4 kid-friendly science experiments for all ages from The Laboratory

Ed Kang and Amy Schwartzbach-Kang, the pair behind The Laboratory Collective in Wicker Park, regularly teach classes and camps that mix science with literature to help kids become more enthusiastic about learning both.

We picked their brains to help us deliver experiments for all reading levels to help jump-start the learning and excitement as your youngster heads back to school. All of these experiments can be done at home with easy-to-find ingredients to help tie what they know with something new to learn. 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter learns all about potions in his classes at Hogwarts. What are potions good for in the Muggle world? 

What you need
What to do

Add baking soda to the cabbage juice and watch the mixture turn from purple to blue. With older children, then add ammonia, changing the mixture to green. Add vegetable oil to the new colored mixture to fill the container 2/3 full. Drop in an antacid relief tablet and watch the mixture change colors and bubble.

What you’re learning

The baking soda gives the mixture a higher pH balance and will change the cabbage juice from purple to blue. Red cabbage juice “When you add the antacid tablet it actually produces carbon dioxide and the carbon dioxide with water produces carbonic acid, so that’s why you see the blue changing back to pink,” Ed says.

Rise of the Isle of the Lost

The Descendants are the children of villains from Disney lore. In the book, Jafar from “Aladdin”  has minions who gather items for his shop. Can a substance be created to help steal items?  

What you need
What to do

Mix glue with corn starch and iron oxide powder for about 30 seconds. Add liquid starch (a laundry starch is perfect). If the mixture is too watery, add more corn starch by the 1/2 tsp. The more you stir, the more it will form into a ball. Pull the ball out of the bowl and work it with your hands to form a firm slime. Lay on wax paper and try your own experiments watching it attract to the magnet.  

What you’re learning

When you add the liquid starch to create the slime, the slime becomes a harder material. Include the iron oxide (which can be found on Amazon), and the substance can attract metals, like the magnet. Replace the iron oxide with a thermochromic pigment and to create “mood” slime, which changes color as it is touched. 

The Lightning Thief

In “The Lightning Thief,” Annabeth has a cap that makes the wearer invisible. Can something really be invisible?

What you need
What to do

Place the picture under a clear liquid container. Fill the container a quarter full with water beads. Pour water onto the beads until the container is half full. 

What you’re learning

When the water beads are the only thing in the container, you can’t see the picture, but when the water is added, the picture appears. Notice the difference of how light bends on materials (in this case the water beads). “When the light goes through, it goes from a less-dense medium, which is air, to a more-dense medium, which is water. What’s interesting is that the water beads or floral beads have the same bending as the water so that’s why it shows up nearly invisible,” Ed says. 

Dragons Love Tacos

In “Dragons Love Tacos,” the dragons also hate spicy salsa. Why do they hate spicy salsa? 

What you need
What to do

Decorate a water bottle to look like a dragon using green construction paper, googly eyes and tape. Cut out the wings and tail with the scissors. Use the funnel to add baking soda to the bottom of the water bottle. Slowly pour in the citric water and watch it bubble. 

What you’re learning

Dragons hate spicy salsa because it gives them the tummy troubles. Kids can see what tummy troubles look like. “What you’re producing is carbon dioxide and that’s that bubbling you’ll see when you add the two,” Ed says. 


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