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Children's STEAM Festival: Are You a Scientist?

Welcome to Day 1 of the Children's STEAM Festival! STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. I'm so excited to be teaming up with Growing with Science each day this week  to bring you activities exploring STEAM. Today we are focusing on SCIENCE! Read on for a guided science investigation to try at home, then hop on over to Growing with Science to explore the scientific method with some fun plant science activities.

Are you a scientist? What is a scientist anyway?
According to the dictionary, a scientist is "a person skilled in science; a science investigator". Ok, so what is science then? "The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment." Whew! So what does that mean exactly? Translation: observing and experimenting to think and learn about the world around you. Ok, that makes more sense!

So, are you a scientist? Do you wonder things? Do you observe your world? Do you experiment or research to find out the answer to things you are curious about? Then, yes! You are a scientist! 

In the picture book, "What Is A Scientist ?" by Barbara Lehn, (affiliate link) we find out that children are scientists just like grown-ups. They notice details, make predictions, design experiments and keep on trying even if something does not work the first time. Using this book as a guide, let's be scientists today!

I was drinking a glass of seltzer water the other day and observed that the bubbles travel from the bottom of the glass to the top of the glass and then pop, making a fizzy sound. I wondered if other things travel upwards in fizzy, carbonated beverages, or if they just sink. I want to create an experiment to find out. I have raisins in the cupboard. I will try those!

I predict that the raisins will sink. So, my hypothesis is that the raisins will sink to the bottom and I won't notice a difference in the seltzer. I am going to write down the steps of my experiment so I don't forget what I did. I also will draw some pictures so I can show others what I observed.

Try the experiment with me!

You will need:
  • Raisins
  • A clear carbonated beverage (seltzer, club soda, lemon-lime soda, etc.)
  • A clear container or glass

Here is some music to listen to while you collect your supplies:

I know from reading "What Is A Scientist ?" that "A scientist writes about what happens." and "A scientist draws what she sees." So I set up my scientific notebook.

©SBF 2015
I fill a glass with seltzer and observe the bubbles floating to the top. I drop in 5 raisins. I notice that the raisins sink. Noticing details is an important part of being a scientist. I wait. I also notice that bubbles are sticking to the raisins.

Plop go the raisins! ©SBF 2015

Bubbles stick to the sunken raisins. ©SBF 2015

Drawing your observations helps you remember details! ©SBF 2015

Sometimes when you are being a scientist you have to be patient. All of a sudden something surprising happens! The raisin with the most bubbles floats to the top. Some of the bubbles pop and the raisin sinks. This begins to happen over and over.

The raisin begins to float! ©SBF 2015

I write down my observations. Now I have so many questions. A good experiment always leads to new and interesting questions.

Keeping track of observations is important! ©SBF 2015

©SBF 2015

How come the bubbles stick to the raisins? How long will the raisins "dance" and bounce for? Will other small items do the same thing? How come some of the raisins bounce more often than others? Does it matter that the seltzer I am using is flavored? Will this work if I used more than 5 raisins? Would the same thing happen if the seltzer was colder or warmer? What if I opened the seltzer and waited a while before I put the raisins in? What questions do you have?

There is so much more to find out! Each of my questions could lead to a new experiment. It says in "What Is A Scientist ?" that "A scientist is a person who asks questions and tries different ways to answer them." It also says that "A scientist makes comparisons by measuring." I think I will test another item in the same amount of seltzer and see what happens. I have some popcorn in my cupboard too, so let's try that. I predict that the popcorn will drop and then float up to the top, just like the bubbles and the raisins.

I add 5 popcorn kernels to a new glass of seltzer. I make my observations and take careful notes. Bubbles stick to the popcorn, but it stays close to the top! The popcorn does not sink.
Floating popcorn kernels. ©SBF 2015

©SBF 2015

Now I have a new question. I am wondering if popcorn is not dense enough to sink. I want to know if the popcorn will float in plain tap water. I predict that it will float. I test it out.

Tap water on the left, seltzer on the right. ©SBF 2015

I observe that...the popcorn sinks! Hmmm, that was unexpected! I could be doing science experiments all day to figure this out!

Two of the most important lessons I learned in "What Is A Scientist ?" are: "A scientist experiments by trial and error." and "A scientist keeps trying over and over." I will continue my experimentation.

What did you find out? What new questions do you have? I can think of all sorts of other things to test in carbonated water- pasta, corn, lentils, dried beans, paper, paperclips... what else would you like to test?

I want to hear about your experiment! Comment below or on Google+, Facebook or Pinterest.

Once you have experimented, you can always research to find out the scientific principle behind what is happening. I like to look at books and use the internet. I'll give you a hint for your research- this experiment has to do with buoyancy and density.

You can find out why raisins "dance" in carbonated liquids at this website:

Thanks for being a scientist with me today! I'm looking forward to sharing STEAM ideas with you all week! To review our schedule click the Children's STEAM Festival button below.

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