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Resources, Resources: Fizz, Bubble, Bang, and Ooze

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Resources, Resources: Fizz, Bubble, Bang, and Ooze

By Becky Rupp


TestTubes Chemistry

Explore chemistry all year long during 2011 International Year of Chemistry

EDITOR’S NOTE: Before Becky gets started, I want to do a little hollering on her behalf that she’d never do herself. DID YOU KNOW one of Becky’s many book, Octavia Boone’s Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything was picked by the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee as one of 2011’s Best Books of the Year for ages 9-12?  The Bank Street CBC was founded in 1909 to help teachers, parents, and librarians find the best books for kids and, Becky adds, “It’s really flattering to be chosen.” You can check it all out at Congratulations, Becky!!

This year – 2011 – is the official International Year of Chemistry (IYC). There’s a terrific website calledChemistry 2011″ devoted to it with links to a long list of featured programs and activities.

Such as these:

The Global Stamp Competition challenges kids to design a postage stamp that demonstrates the impact of chemistry on his/her country’s culture and everyday life. There are categories for ages 12-14, 15-18, and college undergraduates. The deadline is June 15, 2011. See instructions at the above website. (For some examples, visit here.)

Writing the World, sponsored by the Cool It Schools environmental program, is a chemistry-based poetry contest: kids ages 5-10, 11-14, and 15-18 are invited to submit poems on the topic of chain reactions by July 23, 2011. For complete instructions and submission guidelines, see the site at link.

Water: A Chemical Solution is a global citizen-science experiment, in which kids and families collect data on their local water supply. Check out the downloadable activities, instructions, and a teacher’s guide.

Students in grades 7-12 can tackle the International Chemistry Quiz, to be administered on July 28, 2011. The site provides sample questions and entry forms.

Chem13 News from Canada’s University of Waterloo is sponsoring a “Chemistry in Photos” contest. For details, see check out the site. The entry deadline is June 30, 2011.

Chem13 News, a great resource for homeschooled chemists, is a 20-24-page newsletter published nine times a year (September-May), targeted primarily at high-school-level chemistry teachers. The newsletter includes informational articles, lab challenges and experiments, activities and puzzles. An annual subscription costs $27 (see the Chem13 News website above).

Also among IYC featured programs is the Chemistry Calendar, a series of 12 online videos (one for each month of the year) on chemistry in daily life, with accompanying downloadable teacher’s guides, activities, and experiments. The January video, for example, features chemistry in art and culture. The accompanying manual covers color vision, the chemistry of pigments and dyes, and chemiluminescence, with diagrams, discussions questions, and instructions for projects for a range of ages, among them marbling paper, making oil paint, and dyeing fabric with indigo.

NBC News and the National Science Foundation are jointly sponsoring Chemistry Now, a weekly program of archival news videos, images, and other multimedia content on catchy chemistry topics for grades K-12.

From the American Chemical Society (ACS), see 365: Chemistry for Life, which features a chemical milestone for every day of the year. For example, visitors learn about the discovery of insulin, the invention of margarine, the chemical that makes peppers hot, the chemistry of airplane de-icers, and the science behind photochromic (self-darkening) sunglasses.

The ACS Education pages are loaded with terrific resources for chemists of all ages, including online teaching guides, lesson plans, activities and experiments, video demonstrations, an interactive Periodic Table, and a history of chemistry timeline and memory game. The ACS publications list includes an assortment of excellent activity books and chemistry texts, and the Society also publishes a quarterly high-school-level chemistry magazine, ChemMatters. An annual subscription (4 issues) costs $14.

More Chemistry for Young Chemists:

Chem4Kids has an overview of matter, atoms, elements, and chemical reactions for beginners, with interactive online quizzes.

By Joe Rhatigan and Veronika Gunter, Cool Chemistry Concoctions (Lark Books, 2007) is a cartoon-illustrated collection of “50 Formulas that Fizz, Foam, Splatter, and Ooze” for ages 8-12. Each experiment includes a materials list, instructions, and a scientific explanation. Concoctions include slime, volcanoes, water bombs, and shrunken (apple) heads.

Tom DeRosa’s Matter: Its Properties and Its Changes (New Leaf Publishing, 2009) in the “Investigate the Possibilities” science series, is a 96-page introduction to chemistry for ages 8-12. Illustrated with colorful diagrams and photographs, the book includes background information, everyday connections, experiments, and investigative problems and questions. Also available to accompany the book are student journals and a teacher’s guide.

Vicki Cobb’s Science Experiments You Can Eat (HarperCollins, 1984) is serious science, charmingly presented, for ages 7-12. Kids learn about crystallization, changes of state, pH, oxidation, protein denaturation, and the Tyndall effect while whipping up batches of rock candy, ice pops, custard, meringue, and lemon fizz.

Sean Connolly’s Book of Totally Irresponsible Science (Workman, 2008) presents “64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists,” all short, cheap, and fun. Sample not-particularly-irresponsible experiments include Marshmallows on Steroids, Homemade Lightning, and Sandwich Bag Bombs.

Chemistry: Getting a Big Reaction by Simon Basher and Dan Green (Kingfisher, 2010) for ages 9-14 is a catchy 128-page introduction to basic chemistry, variously covering atoms, elements, and ions, the states of matter, acids, bases, and pH, chemical reactions, and organic chemistry. The book is illustrated with distinctive cartoon characters, all of whom address readers in the first person. For example, Acid (one of Basher’s “Nasty Boys”) announces “I’m mad, bad, and thoroughly dangerous to know;” laid-back Liquid (one of the “Basic States”) drawls, “Nothing much bothers me, man.” Recommended for the chemically nervous.

Also by Basher and Green, see Physics: Why Matter Matters (Kingfisher 2008), which in similar format covers mass, weight, and density, energy, waves, atoms and elements, and electricity.

Cynthia Light Brown’s Amazing Kitchen Chemistry Projects You Can Build Yourself (Nomad Press, 2008) for ages 9-12 covers acids and bases, solids, liquids, and gases, changes of state, polymers, and water through a raft of fun hands-on experiments, among them making a buckyball, an alka-seltzer rocket, oobleck, and vanilla ice cream.

Great for homeschooled high-schoolers, Robert Bruce Thompson’s 400+-page Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments (Make Books, 2008) is thorough, informative, and a perfect gem. Though the book’s subtitle is “All Lab, No Lecture” (Thompson believes in learning by doing), it also provides clear background information and explanations. A complete chemistry education, from maintaining a lab notebook and equipping a home chemistry lab through “Acid-Base Chemistry,” “Chemical Kinetics,” “Colloids and Suspensions,” “Electrochemistry,” “Quantitative Analysis,” “Qualitative Analysis,” and “Forensic Chemistry.”

Theodore Gray’s Mad Science (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2009) is a marvelously illustrated collection of Gray’s popular Popular Science columns (“Gray Matter”), all devoted to chemistry. The subtitle is “Experiments You Can Do At Home – But Probably Shouldn’t.” It’s mad, bad, fascinating, informative, and dangerous, and kids will love it. (This is the stuff that makes future chemists.)

Chemistry Perusing the Periodic Table:

For ages 7-10, Salvatore Tocci’s The Periodic Table (Children’s Press, 2005) is a short, simple, large-print introduction, illustrated with color photographs.

Anita Brandolini’s Fizz, Bubble, & Flash (Williamson Publishing, 2003) is a collection of “Element Explorations and Atom Adventures” for ages 9-13. The 128-page book includes an introduction to the Periodic Table and its elements, interesting fact sidebars, and a range of hands-on projects and experiments.

By Simon Basher and Adrian Dingle, The Periodic Table: Elements of Style (Kingfisher, 2007) for ages 9-14 is a clever 128-page introduction to the Table and its elements, illustrated with Basher’s fast-talking cartoon characters.

Theodore Gray’s The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2009) is a gorgeous compendium of the elements of the Periodic Table, crammed with wonderful illustrations, cool facts, and useful figures. Each of the first 100 elements gets its own double-page spread.

Gray’s Periodic Table website is arguably the best on the Internet. Click on an element for basic information, catchy trivia, photographs, and a long illustrated list of the element’s uses/appearances in everyday life. (Selenium is found in everything from Brazil nuts to shampoo.)

Also from Gray is the Photographic Card Deck of the Periodic Table, beautifully illustrated, with basic information listed on the back of each card. The cards can be arranged to form an enormous (well, 7.5-foot) Periodic Table. Cards are available from Gray’s Periodic Table website (see above) or from (for about $16).

Elementeo is a fast-paced card game in which fantasy meets chemistry in an imaginative battle of the elements. Elements are pictured as magical characters: the Copper Cyclops, for example, has the ability to shock its opponents; the Helium Genie can boost the other elements like balloons. For 2-6 players, ages 9 and up. About $30 from

Also from, see the Periodic Table Playing Cards (Les Enterprises SynHeme, Inc.), a conventional double deck in which each card represents an element of the Periodic Table with basic chemical info and the name of the element listed in English, Spanish, and French. (About $16.)

Learning with Chemistry Sets:

Chemistry sets have not fared well over the last years, due to off-the-wall safety concerns and terrorist terrors. To be fair, of course, when it comes to chemistry, there are things you shouldn’t eat, inhale, splash in your eyes, or ignite in the house. Rather than cope with this, however, our approach seems to have been to market chemistry sets that aren’t chemistry sets at all. If it contains nothing but soap, salt, and balloons, it’s not a chemistry set. Don’t buy it.

According to practically everybody (including me), the best chemistry sets available today are made by Thames & Kosmos . These range from the CHEM 500, a 30-experiment introductory set aimed at ages 8 and up, to the CHEM 3000, a 387-experiment spectacular, recommended for high-school students. Prices range from about $30 (CHEM 500) to $225 (CHEM 3000). See the website for distributors, of which luckily there are many.

Home Science Tools
A good source for chemistry sets, labware, chemicals, safety equipment, alcohol burners, and more.

United Nuclear Science Equipment and Supplies
Founded by a physicist concerned about the evisceration of American science education, United Nuclear is a wonderful source for lab glassware and equipment, scales and balances, chemicals, and much more.

Since Earth Day is right around the corner, check out Becky’s equally terrific list of resources to help you celebrate.

Hoping all of this fizz, bubble, bang and ooze makes chemistry a terrific experience in your home!

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