Monday, February 25, 2013

Upcoming Candy Experiments Events in Seattle

If you're in the Seattle area and you'd like to try some candy experiments, come join me!

Candy Experiments Launch Party
Saturday, March 2, 2 pm
Secret Garden Books, 2214 NW Market Street, Seattle, WA 98107
I'll demonstrate some of our favorite experiments, including the Warheads Acid Test and Find Hidden Candy, with time afterwards for questions and book signing.

Read Across America
Sunday, March 3, 3-5 pm
Park Place Books, 348 Parkplace Center Kirkland, WA 98033
I'll be joining Park Place Bookstore's Read Across America event with children's authors Lenore Look and Brenda Guiberson (whose books I highly recommend!)
Drop in any time and try some candy experiments at my signing table.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Science Fair Experiments

When I signed books at the King's English in Salt Lake City, parents from a homeschool group told me that they had a science fair coming up, and that their children were excited to try candy experiments for it. Their excitement reminded me that, since it's science fair time, lots of families are looking for science fair ideas. Here are some ideas for elementary school candy experiment science projects based on experiments from my website and from my new book. Enjoy, and let me know if you have ideas of your own--with 70 candy experiments in my new book, the possibilities are endless!

For each experiment, think of a question to answer, then do your own research to see what answers you get. Remember to control the variables in your experiment: for instance, if you try chromatography in different liquids, don't change anything else like the size of the filter paper or the temperature of the liquid. Some project guidelines might ask you to form a hypothesis at the beginning of your project, meaning a prediction as to how it will turn out.

Lifesaver Lights
Life Savers flash when you crush them because they contain sugar and wintergreen oil. Can you find other candies that make flashes of light? Which work the best?
What crushing method makes the best sparks for the Life Savers experiment? Chewing, crushing with pliers, smashing in a mortar and pestle, or something else?

The Incredible Growing Gummi Worm
Gummi candies that contains gelatin, such as gummi worms or most fruit snacks, swell up and absorb water. Which kind of gummi candy absorbs the most water? If you try this one, weigh each test piece of candy before you put it in water, then weigh it again after it has swelled to maximum size, about 2 days later. (Warning: by then the gummi candies are pretty fragile--you have to handle them carefully to make sure they don't break.)

The Mentos Geyser
As popularized by Steve Spangler, dropping Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke produces a sky-high fountain of soda. But why?

Invite your at-home scientist to investigate which kind of candy makes the best soda fountain and why. First, examine each kind of candy and compare differences. Then drop each sample into a cup of Diet Coke and compare the bubbles. Children should soon be able to see that the surface of the candy makes a big difference in the amount of bubbles you get.
Test different kinds of soda to see which works best for the experiment. Have your children formulate a hypothesis about which soda will fountain the highest, then drop the same number of Mentos in each to test the hypothesis. Which sodas work the best? What ingredients do they have in common?

Acid Test
Sour candy contains acid. Which kind of candy is the most acidic? Make sure that you use the same method testing for all the candies: each sample should be dissolved in the same amount of water, such as 1/4 cup; the water should all be the same temperature (preferably warm); each sample should be tested after a set amount of time or allowed to dissolve completely.. If you use baking soda to see how much acid is in each candy, you'll have to use the same amount of baking soda for each test (1/4 tsp or less), and have a good way to measure which reaction is the biggest (you may want to video each test so you can compare the results again later). Ph test strips would be a more accurate way to measure the acidity.

To see how two dentists tested candy acidity, check out this article from the UAB School of Dentistry.

Color Separation (Chromatography)
Candy colors are formed by a mixture of dyes. So are the colors in many other things, including ballpoint pens and markers. Which kind of candy has the most dyes mixed together? If you test candies and markers that are the same color, do you get the same color separation? Do you get different results if you stand the chromatography paper in different liquids, such as salt water or alcohol?

Find Hidden Candy
You'll find "hidden candy," or sugar, in almost everything these days. Which kind of children's drink, or snack, or cereal, has the most or the least sugar? Does fruit juice or soda pop have more sugar? Does the cereal with the most sugar taste the best? (You'd have to ask volunteers to do taste-tests for that one.)

For more guidelines to good science fair projects, check out these websites:
-Successful Science Fair Projects by Lynn Bleeker
-Science Buddies project guide This website also has ideas and instructions for a variety of projects.
-"What Makes a Good Science Project?" by Bill Robertson

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fun with Popping Candy from Science Sparks

A new experiment on Science Sparks tests what Fizz Wiz will do in oil, water, and vinegar. (Fizz Wiz must be about the same as Pop Rocks.) The results are interesting--they don't all pop! This looks like a great experiment to do with children who need to practice forming and testing a hypothesis.

Find this experiment at the Science Sparks posting, "What Makes Popping Candy Pop?"

Hearts Bobbing

For those who missed the Hearts Bobbing instructions on ParentMap and, here is the full experiment.

To make conversation hearts bob, drop them in a bottle of club soda. As the carbon dioxide in the soda forms bubbles on the hearts, the hearts bob to the surface, only to sink again when the bubbles come off. If you put the lid back on the bottle, the hearts will bob for a few minutes. Once they reach the top and start to stay there, gently shake or tap the bottle to knock the bubbles off and put the hearts back in motion. You can also do this experiment by pouring the soda into a cup and adding the hearts, or by using clear soda pop instead of club soda.

A version of this photo appeared in the book Candy Experiments,
and is copyrighted by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day from Jelly Belly!

When I saw these Jelly Belly Conversation Beans, I couldn't wait to try them out for Floating Letters, so I rushed home to put them in water. After the glaze with the printed logo got wet and started to loosen from the candy, I used a toothpick to gently poke through the glaze and tear off the piece with the letters. A few logos ripped in the process, but "LIKE" held together and floated nicely to the top.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Experiment on ParentMap's blog

I've shared instructions for a fun Valentine's Day candy experiment on the ParentMap blog. Find out how to make conversation hearts bob up and down!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Buttery" Taste in Keebler Crackers?

Since I started doing candy experiments, I read labels a lot more closely. Here's a new favorite from Keebler Multi-grain Club Crackers, which advertises that it has a "light, flaky, buttery taste, with the great taste of Multi-Grain." So I checked the ingredient label for butter. There isn't any. Instead, each cracker contains more than 10% "Soybean oil with TBHQ for freshness." And do you get any nutritional benefit from the whole grain in this "multi-grain" cracker? With more sugar per cracker than whole wheat flour, and less than 1 g fiber per 4-cracker serving, it looks to me like "multi-grain taste" is the only whole-grain benefit you enjoy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Candy Experiments at KidsQuest Museum

I'll be doing candy experiments at KidsQuest museum (Bellevue, WA) on Saturday at 11-12. Stop by and try experiments like finding "hidden candy" in the food you eat, see what happens when you drop a Warhead in water, and other fun science activities.