Getting Started

Learn first-hand the fundamental principles of this essential science as you perform real chemistry experiments. For example, you will experiment with fuels and combustion, make your own hydrochloric acid, separate mixtures, produce oxygen gas, and more. You’ll also split the water molecule, fire copper ions across a solution, capture oxide gases, create a magnesium battery, and more with this lesson in chemistry. You’ll also be able to identify the elements in different chemical substances with dazzling colors in flame tests. In doing these experiments, you will build a strong foundation in chemistry as you are exposed to a broad range of chemical phenomena and hands-on lab experience. As you gain experience with the tools and chemicals of the modern chemistry lab, you with also learn advanced topics such as chemical equations, atomic structures and the periodic table — concepts that are critical to continued study of chemistry. Chemistry is chocked full of demonstrations and experiments for two big reasons. First, they’re fun. But more importantly, the reason we do experiments in chemistry is to hone your observational skills. Chemistry experiments really speak for themselves, much better than I can ever put into words or show you on a video. And I’m going to hit you with a lot of these chemistry demonstrations to help you develop your observing techniques.

Here are the scientific concepts:

  • Elements and their combinations account for all the varied types of matter in the world.
  • During chemical reactions, the atoms in the reactants rearrange to form products with different properties.
  • All matter is made of atoms, which may combine to form molecules.
  • Metals have properties in common, such as electrical and thermal conductivity. Some metals, such as aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), silver (Ag), gold (Au), are pure elements while others, such as steel and brass, are composed of a combination of elemental metals.
  • Each element is made of one kind of atom. These elements are organized in the Periodic Table by their chemical properties.
  • Scientists have developed instruments that can create images of atoms and molecules showing that they are discrete and often occur in well ordered arrays.
  • Differences in chemical and physical properties of substances are used to separate mixtures and identify compounds.
  • Properties of solid, liquid, and gaseous substances, such as sugar (C6H12O6), water (H2O) helium (He), oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2),and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Living organisms and most materials are composed of just a few elements.
  • Common properties of salts, such as sodium chloride (NaCl).
  • Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. A model shows that gases are made from matter particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon; the effects of air on larger particles or objects.
  • The amount (weight) of matter is conserved when it changes form, even in transitions in which it seems to vanish.
  • Measurements of a variety of properties can be used to identify materials. (Boundary: At this grade level, mass and weight are not distinguished, and no attempt is made to define the unseen particles or explain the atomic-scale mechanism of evaporation and condensation.)
  • When two or more different substances are mixed, a new substance with different properties may be formed.
  • No matter what reaction or change in properties occurs, the total weight of the substances does not change. (Boundary: Mass and weight are not distinguished at this grade level.)

By the end of the labs in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Design and build a desalination experiment using everyday materials.
  • Know how to demonstrate electroplating using ions and electrolytes.
  • Understand how to determine a catalyst in a reaction.
  • Build batteries from fertilizer.
  • Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.
  • Measure and estimate the length and volume of objects.
  • Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Conduct multiple trials to test a prediction and draw conclusions about the relationships between predictions and results.
  • Construct and interpret graphs from measurements.
  • Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

Select a Lesson

Cool Blue Light Chemiluminescence Experiment
Glow sticks generate light with very little heat, just like the glow you see from fireflies, jellyfish, and a few species of fungi. Chemiluminescence means light that comes from a chemical reaction. When this happens in animals and plants, it’s called bioluminescence. In a glow stick, when you bend it to activate it, you’re breaking …Continue reading”Cool Blue Light Chemiluminescence Experiment”
Special Science Teleclass: Chemistry & Chemical Engineering
This is a recording of a recent live teleclass I did with thousands of kids from all over the world. I’ve included it here so you can participate and learn, too! We’re going to be mixing up dinosaur toothpaste, doing experiments with catalysts, discovering the 5 states of matter, and building your own chemistry lab …Continue reading”Special Science Teleclass: Chemistry & Chemical Engineering”
Atomic Facts
A gram of water (about a thimble of water) contains 1023 atoms. (That’s a ‘1’ with 23 zeros after it.) That means there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in a thimble of water!
Bubble Experiments
If you’re fascinated by the simple complexity of the standard soap bubble, then this is the lab for you. You can easily transform these ideas into a block-party Bubble Festival, or just have extra fun in the nightly bathtub. Either way, your kids will not only learn about the science of water, molecules, and surface …Continue reading”Bubble Experiments”
Cobalt Colors
Cobalt chloride (CoCl2) has a dramatic color change when combined with water, making it a great water indicator. A concentrated solution of cobalt chloride is red at room temperature, blue when heated, and pale-to-clear when frozen. The cobalt chloride we’re using is actually cobalt chloride hexahydrate, which means that each CoCl2 molecule also has six …Continue reading”Cobalt Colors”
Cool Milk Trick
Have you ever tried washing dishes without soap? It doesn’t work well, especially if there’s a lot of grease, fat, or oil on the dish! The oils and fats are slippery and repel water, which makes them a great choice for lubration of bearing and wheels, but lousy for cleaning up after dinner. So what’s …Continue reading”Cool Milk Trick”
This experiment is for advanced students. Lewis and Clark did this same experiment when they reached the Oregon coast in 1805. Men from the expedition traveled fifteen miles south of the fort they had built at the mouth of the Columbia River to where Seaside, Oregon now thrives. In 1805, however, it was just men …Continue reading”Desalination”
Dinosaur Toothpaste
Hydrogen peroxide is used to fuel rockets, airplanes, and other vehicle engines. Chemistry teachers everywhere use it to demonstrate the power of a catalyst. To speed up a reaction without altering the chemistry of the reaction involves adding a catalyst. A catalyst changes the rate of reaction but doesn’t get involved in the overall chemical …Continue reading”Dinosaur Toothpaste”
Disappearing Foam Cup
This is looks like a chemical reaction but it’s not – it’s really just a physical change. It’s a really neat trick you can do for your friends or in a magic show. Here’s how it works:
If you don’t have equipment lying around for this experiment, wait until you complete Unit 10 (Electricity) and then come back to complete this experiment. It’s definitely worth it! Electroplating was first figured out by Michael Faraday. The copper dissolves and shoots over to the key and gets stuck as a thin layer onto the …Continue reading”Electroplating”
Football Ice Cream
Is it hot where you live in the summer? What if I gave you a recipe for making ice cream that doesn’t require an expensive ice cream maker, hours of churning, and can be made to any flavor you can dream up? (Even dairy-free if needed?) If you’ve got a backyard full of busy kids …Continue reading”Football Ice Cream”
Magnesium Battery
Magnesium is one of the most common elements in the Earth’s crust. This alkaline earth metal is silvery white, and soft. As you perform this lab, think about why magnesium is used in emergency flares and fireworks. Farmers use it in fertilizers, pharmacists use it in laxatives and antacids, and engineers mix it with aluminum …Continue reading”Magnesium Battery”
PVA Slime
Instead of using glue as a polymer (as in the slime recipes above), we’re going to use PVA (polyvinyl alcohol). Most liquids are unconnected molecules bouncing around. Monomers (single molecules) flow very easily and don’t clump together. When you link up monomers into longer segments, you form polymers (long chains of molecules). Polymers don’t flow …Continue reading”PVA Slime”
Rusty Balloon
Mars is coated with iron oxide, which not only covers the surface but is also present in the rocks made by the volcanoes on Mars. Today you get to perform a chemistry experiment that investigates the different kinds of rust and shows that given the right conditions, anything containing iron will eventually break down and …Continue reading”Rusty Balloon”
Taking the Salt out of the Ocean
This experiment is for advanced students.Have you ever taken a gulp of the ocean? Seawater can be extremely salty! There are large quantities of salt dissolved into the water as it rolled across the land and into the sea. Drinking ocean water will actually make you thirstier (think of eating a lot of pretzels). So …Continue reading”Taking the Salt out of the Ocean”
Turning Water into Ink
You can use this as real ink by using it BEFORE you combine them together like this: dip a toothpick into the first solution (sodium ferrocyanide solution) and with the tip write onto a sheet of paper. While the writing is drying, dip a piece of paper towel int other solution (ferric ammonium sulfate solution) …Continue reading”Turning Water into Ink”
Turning Water into Wine
Phenolphthalein is a weak, colorless acid that changes color when it touches acidic (turns orange) or basic (turns pink/fuchsia) substances. People used to take it as a laxative (not recommended today, as ingesting high amounts may cause cancer). Use gloves when handling this chemical, as your skin  can absorb it on contact. I’ll show you …Continue reading”Turning Water into Wine”
Water Purification
Ever wonder how the water draining down your sink gets clean again? Think about it: The water you use to clean your dishes is the same water that runs through the toilet.  There is only one water pipe to the house, and that source provides water for the dishwasher, tub, sink, washing machine, toilet, fish …Continue reading”Water Purification”
Working with Cataylsts
This experiment is for advanced students. Don’t put this in your car….yet. Hydrogen generation, capture, and combustion are big deals right now. The next phase of transportation, and a move away from fossil fuels in not found in electric cars. Electric cars are waiting until hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become practical. It can be done …Continue reading”Working with Cataylsts”
Acids and Bases
This experiment is for advanced students. ACID!!! The word causes fear to creep in and get our attention. BASIC!!! The word causes nothing to stir in most of us. The truth is, a strong acid (pH 0-1) is dangerous, but a strong basic (pH 13-14) is just as dangerous. In this lab, we will get …Continue reading”Acids and Bases”
Carbon Dioxide
This experiment is for advanced students. This lab builds on concepts from the previous carbon dioxide lab. Limewater….carbon dioxide…indicators. We don’t know too much about these things. Sure, we know a little. Carbon dioxide is exhaled by us and plants need it to grow. Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide. Indicators…something we observe that confirms …Continue reading