Fun Friday – making slime!

Here is a fun science experiment that all kids love….. and no matter how many times a child may have done this one, they are always happy to do it again!


You will need….

  • two small bowls or cups
  • PVA glue (white or clear is fine)
  • water
  • food colouring (optional)
  • Borax* powder.

*You can pick up the borax powder in your local chemist (See note below)

What you do… 

  • To the first bowl add half a cup of water and half a cup of PVA glue and mix well.
  • If you want to make coloured slime add a few drops of food colouring and mix this in well.
  • In the other bowl add one teaspoon of borax powder to one cup of water and mix well until all the powder is dissolved!
  • Now for the fun bit… pour the borax solution into the PVA/water mix and mix, mix, mix!!! YOU HAVE JUST MADE SLIME!


This experiment is as fun as it looks!

If you want to keep your slime just pop it into a Zip-lock bag and seal it and it will be ready for you next time you want some slimey fun!

So what is happening?…

Congratulation… you have just made a polymer!! In simple terms a polymer is a substance made up of lots of molecules arranged in long chains.  If you imagine that the glue is like cooked spaghetti, it slides and slips around the place quite easily.  When we add the borax to the glue it causes some of the molecules in the glue to stick together making the glue more rubbery and less liquid!  Imagine if you took those strands of spaghetti and tied them together in places, the strands would not be able to slip and slide around nearly as much! The borax and glue mixture is just like your knotted spaghetti!

*Where can I get Borax powder?

In Ireland you need to buy Borax powder in a pharmacy.  The production is a little erratic and the larger volumes are no longer available!  You should be able to get this 100g tub in any pharmacy and it costs about €2.25.

UPDATE 2017: Borax powder is no longer as readily available in Ireland.  here is one alternative, using very simple ingredients… check out this post on how to make silly putty.

Or check out our Ultimate Slime Guide for lots of fantastic slime recipes using contact lens solution or laundry detergent.


Check out next week’s Fun Friday post for more slime recipes to try at home!

Fun Friday – Exploring Density

What is Density?

Density is the mass of an object per unit volume.  A bit of a mouthful but this is how I explained it to my own children today….

…imagine you have a pebble and a marshmallow of the same size and shape… which one do you think is heavier?

My three year old got this straight away… “the pebble of course Mum” (with a “silly question” look that I am use to at this stage).

The Fun Friday Science Team!

So if they are the same size (volume) then why does one weigh so much more than the other?  If you remember that everything is made up of molecules… the heavier object simply has more molecules packed more tightly together (a greater mass); the molecules in the lighter object (in this case the marshmallow) are much more loosely packed together (a smaller mass)!

The pebble is said to have a greater density than the marshmallow.

A bit of History:

A Greek scientist called Archimedes (250 BC) is credited with discovering the concept of density.  The story goes that Archimedes was given the task of determining if the newly minted King’s gold coins were genuine (or if they had been mixed with silver).  Archimedes was pondering this idea while lowering himself into the bath.  When he noticed how his body displaced a volume of water he realised he had cracked it!  If he compared a coin of pure gold with the newly minted ones he could check if they displaced the same amount of water i.e. that their densities were the same.  Turns out they were not and the King was beings duped!

They say that Archimedes was so excited when he realised the solution that he jumped out of the bath and ran all the way home naked shouting “Eureka, Eureka”…. (“I found it, I found it” in Greek).

Here are some experiments on density that you can try at home…

The children and I spent the afternoon trying out these cool experiments that are easy to do at home.  Hope you get to try some too!

1. Make a density rainbow

You will need:

A clear glass, golden syrup or honey, maple syrup, milk, washing up liquid, water, food colouring, cooking oil or baby oil, a clear alcohol (we used isopropanol but you could use methylated spirits or vodka – with adult supervision!), funnels, a dropper or a spoon.

What to do:

Place some water in a glass and add a few drops of food colouring and mix. Place some alcohol in another glass and add a few drops of a different food colouring. Mix.

Carefully add each layer in the following order….

  1. golden syrup
  2. maple syrup
  3. milk
  4. washing up liquid
  5. coloured water
  6. baby oil (or cooking oil)
  7. coloured alcohol
Try to add each layer carefully down the side of the glass, using a spoon, a dropper or a funnel (as below).  Make sure each liquid makes a complete layer that fully covers the layer underneath.  If the layers mix a little, allow to settle before adding the next layer.
Add each layer carefully down the side of the glass
Two junior scientists admiring their work!
We think it looks lovely!

What is happening:

We added the most dense material first (the golden syrup) and then the next dense and so on.  So each layer is a little lighter or less dense than the previous one and therefore floats on it.

You can of course add other things are leave some of these layers out!

2. Lava lamp in a glass

You will need: a clear glass, sunflower/vegetable oil, water, food colouring, some effervescent tablets such as AlkaSeltzer.

What to do: Place water in the glass to about one third full.  Add a few drops of food colouring to the water and mix. Gently pour the oil down the side of the glass filling the glass to almost the top.  If the oil and water mix a little don’t worry, just wait a while until the two layers separate out with the oil sitting on top of the water. Break the tablet into pieces and add one or two pieces to the glass…. I will let Caer explain it to you (with a little prompting from her brother)!

What is happening:

When the AlkaSeltzer tablet reaches the water layer it starts to dissolve and fizz, releasing a gas called carbon dioxide.  This gas forms in small bubbles surrounded by water, they start to rise to the top of the glass because the gas is lighter (less dense) than the water and oil.  The bubbles pass all the way through the oil layer to the top of the glass where the bubble eventually bursts, releasing the carbon dioxide gas.  Once the gas is gone the bubble is just water, which is heavier (more dense) than the oil so it starts to drop down again.  The process continues until all the carbon dioxide has escaped to the top.  Adding more AlkaSeltzer starts it all off again!

3. Fireworks in a glass

You will need: A glass, water, food colouring and sunflower (or vegetable) oil

What to do: Fill the glass with water to about two thirds full.  Carefully pour a layer of oil on top of the water to fill the glass.  Add drops of food colouring to the top of the oil layer and watch as they slowly drop down and enter the water layer.  They streak through it like some mini fireworks!

Add the drops of food colouring to the top of the oil…
…and wait for the fireworks display to begin!

What is happening:

Food colouring and oil do not mix so the drops will fall until they meet the water layer.  Food colouring dissolves in water, the colour diffuses out into the water as the drops fall to the bottom of the glass, giving a lovely fireworks type display!

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Fun Friday as much as we did.  If you have any comments, questions or suggestions please leave a comment below, I always love the chat and feedback!  

Have a great weekend!

Fun Friday – the Tornado

Fun Friday – the Tornado

(Apologies I am posting the Fun Friday blog a day late due to broadband difficulties yesterday )

We all thought we had been visited by a small tornado here in Galway yesterday, a photo of a waterspout just off Salthill was the talk of the town.  Turns out it was just a hoax, but for any junior scientists that may be disappointed I thought I would share a great experiment with you explaining how to make your very own tornado in a bottle!  There are plenty of fun and interesting tornado facts too.

What is a Tornado?

photo credit: Niccolò Ubalducci Photographer via photopin cc


A tornado is a rapid swirling column of air that stretches from a cloud (usually a thunder cloud) to the earth below.

A tornado that forms over water is often referred to as a waterspout.

If the column of air does not touch the earth it is referred to as a funnel cloud.

How do Tornadoes form?

The formation of a tornado requires a combination of a number of specific weather features but usually tornadoes form when an area of warm, wet air meets and area of cool, dry air and alter the atmospheric conditions.  When this causes the warm wet air to rise and cool rapidly thunder clouds are formed.  Under the correct conditions of wind strength and speed the rising air starts to tilt and rotate and the tornado begins to form.

How fast is a tornado?

Most tornadoes have a wind speed of less that 160 km and hour (100 miles an hour), however, some extreme tornadoes can reach much greater speeds, up to 300 km an hour!

Did you know… the fastest recorded tornado was the Tri-State Tornado (Illinois, Missouri and Indiana) of 1925 had a forward speed of 117 km per hour (73 miles and hour)?

How are Tornadoes measure?

Tornadoes are detected using weather spotting and doppler radar.  Tornado warnings may be issues for certain areas by observing the formation of developing weather patterns while radar can be used for more accurate forecasting once thunderclouds have developed.

Image credit: Wiki Commons; a category F5 tornado in Manitoba, Canada, 2007.

It is not easy to determine Tornado strength and wind speed for two main reasons..

  1. as the exact location of a tornado is hard to predict it is very hard to have the required equipment in the right place at the right time;
  2. the force and strength of a tornado can destroy the equipment used for such analysis.

One of the devises used to measure wind speed within a tornado is called an anemometer. Doppler radar can also be used for this purpose.  When these measurements are successful, wind speed will be expressed against the Beaufort wind scale, ranging from 0 -12 in wind speed.

In 1971 Dr. Tetsuya Fijita developed a scale to rank Tornadoes, this scale ranges from 0 to 5 and is expressed as F0, F1, F2, F3, F4 and F5.  This ranking is retrospective, estimating wind speed and strength by examining the damage resulting from the Tornado.  This scale has been further refined in the US leading to the Enhanced Fijita Scale.

Do we get tornadoes in Ireland?

There are certain places around the world that are “tornado hot spots” such as many central states in the US, South Africa, Canada and Bangladesh.  However tornadoes can form almost anywhere and there are genuine cases of tornadoes in Ireland.  If we do get visited by a tornado it is usually small and brief.

Did you know…the earliest recorded tornadoes in Europe occurred in Rosdalla, near Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, on April 30th 1054?  

The only continent where tornadoes have not been recorded is the Antartic.

Did you know that the UK has the largest number of tornadoes per land mass?  Usually these tornadoes are small.

An experiment to try at home

Make a tornado in a bottle

You will need… two empty 2 Litre plastic bottles, an O-ring, strong duct tape, food colouring, glitter (optional). Alternatively use a tornado tube to replace the O-ring and duct tape.

What to do… Fill one 2 Litre bottle 2/3 full with water, add a few drops of food colouring and about a teaspoon of glitter, if using.  Place the O-ring on top of the bottle and tape into place with the duct tape, ensuring that you do not cover the whole.

Place the second (empty) bottle upside-down on top of the first one and tape securely into place.

If using the Tonrado tube you just twist the tube onto the first bottle 2/3 full with water and then upturn the second bottle and twist it securely into place into the other end of the tornado tube!

Once you are confident that the bottle is taped well enough to prevent any leakage you can turn the bottles upside-down so the one containing the coloured water is on top.  Turn the upper bottle in a circular motion about five times and then hold the bottles steady and see what happens.  You should a mini tornado forming in the bottle as the water drains.  if this does not work for you first time don’t worry, it make take a few attempts to get the knack of turning the bottle correctly.

So what is happening?… When we turn the bottle we get the water moving in a vertical, circular motion, just like the air in a tornado.  Once we stop turning the bottle and hold it steady the momentum created causes the water to keep turning and form into a “twister” inside the bottle.  The food colouring and glitter or only present to make the tornado more visible.


You can change this around a little by adding different things to the water in the bottle and compare how the tornado looks;  Some suggestions include adding grains of pepper, small pieces of coloured paper or a squeeze of washing up liquid.  You can also try the experiment by adding some coloured oil to the water.

Challenge your friends and family:

You can change this into a fun challenge for your friends and family and help them learn about air pressure while too.  Give your friend the bottles all set up and ask them how long they think it will take them to get the water from the top bottle to the lower bottle, without squeezing the bottle.  Let them have a go and time it.  You can then ask if anyone else thinks they can beat that time and give them a go.  Everyone should get about the same time.

Now it is your turn, upturn the bottle and start the tornado and time how long the bottle takes to empty now!  They should be impressed to find out you have beaten their time!

So what is happening?
The hole in the O-ring allows air to pass into the bottle, producing a funnel of air within the column of twisting water.  The movement of air from one bottle to the other equalizes air pressure and allows the water escape into the lower bottle much more quickly.

Fun Friday – Static Electricity

Fun Friday – Static Electricity

What is Static Electricity?

Static electricity is a charge that builds up when two things are rubbed together. Matching charges of static electricity push each other away (repel) while opposite charges attract each other.

Let’s Learn More!

Everything is made up of atoms.  An atom is the smallest piece you can break an object down to while still maintaining it’s properties.

photo credit: ProLithic 3D via photopin cc

Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons.  Protons have a positive (+) charge, neutrons have no charge (neutral) and electrons have a negative () charge.

At the centre of each atom is a nucleus, this is where the protons and neutrons are found.

The electrons are found to the edge of the atom, they are constantly moving in a circular motion around the nucleus.

When two objects are rubbed together electrons pass from one to the other, making one more positively charged and the other more negatively charged.  This charge is called static electricity.

How does lightning work?

photo credit: Brujo+ via photopin cc


Lightning is caused by a build up of static electricity in clouds.  As the charge in the cloud grows, the base of the cloud builds up a strong negative charge.  This negative charge creates a build up of positive charge in the ground.

If the attraction between the cloud and the ground (or between two clouds) becomes strong enough, a spark of lightning will jump between the two.  This lightning is a giant spark of moving electrons travelling between the cloud and the ground.

Did you know… that the heat of a lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the sun?

Some things give up or take on electrons more easily than others.

Objects can be ranked according to how easily they give up or take on electrons and this ranking is called the triboelectric series.  Things listed at the top of the triboelectric series give up electrons more easily than those ranked below.

Experiment to try at home

photo credit: Kevin Baird via photopin cc

1. Hair raising fun!

You will need… a balloon and a good head of hair!

What to do… blow up the balloon and tie it tight.  Rub the balloon all around your hair (this is called charging the balloon); Now move the balloon slowly away from your head and watch your hair stand on end!

So what is happening?… When the balloon is rubbed on your hair electrons are passed from your hair to the balloon.  This gives the balloon a negative charge and your hair a positive charge.  As opposites attract, your hair is attracted to the balloon and sticks to it while you pull it away.

2. Attract a can!

You will need… a balloon, a good head of hair and an empty aluminium can!

What to do… charge the balloon on your hair as before.  Lay the empty aluminium can on it’s side on a table.  Then bring the charged balloon close to the can, but do not let it touch it.  Slowly draw the balloon away from the can and watch the can follow.

So what is happening?… The aluminium can becomes attracted to the negatively charged balloon as the area around it becomes positively charged.

3. Bending water!

You will need… a balloon, a good head of hair and a running tap!

What to do… Turn on a tap to a small, steady stream of water and leave it running.  Charge the balloon on your hair as before.  Bring the charged balloon slowly towards the stream of water and you should see the stream of water slowly bend towards the balloon! (If the experiment does not work for you just reduce the flow of water).

So what is happening?… Just as with the aluminium can, the stream of water becomes attracted to the negatively charged balloon as the area around it becomes positively charged.

I hope you have some hair raising fun with these experiments :0)  If you have any questions or queries, or would like me to cover a particular subject in the Fun Friday blog, please just leave me a comment below!

I am going to take a little blogging break for a couple of weeks but will return in August for plenty more fun, facts and experiments to share.

Fun Friday – Exploring Bubbles!

Fun Friday – Exploring Bubbles!


A bubble is a thin film of liquid filled with air or another gas. Most bubble are made up of soapy water and air.


No matter what shape a bubble starts off as, it will always try to form a round shape (called a sphere). A sphere is the shape that allows the least amount of surface area – and therefore the least amount of energy is needed to maintain this shape.

If one or more bubbles touch they will loose their sphere shape – the walls of the touching bubbles will merge. If both bubbles are the same size the shared wall will be flat!

The walls of joined-up bubbles always meet at an angle of 120 degrees

photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc
photo credit: Jeff Kubina via photopin cc



Bubbles reflect colours from their surroundings so at first they may appear rainbow coloured.

As time goes on the colour of the bubble changes until finally the bubble appears colourless – and then it bursts



The sphere of a bubble is made up of two layers – an inner wall and an outer wall. As light waves hit the bubble they are reflect off both walls. The walls of the bubble gradually weaken and the distance between the two walls reduces until the reflected light waves cancel each other out and the colour disappears.

 Did you know… The skin of a bubble is less than one thousandth of a millimetre thick!



Make your own bubble solution!

 Commercial bubble solutions are great but they can be expensive, so why not make your own? There are lots of good recipes that work really well but this is the one I usually use! 
You will need… a clean, dry empty plastic bottle (1 litre), 4 tblsp (60ml) washing-up liquid, 2 cups (480mls) clean water, 2 tblsp (30ml) glycerine
What to do: Before you start make sure the bottle, your hands and any measuring utensils are clean and dry. Carefully measure out each ingredient and add, one by one to the bottle, trying not to make the mixture get too bubbly. Once everything has been added stir slowly and carefully. Cap the bottle and leave it in a safe place overnight. The bubble solution is ready to use the next day.
Some tips: When making your bubble solution make sure you use “original” washing-up liquid and not any of the scented varieties! If possible, use bottled or filtered water rather than tap water.


So now what?… Now start making bubbles!! If you don‛t have any bubble wands you can make your own using some pipe cleaners. Try shaping the pipe cleaners into different shapes and see how the bubble will still always end up as a sphere shape.

 Did you know… The biggest free- floating soap bubble ever blown was 105.4 cubic feet. It could have held 788 gallons of water!


If you really want to scale it up make extra bubble solution and us a small paddling pool and a hoola hoop to make some mega bubbles!


This is a photo of my son in a big bubble made using a commercial bubble ring

Did you know… The world record for the most people inside a bubble was set in 2006 by Sam Heath; His bubble contained 19 girls and boys over five feet tall!!



You will need.. bubble solution, food colouring, plastic cup, a straw, paper.


What to do: Pour bubble solution into the plastic cup until the cup is about one third full. Add two tablespoons of food colouring to the bubble solution and mix it well. Place the straw into the bubble solution and keep blowing until the bubbles are coming out of the pot.

Lower the piece of paper onto the bubbles to make an imprint (do not let the paper touch the plastic cup).  Lift off the paper and allow your bubble art to dry.

You can repeat the process using different colours of food colouring!



Fun Friday – exploring Acids and Bases

Fun Friday – exploring Acids and Bases

I know, I know, I shouldn’t call in Fun Friday when I am posting it on a Saturday, but ignoring the fact that I am a day late with this regular blog post, I hope you enjoy!

Exploring Acids and Bases

What are Acids and Bases?

Acids and Bases are chemicals that occur naturally in lots of different substances.
Acids can be found in things like lemons and vinegar; Bases (also called Alkali) are found in toothpaste or many cleaning products. Bread soda is a base.

Lets learn more!

The Bronsted-Lowry Definition of an acid and a base is…
  • Acids are substances that gives up hydrogen ions (H+).
  • Bases are substances that accept hydrogen ions (H+).
  • These hydrogen (H+) ions can change things in many ways, including taste and colour!

Did you know… that the word acid comes from the Latin word acidus meaning sour!

Lemons contain an acid called
citric acid that gives them that
sour taste!

The pH Scale

The pH scale is a scale that measures how acidic or basic a substance is.
The pH scale goes from 0 to 14. The scale for acids goes from 0 to 7. A very strong acid has a pH of 0. The scale for bases goes from 7 to 14. A very strong base has a pH of 14.
Something with a pH of 7 is said to be neutral (neither an acid or a base). Pure water has a pH of 7.
photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc


“Did you know… that bee sting venom contains an acid called formic acid!”

Acids and bases in plants!

An indicator is something that can determine whether a substance is an acid or a base. Many indicators are natural chemicals.
A group of chemicals called anthocyanins are naturally present in a number of different plants such as apples, grapes, the leaves of many trees and flowers such as roses and poppies.
photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

The colour of anthocyanin changes depending upon the acid levels (pH) of the plant. The bright red and pink colours of Autumn are due to anthocyanin and acid levels in leaves (for more on this see my previous
post “Carrots, Cabbages and Cups of Tea“).

Anthocyanin changes colour from red to pink, to purple, to blue, to green as the pH changes from 0 to 14.
photo credit: Parvin via photopin cc

“Did you know… Hydrangea flowers can change colour depending on the pH of the soil. In acidic soils chemical reactions occur to make aluminium available to the plant, turning the flowers blue, in alkaline (basic) soil these chemical reactions cannot occur so the flowers remain pink.”


Experiments to try at home:

Make your own sherbet

You will need… icing sugar, citric acid, bread soda, flavoured jelly crystals, a teaspoon, a tablespoon and a mixing bowl.
What to do… add one teaspoon of citric acid and one teaspoon of bread soda to the bowl. Add three tablespoons of icing sugar and two tablespoons of flavoured jelly crystals. Mix all together then place a small amount on your tongue! The sherbet should bubble a little and you should feel a tingle on your tongue!
So what is happening?… you have just created an  acid-base reaction in your mouth! When the citric acid, bread soda and saliva in your mouth combine they react together to give off a gas, called carbon dioxide, that forms tiny bubbles that you feel fizzing on your tongue!

Cabbage juice experiment

You will need… a red (purple) cabbage, a knife, a saucepan, a sieve, an ice tray, clear vinegar, water and bread soda
What to do… cut up half the red cabbage and add it to a pan.  Ask and adult to cover with water and bring it to the boil then leave to cool.  Once cool pour the cabbage juice through a sieve, collecting the juice in a bowl.  Pour the juice into an ice tray and freeze until it hardens into ice-cubes.
Half fill three glasses, one with water, one with clear vinegar and one with water mixed with half a teaspoon of bread soda. Now drop a cabbage juice ice-cube into each glass and see what happens.
Cabbage Juice ice cube experiment


So what is happening?… red cabbage contains anthocyanin. When the cabbage juice mixes with the acid (vinegar) it turns a red/pink colour; when it mixes with the bread soda solution (base) it turns a blue/green colour.  The water is neutral (pH 7) so it does not alter the purple colour of the cabbage juice.
#FunFriday – exploring Magnets

#FunFriday – exploring Magnets

What is a Magnet?


A magnet is an object that can produce a magnetic force around it called a “magnetic field”.  Magnets attract certain types of metals such as iron, nickel and cobalt.


Let’s learn more!


A magnetic field is not visible to the human eye, however iron filings can be used to show the pattern of a magnetic field. The magnetic field around all magnets is strongest at it‛s ends – these ends are called the Poles. One end is called the North Pole and the other is called the South Pole, just like the Earth.

If you put the poles of two magnets together they will either pull together (attract) or push apart (repel); Different poles attract (North and South), similar poles repel!

photo credit: daynoir via photopin cc
photo credit: daynoir via photopin cc

Did you know… small iron rocks on the Earth‛s surface are often natural magnets and these are called Lodestones.

The Earth as a magnet


The Earth is one big magnet – it‛s magnetic field is created by the iron that is in the core of the Earth. The Earth‛s magnetic field is strongest at the North Pole and the South Pole.

photo credit: *~Dawn~* via photopin cc
photo credit: *~Dawn~* via photopin cc
Did you know… many objects is space are magnetic including the Sun!

photo credit: Najwa Marafie - Free Photographer via photopin cc
photo credit: Najwa Marafie – Free Photographer via photopin cc


Did you know… the Earth‛s magnetic field deflects charged particles that come from the sun (Solar Wind) and this creates the wonderful lights called AURORA that can sometimes be seen in the sky.

Magnetic compasses use the Earth‛s magnetic field to determine North, South East and West.




An electromagnet is a magnet that is produced when an electric current is passed around a piece of iron.  Unlike true magnets, electromagnets are only magnetic while the electric current is switched on!

Did you know… the first person to notice that electric currents produce magnetism was a Danish scientist called Hans Christian Oersted, in 1820.
Some countries have started to use high speed trains called “MagLev” trains that are operated by powerful electromagnets.
photo credit: Erwyn van der Meer via photopin cc
photo credit: Erwyn van der Meer via photopin cc


These wheel less trains float on magnetic tracks and can reach speeds of more than 500 km/h.

Two experiments to try at home:

Make a compass:

You will need… a circle of paper, a needle, a magnet and a bowl of water.
What to do… thread the needle through the circle of paper so that nearly all the needle lies on one side of the paper (see below). Stroke the needle 30 times in one direction with one end of a strong magnet.  Lift the magnet between strokes. Float the circle of paper on top of the water in the bowl (needle side up).  The paper should spin around slowly for a few moments and then stop.  The needle should now be pointing North-South.  You can confirm this with a compass if you wish!
So what is happening? The needle contains little particles of iron that are all jumbled up.  When the needle is stroked with the magnet it makes all the iron particles align in the same direction (North-South); the needle is temporarily magnetised!

Make an electromagnet:

You will need.. 1 metre of thin insulated wire, a large iron nail, blue tac, a 1.5 volt battery, paper clips;
What to do… wind the insulated wire tightly around the nail at least 30 times then ask an adult to strip back the insulation from both ends of the wire, exposing about 2 cm of the wire beneath.  Using the blue tac stick one end of the wire to the + side of the battery and the other end to the – end.  Now see if your electromagnet can pick up some paperclips.  If you disconnect the batter the paperclips should fall!!
photo credit: Steve Wilhelm via photopin cc
photo credit: Steve Wilhelm via photopin cc



So what is happening? When the wire is attached to the battery it creates an electric current that runs through the wire, temporarily magnetising the iron particles in the nail. When the battery is disconnected the nail no longer acts as a magnet!


Hope you have fun with these this weekend!  If you have a question or something to add please drop me a note in the comments below!

#FunFriday – Exploring Clouds

What are Clouds?

photo credit: Theophilos via photopin cc

Clouds are made up of tiny drops of water or ice crystals. They form when warm air picks up water vapour from the land or sea and carries it into the sky turning it into water droplets or ice crystals!

The study of clouds is called Nephology.

Let’s learn more!

There are lots of ways to describe clouds but they are usually named based on their height in the sky, their shape or the weather they can bring!


  • If a cloud name starts with “cirr-” then you know it must form very high in the sky (over 20,000 feet).
  • If a cloud name has “Alto”- in it then it is in the middle section of the sky (between 6,500 and 20,000 feet).
  • Clouds with “Strato-” in the name are found in the lowest part of the sky (below 6,500 feet).
The clouds that are really high in the sky are mainly made up of ice crystals as the air is so cold.
Clouds at ground level are called “fog”.


Did you know…all clouds are white but can appear grey or dark when seen from below? This may be due to the amount of water they contain and shadowing by clouds above them.

Clouds named according to their shape will contain one of these Latin words in their name…
  • Cumulus” – heap
  • Stratus” – layer
  • Cirrus” – curl of hair
Cumulus Clouds
photo credit: Nicolai Grut via photopin cc
Cirrus Clouds
photo credit: Gerry Dincher via photopin cc


Alrostratus Clouds
photo credit: Anita363 via photopin cc

Therefore a cloud named Altostratus would mean a cloud that forms in layers and sits between 6,500 and 20,000 feet above land.

Did you know... other planets contain clouds made up of chemicals other than water? Venus has clouds made up of sulphuric acid, chlorine and flouride. Neptune is covered by bright blue methane clouds!

The latin word “Nimbus” is used to name rain clouds!

Cumulonimbus Clouds
photo credit: izoo3y via photopin cc

Clouds called Cumulonimbus are often referred to as thunder clouds as they usually bring thunder storms!

Cumulonimbus clouds are the tallest of all the clouds.
Cumulonimbus looks a bit like a giant cauliflower in the sky!
Did you know… a sinlge cloud can hold billions of pounds of water?

Clouds are carried along by the wind and can often travel quite fast;

Thunder clouds (Cumulonimbus) usually travel about 64 kilometres per hour (kph). The highest clouds (above 20,000 feet) can reach speeds of  over 160 kph!

An experiment to try at home:


Make a cloud in a bottle!


You will need… an empty 2 Litre plastic bottle, warm water and a match.


What to do… Fill the plastic bottle one third full with warm water.  Put the cap back on and squeeze and then release the bottle.  Nothing happens. Ask an adult to light the match and put it into the bottle.  Replace the cap quickly.  Try squeezing and releasing the bottle again.  What happens this time?


So what is happening? Once the match has been added to the bottle a cloud forms when you squeeze and then release the bottle (if you squeeze again the cloud dissapears and reappears when you release).  To make a cloud you need water vapour, small particles (like the smoke) and a decrease in air pressure.


Fun Friday – Rockets!

Fun Friday – Rockets!

 What is a rocket?


A rocket can describe any object that is propelled by fast moving liquid or gas!


Most rockets have a nose or cone at the top, a body that houses the fuel and fins at the base.
Rockets are usually powered by a chemical reaction (explosion) within the rocket itself. This chemical reaction requires both fuel and oxygen, both of which must be carried within the rocket.
The fuel and oxygen are called the propellant. There are two types of propellant, liquid propellant and solid propellant.
A solid propellant rocket is easier, simpler and cheaper to make.  However, these rockets are harder to guide and control as once the chemical reaction is started it is hard to stop.
A liquid propellant rocket is more complex and expensive to make but the burning of the liquid fuel is allot easier to control.
 photo credit: Flying Jenny via photopin cc

photo credit: Flying Jenny via photopin cc

A bit of history


The Chinese were the first to invent rockets when they started filling bamboo tubes with gunpowder and lighting them.
Rocket science really began with an English man called Isaac Newton. He formulated three laws to explain the physics of motion. These laws explain how rockets work!

Newton‛s 3rd Law of Motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction!

To understand this law think of a balloon full of air.
Demonstrating Newton's Law of Motion
Demonstrating Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion
If the balloon is untied and the air suddenly let out, it will escape the balloon with such force that it will propel the balloon in the opposite direction.
The force of the air leaving the balloon is called the thrust! The thrust that powers the launch of a rocket comes from the force of the gas (generated by the burning fuel) being ejected from the rear of the rocket!

The first liquid propellant rocket was launched in 1926 by an American called Robert Goddard.  He is considered the father of modern rocket science!

Rocket to the Moon


Neil Armstrong... photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc
Neil Armstrong…
photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
via photopin cc

In 1969 Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first men on the moon.

Armstrong and Aldrin traveled to the Moon in a rocket called Saturn V. It was 100 metres tall and weighed more than 3,000 tonnes! It was the largest rocket ever launched!

An Experiment to try at home


Make a stomp rocket!


You will need… an empty 2L plastic bottle, paper, insulation tape, a 1/2 inch PVC pipe, a length of rubber tubing;

What to do… tape one end of the rubber tubing to the neck of the bottle and tape the other end to one end of the PVC pipe. Next make the body of the rocket by wrapping a piece of paper around the PVC pipe and secure it with tape at the overlap. Remove the rocket from the pipe. Cut four triangles of paper and attach to the body of  the rocket near one end; these are the rocket fins. Make a nose (cone shape) for the other end of the rocket and attach it with tape.  You are now ready to launch your rocket. (Best to do this outside!).
Sit your paper rocket over the PVC pipe and place the 2L bottle on the ground on its side. Stomp on the bottle and watch your rocket shoot off!
This is what your stomp rocket should look like
This is what your stomp rocket should look like

So what is happening?
… when you stomp on the bottle the air inside it shoots out through the tubing and the pipe, forcing the rocket off the end of the pipe! Just blow into the pipe to re-inflate to bottle to start again!

An Experiment to try at home


Make a teabag rocket

I have shared this one with you before, but for those of you who have not seen it I thought it would be a nice addition here…. a double for the Bank Holiday Weekend ;0)

If you try any of the experiments or have any comments or questions, please let me know in the comments below!


Fun Friday – Rainbow Explosions

Fun Friday – Rainbow Explosions

Wow, its Friday again, so that must mean another Fun Friday post.  This week’s experiment is quick and simple… and lots of FUN….rainbow explosions –  a BIG hit with all three of my children.

You probably have everything you need already in your kitchen!





You will need:

Bread Soda
Some different colours of food colouring
Some small spoons
Some small plastic cups (or similar)
A plate to contain it all






What you do:


Hope this is as much fun in your house as it was in ours;  Let me know how you get on!


They liked it so much they had to have a rerun….love the colours, don’t you?