when they pick up or open the bottle.
Some activities are for parent or grandparent demonstration only. I would not encourage children to heat a metal soda can over a stove, for instance. And, I’ve written about how to do the same experiment with a plastic soda bottle and hot water.
Nor, would I teach a child how to make smoke rings with a plastic bucket. But, the fact that you can is pretty cool.
And, there are lots of experiments I do want to try with grandchildren.
- Can you really isolate the iron in iron-fortified cereal?
- Does taco sauce really clean pennies?
- Do cans of Diet Coke really float when regular sodas don’t?
- Can you really make a crystal ball with liquid dish soap?
- Can you really turn cornstarch into a lesson on glaciers?
- Can you really make eggs fall into a glass of water when they are balanced on a toilet paper tube and a pie pan?
And, I’m certainly going to have to try the Coke and Mentos geyser that he made famous.
Click here to watch the Mentos and Coke experiment on YouTube. Most of his experiments are available on YouTube.
There are two things in particular that I like about Spangler’s book:
- He explains how the underlying science principal can be seen in our daily lives
- He extends his experiments to show how they could easily be turned into science fair projects.
For this, for the drama that transforms science into delighted surprise, you will love this introduction to science for your grandchildren.
Get his book from amazon by clicking on the title, Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes.
Carol Covin, Granny-Guru