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Science of Baking Soda and Vinegar – Guest Post from Pragmatic Mom

Today I’m welcoming Pragmatic Mom to the blog. At Pragmatic Mom you’ll find all sorts of ideas for making science fun as well as children’s book reviews and much more. I especially love Pragmatic Mom’s Gift Guide for Educational Toys featuring some of the best maths and science toys for kids. Take it away Pragmatic Mom!

~ Ness

Science of Baking Soda and Vinegar – Guest Post from Pragmatic Mom

I am personally on the bandwagon of STEM to STEAM which simply means that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) should include A for Art and hence the new moniker, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). Adding the art component is also a way to connect girls to science and math, something that Science Teacher parents at my elementary school have warned me needs to happen before middle school.
I tried to get my girls interested in science and math. Their grandfather was, after all, a math professor. I signed them up for a week of summer Mad Science where they did fun experiments. It didn’t work. They said there was only one other girl in the class. They became friends but the girls felt outnumbered. Even the exploding volcano did not win them over.
We made many trips to Museum of Science in Boston where we live was, and visited other science museums when we traveled. They loved the hands-on activities but it didn’t spark longer term interest.
I think I went about it all wrong. Science should be DOING, the more informal the better. Messy is good, and winging it, even better. So, this past summer, we tried science as play. That worked much better.
Vinegar and baking soda are magical. Adding food coloring to white vinegar turns it into an art AND science experiment. I was even frugal enough to use the old boxes of baking soda that deoderised the freezer and refrigerator.
This is so easy and fun. Simply spread baking soda on a baking tray. Add a few drops of food coloring into 3 bowls of white vinegar. I used primary colors: yellow, blue and red. This way, mixing colors is part of the fun! A medicine dropper works best and makes the fun last longer.

What else can you do with white vinegar and baking soda?
Bubble Bomb
Expanding Balloon

Science Vocabulary for Vinegar and Baking Soda Experiment

What is really happening between the vinegar and baking soda? It’s actually two reactions though it looks like one!!
What actually happens is this: the acetic acid (that’s what makes vinegar sour) reacts with sodium bicarbonate (a compound that’s in baking soda) to form carbonic acid.
It’s a double replacement reaction. Carbonic acid is unstable, and it immediately falls apart into carbon dioxide and water (it’s a decomposition reaction). The bubbles you see from the reaction come from the carbon dioxide escaping the solution that is left. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so, it flows almost like water when it overflows the container. It is a gas that you exhale (though in small amounts), because it is a product of the reactions that keep your body going.
What’s left is a dilute solution of sodium acetate in water.
For younger kids, I’d tell them: Vinegar + Baking Soda = Water and Carbon Dioxide plus something else in the water. Carbon dioxide is what plants absorb and humans give off when we breathe!!! And this leads right into the plant cycle … but that’s for another time!
Multi-step reaction: a reaction with many steps, each following each other, so that the reaction looks like it only has a single step.
Unstable compound: a material that does not stay in its form for long: it breaks down into component parts.

Books for more do-at-home science experiments

The Everything Kids’ Easy Science Experiments Book: Explore the world of science through quick and fun experiments! by J. Elizabeth Mills
Easy is good. Using household materials like soda bottles and flashlights, you can build bubbles, create plastic–even make raisins dance! For ages 9 and up.

Science in Seconds for Kids: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less by Jean Potter
Easy experiments for ages 8 and up such as making a rainbow right on your floor, popping a balloon with a magnifying glass, making a coffee can roll back to you after you’ve pushed it away.

Pragmatic Mom loves children’s books. When she covers education and parenting topics on her blog, KidLit somehow slips in. Did that happen again? You can find her on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, and her blog.

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