At our library, we would like to fit more STEM ‘ into our programming, but I struggle with coming up with STEM projects that appeal to our service age group. Anything that sounds remotely like a classroom activity is dismissed by teens.
I was pleasantly surprised when the Science Experiments You Can Eat program passed through our TAG (teen advisory group) vetting! Perhaps the appeal involved using food, as our annual Teen Top Chef competition in the fall is one of our most popular events of the year.
The program had the advantage of being inexpensive, because the supplies were all household ingredients and supplies.
The experiments we carried out included:
Straw through Potato
Do Not Open Bottle Prank
Color Changing Milk
Eating Nails: Iron for Breakfast
Egg Drop: Newton’s Law of Inertia
I started with the Straw through Potato experiment, which raised quite a bit of scientific doubt in my audience. My practice run ran smoothly, but my live experiment was a dud. Basically, by covering one end of the straw and stabbing the other through a narrow end of the potato, the straw is supposed to go all the way through the potato. A teen did not cover the end of the straw and the straw stabbed through her potato. My properly covered straw got stuck half way.
Luckily, my other experiments worked well. Frankenstein’s Hand was by far the most popular of the experiments. In a drinking glass, a mixture of vinegar and baking soda creates a gas that inflates a rubber glove attached to the top of the glass. We kept on replicating this experiment until we ran out of vinegar. I highly recommend this for any mad scientist program.
The teens (and their tween siblings) who came enjoyed the experiments and tried them over and over. Next time I would use lighting, decorations, and music to create more of a sense of atmosphere, so the program would feel more substantial.
I used three books to come up with the experiments: