Thursday, September 5, 2013

Starting with Good Chemistry

Our local school district has not started their school year yet. Officials decided to wait until next week because the Jewish New Year started so early. This has absolutely no bearing on what we're doing, of course, but I gave a silent cheer for the kids of our district. The start of a new school year was always depressing to me. My inner child prefers endless summers of drawing and imaginary worlds in the backyard.

We did start our school year. Sort of. I began taking notes on Sierra's activities so that I will know what to write on that first quarterly report. Even though she unschools, I try to steer activities toward the classical model. She loves science and expressed interest in doing experiments this year, so I bought a Thames and Kosmos chemistry set since this is our chemistry year. As soon as it arrived, she wanted to use it. I recently figured out that she is an auditory learner, so I read the instructions for use to her. This led me to remember why I never bought a chemistry set before. All those warnings are unnerving for me. I questioned why they even sell the kit for children to use. I'm the parent and I was a little afraid to touch it.

After pages of instructions and warnings, Sierra donned her goggles and did the first experiment. It took more time to pry the stopper off of the sodium carbonate than it did to complete the activity. So we did the second experiment. That had a more interesting reaction -- two chemicals foam with the introduction of water -- but I started to wonder if every experiment was designed for the attention span of a goldfish.

We began the third experiment. This time we needed to cut out a circle to contain the gases formed when the chemicals foamed. We also needed matches. Fire makes any experiment more interesting! Sierra was too afraid to handle the lit match, so she held the test tube while I inserted the match. The flame extinguished. (That's good, that means the experiment worked.) We even repeated the experiment using another match. This is amazing, as I have terrible track record with successful experiments. We quit while we were ahead and washed out the equipment. I think we had a great start to our "official" not-back-to-school year.

3 comments:

  1. Well done - I also have a bad record with science experiments :)

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  2. It would seem that all the warnings are for liability purposes. I get the same feeling when I see the drug warnings in commercials. I know you would be careful anyway.

    The experiment sounds interesting. What gas put out the match? Did the kit gave the names of the chemicals you were mixing.

    I know that Sierra is very interested in the natural sciences. She knows about the flora and fauna and remembers facts that she learned at the nature center.

    Good luck on your homeschool year! Love, Mom

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  3. The flame extinguished because the foam from the reaction of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), tartaric acid (C4H6O6), and water (H2O) caused an excess of carbon dioxide, which we trapped in the tube with a paper circle. It's a very science-y kit!

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