Chemistry is for everyone, no matter your age! Students will be surprised to learn that we are surrounded by dozens of chemical reactions every day, from photosynthesis to digestion to electrochemistry.

What exactly is chemistry? To understand chemistry, you must know what matter is. Everything is made of matter, from your favorite book to yesterday’s lunch. And matter is made up of tiny parts called atoms and molecules. Chemistry is the study of matter and how it changes, like how water turns into ice when it’s cold (freezing) or how metal rusts over time (oxidation).

For the 30th anniversary of National Chemistry Week (NCW) on October 22-28, join science enthusiasts around the world to promote the value of chemistry in everyday life. With “Chemistry Rocks!” as this year’s theme, NCW is a great opportunity to teach students about the wonders of chemistry. Through simple chemistry experiments, they can discover concepts like combustion and exothermic reactions. Try the experiments below to get started:

Invisible Ink: Students will enjoy creating secret messages with this invisible ink experiment! Using lemon juice and a cotton swab, let them write their secret message on white paper. Once dry, apply heat to reveal the message.

Materials:

  • Lemon juice
  • Small cup or container
  • Cotton swab
  • Plain paper
  • Heat source (ie. incandescent light bulb or iron)
  • Adult supervision

Science Behind the Experiment: The heat breaks down the compounds in the lemon juice and releases the carbon. Once carbon comes in contact with air, oxidation occurs and the lemon juice turns brown, making the hidden message appear.

 

Baking Soda-Powered Boat: By combining vinegar and baking soda, students can create a chemical reaction that powers a soda bottle boat! It’s the same principle used by airplane jet engines. Hot gases are thrown backward out of the engine, and that propels the airplane forward.

Materials:

  • Plastic bottle (empty)
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife (optional)
  • Adult supervision

Science Behind the Experiment: Combining baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid) creates an acid-base reaction, which produces carbon dioxide. When this happens inside the bottle, the gas must escape out the straw, causing the boat to push forward.

 

Exothermic Reaction: An exothermic reaction is a chemical reaction that releases energy by light or heat. For this experiment, students will investigate what happens when yeast is added to a bowl filled with hydrogen peroxide. 

Materials:

  • Quick-rising dry yeast
  • Hydrogen peroxide solution
  • Thermometer
  • Small bowl
  • Spoon
  • Pencil and paper
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoon
  • Clock or stopwatch
  • Safety glasses

Science Behind the Experiment: Hydrogen peroxide naturally decomposes into water, oxygen gas and a small amount of heat energy over time. The yeast, which acts as a catalyst, speeds up the decomposition once added. As a result, the amount of heat energy produced is more noticeable and the temperature increases.

 

For more science exploration, check out Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun!