Halloween Season Inspires Hands-On Science
In the spirit of the creepy, gruesome, and vaguely terrifying elements of the Halloween season, why not engage in some similarly creepy, gruesome, and relatively terror-free hands-on science experiments! From candy chromatography and glowing drinkables to flying ghosts and gooey eyeballs, to follow are 8 Halloween science ideas which connect to numerous science concepts and promote hands-on learning.
Things That Glow
There are three different methods to creating an unnatural-seeming glow, each of which can be done fairly easily using easy to find (and inexpensive) ingredients. For a glow that’s safe to ingest, look no further than the carbonated beverage aisle at the grocery store. Tonic water, when in the presence of a black light, produces an eerie glow. Quinine – the ingredient that separates tonic water from its cousin seltzer – is the glowing agent in this case, and though it’s bitter taste may not appeal to young scientists, it’s powers are fascinating!
Mysterious glowing graffiti-style decorations can be made using simple stencils and yet another glow-making household ingredient: laundry detergent! Only detergents that include brightening agents (think name-brand blue liquids) will produce glowing results and, just like with tonic water, detergent decorations glow only under a black light and are, as a result, best for spaces like porches and patios where a black light can be turned on nearby.
The most natural of all glowing experiments uses chlorophyll, which is green in normal light conditions but glows red (almost like blood!) under the UV light that shines from a black light. By blending greens and extracting chlorophyll (in other words, by making homemade kale juice), families can experiment with the color-changing powers of chlorophyll. Perhaps try experimenting with a few different kinds of green leafy veggies in order to see if they produce different reddish hues!
Have you ever dreamed of seeing a flying ghost on Halloween? It’s entirely possible, thanks to some very simple science. One method of creating flying ghosts relies on static electricity, using balloons to summon tissue paper ghosts upward. Another – and slightly more exciting – way to make ghosts fly is by burning them. Using a tube created by cutting open a paper tea bag (this works best with higher-end, thicker tea bags), families can watch burning ghosts fly in the air by standing the tubes on end, drawing ghostly features, and then lighting the top. Thanks to convection, the ghostly beings will float up and disintegrate after a few moments of burning.
What to do with all of that candy? Since it’s not necessarily a good idea to eat all of it, some trick-or-treating candy can be used for important science discoveries! Wintergreen mints can produce mysterious sparks when bitten in the dark. Try biting through a few in front of a mirror in a dark bathroom – it’s like bite-sized fireworks! Other types of candy can be used to fuel discoveries about nearly any science concept, including color chromatography, density, and decomposition. Using the online resource Candy Experiments, families can search for specific experiments to match curiosity, or can sift through their leftover candy and find activities based on available materials.
Alien Eyeball Eggs
The ickiest of all Halloween science experiments involves the creation of monster eyeballs, which transform into ooey-gooey monster eggs. Using only vinegar, corn syrup, and an egg (and permanent markers or food coloring, if you wish to liven up the experiment), families can transform a chicken’s egg into a shell-less, goopy monster egg in a puddle of colorful slime. The process of removing the egg’s shell with vinegar can teach young scientists about chemical reactions that cause substances to break down, and watching the egg shrivel after soaking in corn syrup illustrates an effect of osmosis. Fascinatingly gross!