Summer Science: At home experiments for summer break

Science Experiment 1/3
Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 8:40 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 8:41 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - School is out for the summer, which means parents might be scrambling to think of some fun activities to do at home.

Ms. Covey Denton and the science kids, Elijah, Lydia and Bethany, appeared on WITN News at Sunrise to demonstrate some at home science experiments to try over the summer.

All of the experiments follow a takeout theme, meaning we’re going to reuse some things we have at home after spending so much time there the past year.

Be sure to watch the attached videos!

Descriptions from Ms. Denton:

1. Noise Makers:

Materials needed:

3 rubber bands

2 popsicle sticks


Wrap the rubber band over one popsicle stick. If you have younger kids, I suggest gluing this in place so it doesn’t pop off. Put a small piece of straw under the rubber band.

Put a piece of straw on top of the rubber band and make a popsicle stick “sandwich.” Secure the two popsicle sticks together with a rubber band at each end.

Gently blow through the popsicle sticks.

What’s happening? Noise is caused by vibrations. When you blow, the rubber band vibrates back and forth making a noise. Try biting the sticks slightly or moving the straws closer together. What happens? When you change the length or tightness of the rubber band, you change the way it vibrates, making a new pitch!

2. Friction Experiment:

Materials needed:

Cereal Box


1.5 yards of string

Drinking straw

Glue or tape

To make the climber, cut out a fun shape from the cereal box. Try and make it so that the “belly” is at least two inches across. Color the design. On the back glue two segments of straw parallel to one another and thread the string through. I like to tie knots at the end of the string so that it doesn’t come out. Loop the top loop around something like a cabinet handle. To make it climb, alternately move your hands out to the side, gently pulling on the strings.

This is a fun experiment for balanced/unbalanced forces. Gravity is pulling down on the critter, but friction is opposing that downward force. The friction between the string and the straw. Though both seem very smooth, under a microscope, they are rough and jagged. When you hold the strings out to the side, they are always touching the straws, causing them to rub togher. I fyou were to coat the straw and string in a lubricant, such as cooking oil, you would have a much harder time getting the animal to climb the string.

A similar thing is happening with the apple and dowel and orange and chopstick. Friction is holding the fruit in place. When you hit the top of the chopstick, there is enough force to overcome friction and move the stick downward. The heavy fruit though, is affected by Newton’s first law --objects at rest tend to stay at rest. The heavy fruit stays still and appears to be climbing the stick. This demo was originally done by Bruce Yeany.

3. Shrinky Dinks: Polystyrene is a polymer, made of long chains of molecules all jumbled up together. When the plastic is heated above 212F/100C those chains loosen up and the plastic becomes softer and flows. In manufacturing, companies make thin sheets of the polystyrene and stretch, mold and then cool it very quickly so it holds its shape. When you heat the plastic up again the polymer chains contract back to their original shape.

To make your own Shrinky Dinks, just find a plastic take out container with #6 in the recycle symbol, cut out the shape you want, color it with alcohol based markers (like Sharpie), and put it in the oven at 325F for about 4 minutes. If you can, watch the plastic shrink. It will curl up and then magically flatten into a thicker, smaller version of the shape you started with. We found that using parchment paper and making a cookie sheet “sandwich” helped our shrinky dinks to be flatter instead of curled. They also tended to stick to foil or the baking sheet, so using parchment helped them not to stick.

If you plan to hang your shrinky dink, be sure to poke the hole before you shrink it! Otherwise, you will need to use a drill!

Covey Denton is an award-winning science teacher. She and her kids make regular appearances on WITN News at Sunrise.

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