Three Colorful STEM Activities to Make Back-to-School Magic

Posted by: Pam Garza

STEM experiment

Rebecca and Stephanie from the Houston YMCA had a lot of fun watching their pink toothpaste bubble up!

1. Elephant Toothpaste

Mix hydrogen peroxide with liquid dish soap and active yeast to initiate an “elephant size” chemical reaction. Place an empty soda pop bottle in the center of a cake pan and pour in ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide, a tablespoon of liquid dish soap, and a few drops of your favorite food dye color. In a separate cup, dissolve one packet of yeast with warm water. Pour the yeast mixture into the bottle and observe the “elephant size” chemical reaction that occurs!

2. Milk Rainbow

Create swirls of color in milk and explore a property of liquids known as surface tension. Fill the bottom of a plate with whole milk and add several drops of different color food dyes near the center of the plate. Dip a cotton swab in liquid dish soap, touch the tip of the cotton swab to the milk’s surface at the center of the plate, and observe what occurs! The colors freely move around the milk. Try moving the cotton swab to different areas and see how the colors continue to move.

3. Tie-Dye T-Shirts

Use colored permanent markers for a fun and easy way to create colorful tie-dye designs on t-shirts. Position one part of a t-shirt over the mouth of a cup and hold it in place with a rubber band. Use permanent markers of all colors to create your own design on the part of the t-shirt stretched over the cup. Use a dropper to drop 5-10 drops of alcohol (a couple at a time) on the designs and watch the ink from the markers spread throughout the fabric. Repeat these steps on different areas of the t-shirt and create more fun designs!

Bonus Activity: It may be void of color, but if you’re not quite ready to let go of summer and have leftover marshmallows from your last campfire, here’s something you can do with them:

Marshmallow Launcher

Launch marshmallows from plastic-spoon catapults to demonstrate the differences between potential and kinetic energy. Hold a marshmallow on the bowl of the spoon with your finger, carefully bend the spoon back, and release the marshmallow and spoon to see how high and how far you can launch marshmallows. You can also test your aiming skills through this fun science activity!

Looking for more tips and support?
 

Find these and many more of the You Be The Chemist® Activity Guide lesson plans at The Chemical Education Foundation. Share your photos with me @STEM4Youth on Twitter.

 

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