Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Throw a Science Party

 Hazel's turning seven tomorrow and last Saturday we had her party.  She knew for a long time she wanted a science party.  So I called my science teacher friend and she pointed me in a few good directions.  I found a few good ideas on the internet, spent about a month planning and gathering what was needed, and it turned out a smashing success.  Here's what we did.

INVITATION: see above.  I put one of Ed's white shirts on her backwards, messed up her hair, and told her to look crazy for about 30 shots.  Then I picked a good one, off-centered it, and added text with Picasa.  Had prints done at Target and mailed them out to the invitees.  We were going to add googly eyes to her face, but I liked it the way it was.

RESOURCES: I got all the experiment ideas from Steve Spangler's science website, which is awesome.  I also bought a few supplies from him - some"baby soda bottles" (test tubes with racks), Insta-snow, safety goggles, and green slime kit.  Everything else we needed I either had at home or could pick up at Target, like Alka-seltzer, plastic bottles, Q-tips, etc.
 We also went to a thrift store and got everyone a white or gray men's shirt for their "lab coat", which they also got to keep and wear home if they wanted.

DECORATIONS:...are not my forté, so we keep it simple.  Hazel chose red, gray and white for her colors, so we did streamers, balloons, and a Happy Birthday sign from Target.  Red plastic tablecloth for the experiments, pink for the eating.  Plain clear plastic cups and plates for the treats. 

THE PARTY:  When everyone arrived, they put on a lab coat and came to the table.  We had an opening activity as guests arrived, five experiments, cake & ice cream, then one final experiment.  The party was 2 hours long.  We would have opened gifts if there was time, but we ran out so Hazel opened them later.

We had eight guests including Hazel and Ginger, and three adults - my brother came and we were grateful for an extra pair of helping hands.  And one of the moms stayed and took most of these pictures - thank you so much for that!

Opening Activity:
The opening activity was scratch art - I got this pack from Amazon.  The pack only came with one scratch tool, but luckily I had some sharpened sticks in the back of a cupboard that had come in a bag of caramels to make caramel apples.  You could also use a pencil or maybe a toothpick.  We cut them into strips so the kids could make bookmarks to take home, which also went with the books they received in their favor bags.

Next came the experiments.  The most important thing here was to have everything measured and ready to go so you don't lose the kids' attention.  Each one took roughly 15 minutes.  Ed and I had to talk through the party game plan several times Friday and Saturday so we would be a well-oiled team for the party, and miraculously, it worked!  We also made sure we had a 2-sentence simple explanation to explain each experiment and how it worked.

And before we started the experiments we laid out the most important rule: DON'T PUT ANYTHING IN YOUR MOUTH.  Just to be safe.  But all the experiments were pretty tame and safe anyway.

#1 Instant Snow

 We gave everyone a plastic bowl and stirring stick, then I poured 1 tsp of snow powder into their bowls.  We asked them to guess what would happen when we poured water in it.  Some thought the powder would dissolve - smart 1st graders!  We gave each a test tube of water (2 oz.) and told them to pour in the water all at once and watch it carefully.  It expanded immediately into "snow"!

The kids were amazed and we explained that the powder is like millions of tiny sponges.  Then we poured their white snow into Ziploc bags and refilled the test tubes.  I gave everyone another teaspoon of powder and a test tube of water and this time they put a few drops of food coloring in, then poured water on to make colored snow.
 They played with it a bit and we discussed how it was similar and different from real snow.  Then we poured it in their bags with their white snow, sealed it up, and they put them in their favor bags which were on a table nearby, labeled with their names.

#2 Bubbling Lava Lamps
 For this one, we gave everyone a 16-oz. bottle filled 2/3 with vegetable oil.  Then we gave them a Dixie cup of water and a funnel and asked what they thought would happen when they poured it in.  Most knew water and oil don't mix.  But it was fun to watch it sort of bubble as the water went to the bottom.
 Then I had them guess what would happen when we added food coloring.  They weren't sure.  So we added some and gently swirled the bottles.  It only colored the water.
 Next we gave them all a small piece of an Alka-Seltzer tablet and watched what happened when they dropped it in - it sank to the bottom and caused bubbles of colored water to float through the oil to the top, where they "popped", releasing carbon dioxide, and then sank back to the bottom.  Just like a lava lamp!  We put the lids on tight and put them in their favor bags.

#3 Slime
You cannot have a mad science party without green slime!
 Ed and I tried all the experiments ourselves at night the week leading up to the party.  And this one was his favorite - he was like a little kid playing with it.  Slime is pretty cool.

We used Steve Spangler's slime kit for this - gave each child a bowl, stirrer, Dixie cup of green stuff, and Dixie cup of clear stuff.  We talked about solids and liquids and they all agreed both solutions were liquids.  So we figured if we poured them together we would also get a liquid.

But after a minute or so of stirring, it gelled up and became slime.  The kids were amazed and thrilled.
 Ed demonstrated how slime has properties of both liquid and solid, so it is both, or neither.
 The kids played with the slime for a long, long time, discovered all kinds of things you can do with it - stretch it, flatten it, roll it, bounce it, etc.  We let them play as long as they wanted.  Then we put them in baggies and put them in their favor bags to take home.

How do you like Hazel's mad scientist wig?  I had to dig around in the dress-ups packed away at my Mom's house for this classic.

#4 Color-Changing Milk
 For this, we gave everyone a paper plate with a rim and poured in some whole milk.  Then the adults came around and dropped four different colors of food coloring close together in the center.  The kids dipped a dry Q-tip into the center and pulled it out.  Not much happened.
 Then they dipped another Q-tip into Dawn soap and placed it back into the center of the milk.  The colors swirled out and around like crazy!
 They could place the soapy tip wherever there was concentrated food coloring and it would go crazy.  Everyone was amazed.

#5 Sink or Float
After the milk, everyone left the table and joined me in the living room for our next activity, where I had a clear bin of water and a variety of objects on the table.  I gave everyone a worksheet with three columns: "Object", "Prediction", "Result".  In the "Prediction" and "Result" columns, each row contained the words "Sink" and "Float".

One at a time, a child came up and chose an item off the table.  Everyone wrote down what it was, and circled whether they thought it would sink or float.  Then that child put it in and we circled our results.  It was fun because some were easy to predict and some results were surprising.  

Can you guess what each would do?
 I'll tell you in case you're wondering.
SINK: metal spoon, lime (sometimes), cotton ball, penny, regular soda, plastic fork (if dropped in vertically)
FLOAT: straw, lemon, lime (sometimes), sponge, bag of dried beans, diet soda, rubber duck, plastic fork (if placed horizontally)
Treat Break
While we were doing "Sink or Float", Ed and Dave cleared the table, including the table cloth which was pretty goopy from all the experiments.  They put on a clean disposable table cloth, and set it with plates, cups and napkins.  For dessert we had confetti cupcakes (from a mix) with strawberry buttercream (homemade, our favorite!) and gummy brains on top.  Also banana split ice cream and Hawaiian punch with dry ice in it.
 While they were eating, I had one child at a time come over by the door, where they put on safety glasses, the wig if they wanted, and held a test tube, and I took their picture with Hazel.  We are going to have them printed and send each child this picture with our thank-you note.  I told them all to look like mad scientists.  Some just smiled, but some got very into character.  Here's Ginger with Hazel:

#6 "Elephant Toothpaste"
This was our BIG FINALE experiment, very dramatic and mad-science-y.  Every child got a metal pan, a plastic bottle with 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide in it, and a Dixie cup with 1 tsp of dry active yeast.  I went around and added a drop of Dawn dish soap to each bottle, then told the kids to add any color food coloring they wanted.  Then I came around and added 2 T warm water to their yeast and had them stir it until dissolved.  Some of the kids (including Hazel, thanks to some baking lessons at home) knew that yeast eats sugar and expands.  But we didn't have sugar in this solution so it just mixed.

I gave everyone the following instructions:
When I say "GO", put your funnel in your bottle, pour your yeast mixture in, pull your funnel out, and put your hand on the side of the bottle.  Watch what happens and notice how it feels.  GO!

In the back center pan (brown-haired girl), she is just pouring her yeast in but it hasn't hit yet.  In the far left, his yeast has just hit and is just starting to foam.  Front center went before the other two and it is foaming and rising.
 And this is why it's called elephant toothpaste - because it foams up and overflows and looks like big thick toothpaste being squeezed from a tube.
 The kids were dazed and amazed.  The reason I told them to touch the bottle is because it would be very warm.  Something about heat being released in an exothermic reaction.  Thank you, high school science and Steve Spangler.  It was an awesome dramatic finale.

FAVOR BAGS:  To take home, each child received - 
  • the scratch art bookmarks they made at the beginning
  • the bag of instant snow from experiment #1
  • their lava lamp from experiment #2 and a packet of 2 Alka-Seltzer tablets
  • the bag of slime from experiment #3
  • their sink-or-float worksheet from #5
  • a booklet I made describing all six experiments so they can repeat them at home or at least tell their parents about it
  • a fortune cookie (because I like them...and I ordered more sour gummy brains for their bags but they didn't arrive in time, oh well...)
  • Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #1 Lunch Walks Among Us
(Besides the fortune cookie and the would-be gummy brains, no other edibles.  I hate it when my kids bring home bags of crappy candy.  Almost as much as when my kids bring home bags of crappy toys or other crappy favor bag fillers.  This is a party aspect I try to be thoughtful about.  Meaningful favor bags.  Never mind that one child's mom texted me later in the day that he had come home and put the slime in his hair.  Not my fault.)

So that's it, guys.  Hazel's amazing Mad Science Party!  It was so fun to see eight kids of both genders age 5 to 7 ooh-ing, ahh-ing, smiling, laughing, and completely engaged for a whole birthday party.  Yay for Mad Science!!!
*Franny K. Stein is a little girl mad scientist.  Her book series is silly, spunky and a little irreverent without being gross.  She has just enough "normal" qualities to be relatable but is also just crazy enough to be surprising and intriguing.  We read the first two from the library so I gave my girls #3 and #4 in their bags; everyone else got #1.  Each book is about 100 pages, 15 to 20 chapters.  Age 7 to 10 reading and interest level.  My girls love Franny.


Scott and Jen Driggs said...

We just did the same "Mad Scientist" party for Ethan on the 17th! Scott was the mad scientist with the Albert Einstein costume and he even threw in an accent. Our finale was the diet coke and mentos - of which baby Aubrey was just in the right spot to get the fall out. So fun!!

ESOdhiambo said...

Totally aces! I love every bit of this party.

RJ said...

Oh you are so freaking cool! I am shamelessly copying you for Sophia's 5th party. She loves science! So it this what you ordered? Would the $17 dollar one be enough for 8 kids or so?

Jeni said...

What an awesome party!!!! Your kids are so lucky!! :)

Disco Mom said...

Yes Rachel that's exactly it - the $17 one was enough with almost half left over for more slime fun another day. Definitely not the class set!

Heather said...

Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance! I have a question about your blog. HeatherVonsj(at)gmail(dot)com

tona said...

Besides being the coolest ever, this party also wins for bringing out THE EINSTEIN WIG. Can't believe that thing is still kicking around!! You are amazing and Hazel is so fortunate to have parents who indulge her love of science!!

Andrea said...

You are cool, and so are your kids! Love this party!

kat said...

coolest party ever!

Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough for your in-depth explanation of your party and how you made it flow. We will be benefitting from this for our son's party this weekend!! Thank you so much!


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