May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

School science fairs will always be a staple of our educational system, because research shows that about 78 percent of scientific discoveries are made by students the night before science fairs.

Well, technically, it’s the parents making the discoveries. There are almost no science fair projects that kids can do without their parents’ help. Out of the two kids of mine that have had projects so far, one of them involved heat sources and the other involved nighttime driving.

So since you’re the one doing it, here are some ideas for projects based on the ones that my wife and I have done. The great thing is that both of them use materials you can find around the house, provided you already went out and bought them.

Project #1: Liquids With Gas

Background:

We all know that liquids are constantly releasing gas. Actually, I didn’t know this, but my son came home from school and told me, so now we all know. I thought it was just hot liquids and soda.

The Experiment:

The question is how much gas they produce. Can you inflate a balloon using only gas from the liquids? And a heat source, because we don’t have all year? Also, does it matter if the drink is an acid or a base? I don’t know why it would, but scientists like to know.

Materials:

  • Five different drinks. We used water, seltzer and soda, and then, for an acid and a base, we used orange juice and milk.
  • Five empty water bottles. Though technically, four empty water bottles, because one is just going to be refilled with water. We didn’t think of that ’til after.
  • Five balloons. We decided to use five of the same color—black—because the package came with blacks and when on earth would someone use black balloons? A funeral?
  • A heat source. We ran out and bought something called “hand warmers,” which are little packets that look like the ones that come with your shoes and say “Do not eat,” like someone who’s going to eat an unidentified packet that came with their shoes is gonna read warnings.
  • Your child. If you have to sit there and watch balloons barely inflate, so does he.

Hypothesis:

My hypothesis was that nothing would happen. If liquids really gave off that much gas, then anyone who drinks eight cups of water a day would be floating around like a blimp.

Procedure:

  1. Fill each water bottle with a uniform amount of liquid. Cover each one with a balloon.
  2. Shake the hand warmers and place one under each bottle. Do not eat.
  3. Sit there and watch the balloons inflate, or, in the case of the orange juice and milk, flop over and give up.

Observations:

There’s no way to measure how much a balloon inflates using numbers you can put on a chart. But the teacher doesn’t let you write things like “slightly bigger,” so have to make up units of measure. Like we wrote that the seltzer balloon inflated to, quote, “2 inches.” Whatever that means.

Project#2: Longest Flight

Background:

Previous generations have proven that paper airplanes are great for throwing in class, because unlike a football, which can be confiscated, if the teacher takes away your paper airplane, you could always make more. What’s he going to do, take away all your paper? He’s the one who told you to bring 10,000 sheets to school in the first place.

The Experiment:

Everyone has a certain style of folding an airplane that he swears is the best. The question is, which one is actually the best? My son decided to create several of the top models and find out.

Materials:

  • Paper airplanes. My son made 30. Some had points, some had less pronounced points and some did not have a point at all. I think there’s a nimshol here.
  • Huge room. If you do it outside, you have the wind factor. If you do it in your house, you have obstacles in the form of furniture and siblings who just stand there like furniture as the planes specifically loop around to fly into them. So my wife called the school, and it turns out it’s totally okay to throw paper airplanes at school if you come in after school hours and do it in the gym. And clean up after yourself.
  • Father-in-law. We brought along my father-in-law (not my son’s), who I think might be a rocket scientist. We never talk about it.

Hypothesis:

We were going to have a good time and pretend it was for science.

Procedure:

  1. Find a time that the school building is open but nothing is going on in the gym. (Allow 4-6 weeks.)
  2. Have your child stand in one place and keep throwing airplanes as the adults yell, “Stop throwing them so fast! We’re trying to measure distance!”
  3. Collect all 30 airplanes from the floor, except for the ones that looped around and fell behind your child. I should have brought a broom.
  4. When you’re done, your father-in-law will make a paper ball and see how far that goes, as a baseline. Turns out it goes farther than some of the planes.

Observations:

Keeping planes in a shoebox for several weeks while you try to find a place to go throw them is not very good for airplanes.

Conclusion:

If you do the science project out of the house, your child will not wander away. Especially if you do it in school.

By Mordechai Schmutter


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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