Saturday, July 6, 2019

Sprinklers and Fountains

For the last two weeks we have focused in understanding concepts such as "Why and how things work?". To kindle the curiosity of kids we started by sharing questions that they wonder about in the world of science. These were the following questions that some of them have

1. What happens if a star crashes on the Sun?.
2. What is inside a black hole?.
3.Do aliens exist?.
4. What causes lightning to happen?.
5. Why do we laugh when we get tickled?.

After our discussion about the answers to the above questions we moved on to focusing on our activity that was planned for the day. Since it is summer we thought about sprinklers being on everywhere near the gardens.

1.So, how does the sprinkler work?. What is the principle?.

2. Can we make our own sprinklers using basic things around?.

 Most garden sprinklers work with the centrifuge sprinkler system. In this the centrifugal force in the center ( middle) makes the water move up and spin too. To use this principle we tried different models.

Model Sprinkler


1. Straw - 1
2. Skewer -1
3. Cello tape -1
4. Scissors -1

1. Take a straw and poke it in the middle with a skewer (otherwise called kebab stick)

2. Cut small slits in the  upper part of the straw .

3. Bend it as a triangle and tape it with a cello tape.

4. Make sure the holes of the straws are open while securing it with the skewer.

5. Your manual sprinkler is ready.

When we tried it, kids were amazed to see that how the skewer in the middle spins generating the centrifugal force which in turn makes the water move up the straw while  sprinkling the water. We then suggested that we should try with one more straw added to the same. More water sprinkles with one more straw and kids thoroughly enjoyed it .

Magic bottle sprinkler

Kids were told to open the bottle kept outside in the balcony. They were surprised to see that when they opened it water would flow and when  closed it there was no water leaking. Kids were able to guess that the atmospheric pressure was more outside than inside the bottle. So, when the air enters the bottle water is pushed (flows) and stops when it is closed.

Kids wanted to make it by themselves. For this we filled the bottle with water and turned it upside down. We then poked holes using pushpins and removed them too. 

You can now see how it works.

We also talked about fountains and decided to make a model fountain with few materials in hand.

Bottle Fountain 


1. Plastic bottle (1 L) -2
2. Nail or a bigger sewing needle
3. Straw
4. Adhesive putty
5. Food colouring (optional)
6. Balloon -2


1.  Half fill one of the bottles with water and blow up a balloon and put it around the mouth of the bottle and tell kids to observe if the balloon deflates or not.

 2.  In another bottle make a small hole  using a sharp nail about 10 cm up the side of the plastic bottle. The hole should be about the size of the straw's diameter. Ask an adult to help.

3.  Place the straw into this hole so it is half inside the bottle and half out. Angle it so the outside end points upwards.

4.  Press adhesive putty around the straw on the outside of the bottle to reduce leakage from the hole.

5.  Fill the bottle halfway with water and add a drop of food colouring.

6.  Does the water come out the straw?, right?

7. Now, blow up the balloon. Keep the air inside the balloon while you stretch the balloon ends over the top of the bottle.

8.  Hold the balloon in place, then release the air into the bottle. Watch what happens as the balloon deflates.

9. Do this activity somewhere you can make a watery mess, such as a sink or outside.


What's happening?

 All around us, everything on Earth is being squeezed by the atmosphere above. Air pressure pushes equally in all directions, and is pushing on you. Same  is happening inside your fountain. The water in the bottle is squeezed by the amount of water on top of it. The same happens with the water in the straw.

The balloon on top of the water bottle without the hole stays the same where as the bottle with a (straw) hole lets the air go through . The air inside a balloon is under pressure as it is squeezed by the rubber. When you place the inflated balloon on top of the bottle with the straw, the air pressure on top of the bottle becomes higher. That pushes down on the water in the bottle, pushing it through the straw and making the fountain stronger.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why cut apples turn brown in color?

I was cutting the apples into pieces when kids entered the science class. Noticing that, they all assumed I was going to give it to them to eat :-) which I didn't. So, one of them asked me " Aunty, you had left the cut apple pieces out. Will they not turn brown in color?". I was glad that they had initiated the discussion for the day. Further, I asked them to think about things that turn brown when left outside. That triggered them to wonder

1. Why cut apple pieces  turn brown in colour?

2. Why copper vessels change color from pink to brown when kept out?

3. Why does Iron rust when exposed to moisture?

Let us first check out why do cut apples turn brown in colour?
Have you ever bitten into an apple, left it for sometime to find that it had turned brown in colour. When apple is cut or bruised, oxygen is introduced into the cells which then reacts with the enzyme (polyphenol oxidase) in the chloroplast to turn into brown colour. The fruit starts to oxidize, by transferring electrons to the air and the food turns brown. It is like edible rust on your food. 

Oxidation can be prevented or slowed down by not allowing the oxygen to enter the apples. So , we tried the following experiment to find out what can prevent the cut apples becoming brown in color.

Fresh cut apple pieces - 4 
Bowls - 4 
lemon juice - 2 tsp
salt - 1 tsp
water - 1/4 cup


1. Cut apple into 4 slices.

2. Rub lemon juice on one slice, salt on the other slice and the third one inside the water. The fourth one is plain apple piece.

3. Leave the apple pieces outside. 

4. Observe the changes on the apples after 30 minutes.

Results and Observation

What we found was that the apple pieces rubbed with lemon juice stayed the same compared to other pieces. The piece left inside the water had turned more brown than others. Salt rubbed apple piece also had become brown.

So, if you want your apple pieces to stay fresh you should rub it with lemon juice. The citric acid in the lemon prevents it from reacting with oxygen in the air .


You can try the same experiment with pears, bananas, egg plants cut too . 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Osmosis in potato

After checking out my plants in the balcony, the young girl in my class had a curious question "Aunty, how do the roots know when to absorb water?".
 "You mean, how does water get into roots ..right?" asked my daughter walking towards the girl.
 "Yes, thats what I don't understand " replied the girl. Listening to their conversation I said "water enters the root hair cells by 'osmosis' and we will do an experiment to understand osmosis today".  And that's how we decided to do an experiment on osmosis.

What is Osmosis?

Plants absorb water from the soil by 'osmosis'. Osmosis is the movement of water through a semi permeable membrane. Water moves into plant cells through osmosis by making them turgid or stiff to hold the plants upright. Osmosis is passive transport, meaning it does not require energy to be applied.  

We also discussed about how osmosis is helpful for photosynthesis as well. Otherwise the plants would wilt. After a long discussion it was time for experiment to explain the theory of osmosis.

Osmosis experiment with potato
Materials needed
1. Potato - 1
2. Knife
3. Bowls -2 
4. Salt -  2 tsp
5. Water - 1/2 cup

1. Cut  2 equal slices of potato using the knife.
2. Take 1/4 cup Water in each bowl.
3. Add the salt to  one of the bowls  of water and mark it as ' salt water'.
4. Put one potato slice in each bowl.
5. Leave it for 30 mins.

After 30 mins when kids saw the potato slice, they could see the difference in the appearance of the potato slices. The potato slice that was inside the salt water had turned light brown color and had also become soft where as the potato in 'plain water' was same and felt crisp .  The potato slice soaking in salt water looked substantially different from the original and the other slice. It seems to have wilted, gotten very soft and flexible.

What really happened?
Potato slice has a semi permeable membrane.  Due to Osmosis , water from the higher concentration (potato slice) has moved to the lower concentration ( salt water). This is how water from the roots move up to the leaves which uses it in  photosynthesis and respiration.

The potato is made up of tiny, living units called cells. Each cell is surrounded by a cell membrane which acts like our skin does. It keeps the cells parts inside and keeps the other things outside protecting the cell.

While the membrane stops most things, water can pass through it. The water tends to move towards higher concentrations of dissolved chemicals. This means that if the water outside the cell is saltier than the water inside, water will  move from the inside of the cell to the outside. As more and more of the cells lost water, the slice of potato became soft.

The potato slice in normal water was more firmer and bright looking. This is because, there was more salt and other dissolved chemicals within the potato than the surrounding water . This means that the water has moved into the potato.

It was great to hear the little girl say " Now, I easily understand the process of osmosis in plants, Aunty" . With a smile on my face I simply nodded with satisfaction.

Thursday, May 3, 2018


Last week our class started with discussion about what make up our bodies, plants and all living beings. Kids knew the answer as cells.
So, the question was 
1. Can we see  these cells with naked eyes?.
2. So, if we have some illness , how does a doctor understand what kind of treatment to be done?.
3.  If the doctor advises for blood test, what do the labs do with the blood sample?.

Depending on the type of the blood test, to see these cells,  bacteria etc we need special instrument called ' microscope'. 

Microscopy is the science of investigating small objects and structures using special instrument called 'Microscope'.   The three main different types of microscope are dissection, compound and electron microscope. By using microscopes scientists were able to discover the existence of microorganisms, study the structure of cells, and see the smallest parts of plants, animals, and fungi.

The microscope that we are using is compound microscope. Compound microscopes are light illuminated and the images seen are two dimensional. They were eager to know about the different parts of the microscope, their purpose and slides with specimen. They checked out slides with onion skin, mosquito etc. They each got to see it by themselves.We then made our  temporary slides of leaf, hair, sugar, salt crystals. 

One of the students had brought a dead fly because he had checked with me earlier to find out what activity I was planning to teach. It sure was good to see kids coming prepared.☺ Though, it was gross for some of us, all of us enjoyed looking  at the bug through the microscope.

Curious to see what is on their skin, they even tried looking at their fingers through the microscope which was too thick for it to be visible.  They were confused and wanted to know the reason.

Do you know why you can not see your fingers directly under the microscope?

You can see the objects under the microscope only when when light passes through them. Opaque objects are not visible.  So, we then made a temporary slide of their finger print. 

To see the leaf structure we also made a slide of a leaf  by cutting the cross section of the leaf. It was easy for the students to relate  to because they had studied about the stomata, epidermis etc. To see it through the microscope was impressive for them.

Please note that to see clearly through the microscope, you need to keep the whole set up outside in natural light . It was exciting for kids to observe through the microscope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Crystal snowflake ornaments!

It was that time of the year; the joyful Christmas season. The kids wished to make some ornaments for their Christmas trees. To involve science in this activity [as usual ;-) ], I planned to show them 'crystal snowflake ornaments'.

Materials needed 

1. Borax powder - 3 tbsp
2. Water - 1 cup
3. Pipe cleaners - 2 [colors of your choice]
4. Strings - 2
5. Pencils - 2.
6. Bottles - 2.
7. Food colors - 2 drops (optional)


1. Boil a cup of water and mix the borax powder in it to make a borax solution.
2. Add food color [optional].
3. Take a pipe cleaner and twist it into a star shape to give it a snowflake figure.
4. Pour the borax solution into a bottle or a glass.
4. Hang the pipe cleaner inside the borax solution using a string and a pencil.
5. Leave this setup undisturbed in a place for a day or two.
6. Your beautiful crystal ornament is ready for hanging!

Cut 3 equal pieces of a pipe cleaner

Twist them together to make a star shape

Hang it inside the solution using a string and a pencil

Leave the setup undisturbed for a day or two

Beautiful snowflake crystals ready to be hanged!

How does it work?

When water boils, the water molecules move apart giving space for the borax molecules to dissolve in. So naturally, when they cool down, the molecules slow down and come together. The dissolved borax settles to form borax crystals on the pipe cleaner. Crystals come together in a specific, repeated patterns due to the shape of the molecules forming them. You will see these crystals on the bottom of the container and arms of the pipe cleaner.

Your Christmas ornaments are ready to be shown off!

Can the ocean freeze?

Last year we had been to Leh, Ladakh. There the tour guide was explaining to us how the Zanskar river freezes during winter where visitors go for trekking on the frozen river.

It was amusing to my son who asked me, if Pacific ocean would also freeze just like the rivers in Leh. I replied to him to think about it and promised that we would do an experiment to verify when we get back home. So, to explain to him I decided to the following experiment in the class. 

Ocean Freeze

The experiment was about salt water freezing. We had a discussion about why the ocean does not freeze at 0 degrees.  Kids came up with different reasons. Guess what they were!

There are 4 main factors for that.

1. High concentration of salt in the ocean water lowers the freezing point from 0 degrees to -2 degree centigrade.

2. The constant motion of the ocean currents keeps the water molecules from freezing into ice crystals.

3. The larger the volume of water, the more heat has to be removed in order to freeze it. A teaspoon of water placed in the freezer will become completely solid long before a gallon jug of water.

4. Earth's internal heating ....As miners dig into the earth they feel very hot though it is farther away from the sunlight. The reason for this is that the earth has its own internal heat source which is driven primarily by the nuclear decay of elements inside earth's mantle.

To test out if the salt in the water does affect the freezing point of water we did a small experiment.

We took a popsicle mould and poured into each slot different liquids.


1. We mixed 2 tsps of salt in 50 ml of water for 1 popsicle mould.
2. Mixed 4 tsps of salt in another  50 ml water for another mould.
3. Plain  50 ml water for the third mould.

Salt dissolved in water

2 different concentration of salt solution and one plain water popsicle

We kept it in the freezer all at once. After about 4 hrs later we checked to find out that the plain water had frozen, 2tsp salt dissolved water had partly frozen whereas the 4tsp salt dissolved water was watery still.

So, our hypothesis about salt water proved to be right.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The hoop glider!!!

Our activity started with kids imagining to go to school  by a car, that is environmental friendly and flies in the air. One of them said , if he lived on a mountain and the school was in a valley he would do paragliding. So, we talked about gliders and how they fly without motors.Gliders always descend relative to the air in which they are flying. Para gliders, hand gliders are some of the gliders that we see these days.

What are Gliders?

Gliders are a type of aircraft which do not have engine, but use the wing design and air flow to fly around.

Now, it was time for them to build one themselves, but using a different design and shape that they had seen. I gave them a straw to throw, which did not go very far. As they were brain storming, the idea of adding loops instead of the wings came to them. They were quick to decide that they would need 2 hoops instead of one to make it fly for some time. That is how kids made a hoop glider. It worked really well.

design for making the two hoops glider

Materials needed

1. Plastic drinking straws
2. Chart or card  paper
3. Tape
4. Scissors

Kids are busy working on their gliders

1. Cut 2 strips of paper. Make one strip 1 inch  (2.5 cm) wide and 5 inches long and the other strip 1 inch wide and 10 inches long.
2. Curl each strip into a  hoop. Overlap the paper before sticking them together using the cello tape. You will have one small and one big hoop.
3. Attach the hoops to the straw. Make sure you attach the small loop on the top and big loop on the bottom end of the straw.
4. Hold your straw in the middle and throw it like a spear with the small hoop in the front.
5. How far does your glider go?.


Now that kids had fun throwing the hoop glider and measuring the distance it had glided they gave the following ideas for variations such as

1. Change the length of the straw.
2. Increase the number of hoops
3. Make equal sizes of hoop.
4. Increase the glider weight.
5. Change the placement of the loops on the straw.

When kids tried out the experiment following are the observations they had observed.

1. Increasing the loops to 3 hoops made the glider nose dive and didn't fly well.
2. The longer straw glided better than the shorter ones.
3. Equal sizes of loops glided the same distance as the original one.

Various types of gliders