Form & Function

Memory Metal

In this Activity, students compare the properties of nitinol metal wire (known as "memory" metal) and ordinary wire. Using the observed properties, they design (and possibly make) a toy that would use memory metal to operate. This Activity connects toys with science, and allows students to become inventors as they design a toy of their own.

Diffusion of Water through a Differentially Permeable Membrane

In this Activity, students investigate the process of osmosis through a differentially-permeable membrane formed by the precipitation of copper(II) hexacyanoferrate(II). This Activity allows students to watch and investigate osmosis, which reinforces the concept of transport in living cells.

Popcorn: What's in the Bag?

In this Activity, students investigate microwave popcorn, the process of microwave-promoted popping, and the materials involved: water, vegetable oils, starch, and special packaging materials. This Activity supports discussion of thermal and electromagnetic energy, phase changes, intermolecular forces, patterns of solubility, and the structure of fats, oils and starches.

Apple Fool! An Introduction to Artificial Flavors

In this Activity, students investigate flavorings by making artificial "cooked apples" from a mixture of crackers, sugar, cream of tartar, and water, as is done for the filling in recipes for Mock Apple Pie. This Activity focuses on consumer chemistry, and can be used to introduce natural and artificial flavors or lab experiments that make esters.

Ions or Molecules? Polymer Gels Can Tell

In this Activity, students first prepare a gel using the superabsorbent polymer sodium polyacrylate (found in certain diapers) and water. The gel is split into piles and samples of different compounds are sprinkled on the piles. Students determine that ionic compounds break down the gel, while covalent compounds have no effect on the gel.

Aluminum & Air Battery

In this Activity, students construct a simple battery from aluminum foil, saltwater, and activated charcoal. The battery can power a small motor or light. This Activity demonstrates oxidation and reduction reactions, which are integral parts of battery chemistry.

Chemistry of Cement

In this Activity, students use a commercial cement mix to produce concrete. They investigate how changing key variables such as concentrations, curing temperatures, and the addition of various substances affects properties such as setting time, hardness, and plasticity.

Whatever Floats (or Sinks) Your Can

In this Activity, students test whether cans of carbonated beverages sink or float in water and then determine whether caffeine content, soda color, or sugar content in the carbonated sodas is responsible for the buoyancy of the sealed cans. This Activity can be used as an introduction to density in a middle school physical science course, or a high school chemistry or physics course.