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Family-friendly science experiments using items you have at home

Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City and

Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City and other Long Island museums share their best at-home science experiments for kids.  Credit: Cradle of Aviation Museum

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Being stuck inside amid the coronavirus crisis doesn't have to correlate with boredom. We reached out to Long Island children's museums and educational centers to find out their tips for recreating science fun for kids at home. Here are five experiments using items you may already have in the pantry that'll keep the whole family occupied. 

1. Egg-Drop Challenge

What you’ll do: Huse Kivrak, program manager at the Science Museum of Long Island in Manhasset, recommends keeping the kids stimulated by challenging their knowledge of gravity and tapping into their creativity. In the Egg-Drop Challenge, kids will build a structure that can successfully protect a raw egg from breaking when dropped from different heights. Pro tip: Kivrak recommends putting the egg in a clear bag to prevent messes. When they succeed in keeping the egg safe, consider connecting the lesson to explaining how real-life devices such as helmets, air bags and seat belts, work to keep us protected.

What you’ll need: One raw egg; any arts and crafts materials you may have (glue, craft sticks, yarn, paper plates and cups, pom-poms, etc.

What you’ll teach: Creative problem solving; force of gravity; importance of safety devices.

2. Peanut Butter and Jelly Robot

What you’ll do: Catherine Gonzalez, education director of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City suggests an afternoon of fun pretending to act like a robot. When the activity begins, a designated family member (parent or sibling) will take on the role of the robot. The child will be tasked with providing step-by-step instructions to help the robot complete a task. Gonzalez recommends having the child talk the robot through the steps of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Unlike a human, the robot cannot make choices. This means the instructions must be very exact because robots are robotic!”

What you’ll need: Peanut butter, jelly, bread, utensils and plates.

What you’ll teach: Following instructions; problem-solving.

3. Film Canister Rockets

What you’ll do: Kivrak, of the Science Museum of Long Island, suggests a way to get scientific with household items that might be taking up space. If you happen to have old film canisters (or similar cylinder-shaped containers with lids) in a drawer, here’s how to turn them into a mini rocket. Take this experiment outside to avoid mess. Fill the canister halfway with water. Add a half-tab of Alka Seltzer, close the lid and place the canister on the ground, lid-side down. According to Kivrak, “gas released from the Alka Seltzer dissolving will increase air pressure inside until the lid can no longer contain it, creating a downward force which will launch your canister high into the sky.”

A few factors — including the temperature of the water and size of the container — will vary the results and can be altered each time to teach children about scientific variables.

What you’ll need: A film canister or cylinder-shaped container with lid; Alka Seltzer tablet; water.

What you’ll teach: Newton’s laws of motion; the scientific method.

4. Pasta bridge

What you’ll do: The Center for Science Teaching and Learning in Rockville Centre recommends this activity to keep kids entertained and engaged in learning while not in the classroom. Gather any uncooked pasta you can spare from the pantry (lasagna noodles, fettuccine and spaghetti will work best) and challenge your child to build a free-standing bridge that will be able to support a toy or book when placed on top.

What you’ll need: Uncooked pasta, glue and books.

What you'll teach: Patience (kids will have to wait for the glue to dry); early engineering skills; gravity. 

5. Jell-O Volcanoes 

What you'll do: The Long Island STEAM Group offers up tips for creating your own volcano at home. Place a glass on a plate, fill the glass halfway with vinegar, add four teaspoons of red Jell-O powder and two teaspoons of baking soda to watch the volcano erupt. 

What you'll need: baking soda; vinegar; red Jell-O powder; 8 oz. drinking glass; plate; teaspoon

What you'll teach: Chemistry 

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