Hands-on Experiments Bring Scientific Principles to Life

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Fully understanding scientific principles requires a combination of book work and active time. Hands-on science experiments offer students the opportunity to see up close how scientific principles work. Experiments can also allow students to use all of their senses—including touch, taste, and smell—to gain a deeper understanding of science.

And many of the principles in play with a hands-on science experiment, from making a hypothesis to recording data, can be useful in other areas of academics as well. Hands-on science experiments allow students to hone their reasoning, predicting, writing, and math skills, in addition to their science skills.

In fact, a study by The National Assessment of Educational Progress, released by the U.S. Department of Education, showed that students in classrooms with weekly hands-on learning activities demonstrated higher scores in math and science than their peers.

Offering your class a combination of book-based activities and hands-on science experiments will allow students to get the most out of their science lessons.

The next time you’re looking for something to stimulate students’ brains and keep their hands busy, too, try one of these fun experiments:

Balloon rockets

Photo courtesy of sciencebob.com

Photo courtesy of sciencebob.com

How does a rocket blast off? Use simple materials to create a hands-on project that helps students understand properties of physics.

Find the instructions here.

Scientific principles at work:

This demonstrates Newton’s Third Law and the concept of thrust. Thrust is created when matter is pushed out—as air leaves the balloon, it creates energy that pushes the balloon forward.

Take it further:

Have your class experiment with different size balloons and hold the yarn at various angles. What happens with a bigger balloon? Does the rocket slow down if the yarn is angled upward?

Cohesion on a Coin

Did you know water is sticky? The molecules in water “stick together” because of cohesion. Test that idea in this experiment.

Find the instructions here.

Scientific principles at work:

This demonstrates the concepts of surface tension and cohesion. Water is cohesive because the slightly negative charge of the oxygen atom in a water molecule is attracted to the slightly positive charge of the hydrogen atom in another molecule.

Take it further:

Predict how many drops you can fit on your coin. Challenge another group to beat your record. Try dropping the water from a higher distance or add drops quickly. Does that change the amount of drops your coin can hold?

5-Minute DNA Extraction

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Every living thing on the planet has something in common: DNA. The basic building block of all life, DNA is hard to isolate—or is it? Try this experiment using your own saliva.

Find the instructions here.

Scientific principles at work:

This experiment includes elements of biology and chemistry as the soap destabilizes the membranes of the saliva cells while the pineapple juice acts as an enzyme to break down protein in the saliva. This experiment also teaches the principles of water solubility, as well as the positive and negative charges of molecules.

Take it further:

Try re-suspending the DNA by transferring it from the stick into a new tube of water and gently mixing. What happens?

Volcano in a Cup

Chances are, you’re familiar with the baking-soda-vinegar-variety erupting volcano. So try this experiment for a twist on that idea that also highlights geology.

Find the instructions here.

Scientific principles at work:

The glass represents the earth, while the sand, wax and water act like materials in the earth’s crust. Almost 80 percent of all volcanic eruptions happen underwater and that’s what is demonstrated here. As the wax liquefies and gets hot, it bubbles up through the sand, causing miniature eruptions in the sand’s surface. As the bubbles meet the colder water, they cool and start to harden, just like liquid magma cools in an underwater volcano.

Take it further:

Try changing the thickness of the sand. Does that change the reaction?

Walk Through an Index Card

Is it possible to fit your entire body through an index card? The answer is yes, and you can do it without tape, glue, staples or anything but a pair of scissors.

Find the instructions here.

Scientific principles at work:

This experiment demonstrates the math concept of topology, teaching that some of the properties of an object are preserved even if the object is stretched. And, it’s fun!

Take it further:

What happens to your loop if your cuts are farther apart? Closer together? What happens if you try this with a full sheet of paper?

Did you try any of these experiments in your class? Tell us about it!

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