Dirty Laundry Lessons

Science at Home:  Dirty Laundry Lessons, Part 1

It shouldn’t have come as a shock to my family that I went to college and majored in a scientific field.  After all, I showed an early proclivity for experimentation, long before the days of chemistry class or science fair projects.  At the ripe age of 9, I conducted an “experiment” to see what types of materials burn faster.  (NOTE:  Do NOT try this at home, or at least not without extreme adult supervision!!)  All went well until I tested a Kleenex…which I promptly had to drop into the metal trash can…filled with Kleenex…well, you get the picture.  A few seconds later and after a mad fire stomp by several members of my family (Metal trash cans get hot when engulfed in flame and cannot be carried out of the house; that was my mom’s take home lesson), my first science lab was finished.  As was the carpet.  Not a stellar start to my science career, but it didn’t slow me down.  Much.

However, I would like to suggest some fun and SAFER “science-y” things to do at home.  These ideas can be used as a simple introduction to the scientific method, or you can take it further and use it as a starting board for a full-blown science project.  First off, we’ll start in the laundry room, since I seem to spend a large portion of my life there!

1)  What are the effects of hard/soft water on detergents?  Or, what are the effects of certain salts on detergents?  To do this experiment, create a universal stain on several cloth strips(all made of same material).  Be sure to leave some material unstained as a point of comparison.  To create a consistent stain, consider soaking in something like grape juice or coffee.  Stain all the material at the same time for the same amount of time.  Start with ½ liter of purified water in several 2 Liter bottles (this will be your washing machine).  Leave one “machine” as purified water only.  This is your control.  To each of the other two liters, add salts.  You can try different salts (Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium), OR try using different amounts of the same salt in different two liters.  Add a cloth strip and the same amount of detergent to each “machine.”  I recommend using only a teaspoon of detergent.  Count the number of shakes (do whatever your arms can handle; but do your best to shake each two liter the same amount of time/number of shakes).

Oh, my mind races with the possibilities with this one:  comparing detergents, amounts of salts, lather, time, etc.  However, try to keep it simple.  Only test one thing at a time.

Well, tune in next time for more laundry lab.  Who knows, if nothing else, you might get Suzie or Johnny interested in science and the upcoming science fair.  Or, at the very least, maybe they’ll do the laundry for you next time!

Yours in Science,
Cecilia
PS:  Want more details on a quick, easy science project….

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Science Projects on the Internet for Eighth Graders

An amazing resource when trying to find the perfect science project for your 8th grader is the internet. It’s important to find a project that is challenging, educational, but also grade level appropriate.  Your student will want a project that is interesting  and internet searches allow for the type of specificity that will help you find a science project that balances all of these crucial elements. 

When you have decided what type of project your child would like to attempt, you can search for projects along with more specific search criteria like their grade level, or the subject matter. For example, “8th grade science project ideas, butterflies.” This should hopefully yield plenty of results. It’s important to narrow your results with criteria like your child’s grade level, age, or a subject matter so that you can be sure you are getting results that will be useful to you. 

If your student isn’t exactly sure what subject matter they want to do a project on, it might be wise to browse an online database of 8th grade science projects, like those found at http://www.akronlibrary.org/DBS/SFDB/Default.aspx or http://www.youth.net/nsrc/sci/sci.index.html, which you can look through by grade level or subject area. Databases like these are full of ideas and instructions, and are easier to use than just a simple general search that might bring you to an unreliable site. Another great resource for one-stop 8th grade science project ideas are the free guides found at http://www.middle-school-science-projects.com/guide.pdf.

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Seventh Grade Science Projects on the Internet

The internet can be used to your advantage and you are sure to be able to find the perfect 7th grade science project for your student that will fulfill their science fair requirements, and hopefully follow their interests as well. The trick is to know where to look to get the best and most results. 

Start by searching more generally for science projects that suit your 7th grader’s science interests. For example, if they want to do a science experiment that has to do with star gazing or space, you can search  “7th grade science projects, astronomy” to be sure to find a project that is appropriate for their grade level.  Odds are, however, that you will need to find a more specific science project website in order to get the best results. 

There are certain websites that exist that host whole databases of science projects for kids of all ages, and can be searched by grade level or subject area. Some great science project databases include http://www.akronlibrary.org/DBS/SFDB/Default.aspx as well as http://www.youth.net/nsrc/sci/sci.index.html. These websites that are intended specifically for students searching for feasible and fun science projects will likely be more reliable and easy to use than doing a broader search, where the results might be hard to verify. Another good resource are the 7th grade project guides available for free at http://www.middle-school-science-projects.com/guide.pdf, that are designed with the usual hypothesis through results structure in mind. 

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Choosing a Topic for Middle School Science Fair

It can be overwhelming when your middle school student comes home with that annual science fair project packet.  They are supposed to choose a project that interests them and execute it on their own, but they often need help finding a topic, an executable project, and finding the materials they need to get it done. Luckily, the internet is full of resources that will help you find middle school science projects for every students’ interest, with all the necessary materials and steps to get it done. 

After finding out what area of science your middle school student is most interested, you can begin searching for a science project with more narrow results. For example, if your child wants to do a chemistry-related project that is appropriate for their age and grade level, you might search for “chemistry science fair projects, 6th grade.” If you can’t easily find a feasible or clear project by just using a search engine, you can also try using a science project guide or inventory online. Some websites like http://www.youth.net/nsrc/sci/sci.index.html or http://www.akronlibrary.org/DBS/SFDB/Default.aspx have searchable databases of science fair projects that you can narrow down by subject matter or grade level. Another good resource to try is the free middle school science project guide at http://www.middle-school-science-projects.com/guide.pdf.

Whatever topic your child selects, the internet is a sure way to find a fun and educational science experiment.  Just remember to always be safe, and to have fun!

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