I love fall! I also love an easy science experiment that I can do with my kids at home and at school. With fall weather finally here, we are enjoying some special activities.
Below is one of my favourite activities because it is really easy and appropriate for all ages. I always do this science experiment in the fall, and usually again later in the year because my kids love it!
This year, I did this easy science experiment with all of my kindergarten students, but you could easy do it at home. We went outside to enjoy the weather and I told children that today they would get to see acorns dance!
They were pretty excited about this idea!
As with all science experiments, make sure to have an adult supervise at all times. Make sure all materials are age appropriate for the children doing the experiment.
First, I got children into groups of 2-3. I gave each group a clear cup filled with water. (You want to make sure that it is clear so that they can see everything going on inside of the cup.) I then gave everyone an acorn jewel.
You could use other items from nature or home, but I had the jewels and I was excited to use them.
As long as the item that you are using sinks to the bottom, but is not too heavy, it will work. When I do this experiment at other times throughout the year, I use different objects to ‘dance’.
For another idea of what else you can use in the water, I have included how to use pony beads. (See “Extension Activity” below.)
Before students put the acorn into the water, I had them predict if they thought the acorn would float or sink. They then tested their hypothesis/prediction.
Once the acorns had sunk to the bottom, I told everyone that today we were going to use science to make the acorns dance. Everyone guessed how we were going to do this. We also talked about what made the acorns sink versus float.
The idea that air makes things float, like life vests and balloons, was discussed.
I then gave each group a pair of kid tweezers. They were then given an antacid tablet in a small cup.
(Children were reminded that in science we do not use our sense of taste when we do experiments. They were also reminded to not eat or taste the antacid tablet. Always use caution).
Again, they predicted what would happen when they put the tablet into the water. Children used the tweezers to pick up the tablet and drop it into the water.
They loved watching the immediate fizzing, or exploding as children usually call it. And there was a lot of excitement when the acorns began to dance.
Since I was using this experiment to teach science and have children not only focus on the results of the experiment, we pause a lot to make sure that every child is taking time to observe and think about what is happening at each step.
Once the table is dropped in, there is a lot of excitement as the acorns begin to dance around in the container and float to the top and often sink back down. Always give time for children to simply enjoy this result.
Once the dancing has slowed down, it is a great opportunity to encourage children to use their sense of hearing with this experiment.
The fizzing sound once the tablet is added is fun for kids to listen to.
The Science Behind the Experiment
The children that I work with are very young, and in many ways them simply learning about science in a hands-on exciting way, is the ultimate goal.
However, I always love explaining the science behind the experiment because I truly believe that it gives them a greater understanding, even if they don’t fully understand all of it, you would be surprised how much they do understand.
When you drop the antacid tablet into water, it creates a chemical reaction. Basically the water causes the tablet to change. (It dissolves into the water.) As it dissolves it releases bubbles into the water.
As the bubbles from the antacid touch and attach to the acorns, they begin to rise to the top, almost like a little life jacket.
When the bubbles reach the top, they pop and the acorn falls back down to the bottom. Once at the bottom, they are lifted to the top again by more bubbles.
It is beautiful to watch the acorns rise and fall. We had a great discussion and decided that it was almost like the bubbles were hugging the acorns with a life jacket and lifting them to the top.
We discussed how when we blow bubbles in water, they rise to the top.
The same idea happens with the acorns when they are covered in air/bubbles. This is a very simple science idea, but it encourages children to look closer at things around them. It also encourages a love of science!
I love it because it is an easy science experiment that requires little to no prep and is guaranteed excitement!
I initially used this easy science experiment in the fall, which is why I used acorns. However, since it is so simple to do and the children enjoyed it so much, I started looking for more ways that I could use this experiment at other times of year.
A really easy way to do this experiment is by using small beads. They are often easily available both in the classroom, or in homes.
As long as the beads do not float, they will work. You could use the beads and do the experiment during a birthday party or just for fun at home.
Once the beads sink to the bottom, you can use the same steps as I used for the acorns. Simply drop in an antacid tablet, or two, and watch the beads dance.
Depending on the weight of the beads, they may not float up and then fall back down as they acorns did. However, it just depends on the beads that you are using.
Kids love to watch the beads dance through the water. Using colourful beads makes it beautiful! Once the antacid tablet has completely dissolved, you can always add another one.
I often find that this easy science experiment leads to more questions and interest from children. Depending on how much time you have, you can always explore their inquiries.
For example, my children wondered if the bubbles could carry a penny to the top? What about a pebble or a piece of wood?
When kids are interested and excited to learning, my heart is full!