Sunrise Science: Fun and tasty experiments to try with your kids

The Dentons stopped by WITN News at Sunrise to demonstrate science experiments.
The Dentons stopped by WITN News at Sunrise to demonstrate science experiments.(WITN)
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 10:19 AM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Science can be fun-- and tasty!

Ms. Covey Denton stopped by the WITN News at Sunrise studio Tuesday morning with her three kids, Lydia, Bethany and Elijah, to demonstrate some science experiments that you can recreate at home.

Be sure to watch the attached videos!

Descriptions from Ms. Denton:

MBerry Taste Test:

MIRACLE BERRY

MBerry stands for “miracle berry” (Synsepalum dulcificum).  The berry is a small red fruit that is native to West Africa.  It contains a glycoprotein (Miraculin) that coats the taste buds and temporarily alters their shape. This causes your taste receptors to interpret acidic foods (sour foods) as something far sweeter.

To use the MBerry pills, let it dissolve slowly as you roll is over the whole surface of your tongue.  The effects can last from 15 minutes to two hours, depending on how much food you are eating and the temperature.  Hot liquids and foods make the effect wear off very quickly.

So what should you taste?  Strawberries, Granny Smith Apples, Lemons and limes and hard cheeses are all an amazing taste experience.  Eating lemons tastes like the best lemonade you’ve ever tasted...hard cheeses taste like cheesecake!

MBerry can be used by diabetics and those dieting to help satisfy those sweet cravings without the added sugars.  Scientists are also experimenting with those with altered taste due to COVID-19 and chemotherapy.  Often MBerry can make a variety of foods more palatable and help those individuals enjoy eating again.  Other studies revolve around using MBerry with children with sensory processing issues to help them learn to eat and enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods.

Nails for Breakfast:

COVEY DENTON IRON IN CEREAL

Iron is a mineral that we need to eat.  Too little iron means that you might have difficulty making hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen.  Iron in the hemoglobin gives blood its red color. Many individuals don’t eat enough iron-rich foods, doctors estimate most individuals need about 18mg a day. If you have an iron deficiency, you may feel tires, be more susceptible to illnesses and your heart rate and breathing rate increase as your body works harder to try and transport oxygen.  Because iron is so important, many breakfast cereals are fortified with food-grade iron. These iron-fortified cereals contain actual metallic iron that is digested in the stomach and is eventually absorbed into the small intestine.

Iron is found naturally in many foods that we eat, like red meat and dark green leafy greens.  The iron in these foods is different than the metallic iron that our cereals are fortified with.  Many within the scientific community still debate whether or not metallic iron is as beneficial as the nutritional iron found in natural foods.

Fun Fact:  If you were able to filter out all the iron in your body, you would have enough iron to make two small nails!

To investigate the iron in our cereal, you need a strong magnet, warm water, ziploc bag and a cereal with 100% iron listed on the label (Total bran flakes and generic “all-bran flakes” typically meet these requirements).

You want to crush a serving of the cereal and add some warm water in a ziploc bag.  Allow it to sit and dissolve for about 30 minutes.  Then run your magnet under the ziploc bag--can you see the black iron flakes?  These are the metallic iron flakes that have been added to the cereal!  This metallic iron is food grade and perfectly safe to consume.

Layered Punch:

COVEY DENTON EXPLORING DENSITY WITH LAYERED PUNCH

What is “density?” Density is a measurement of how much “stuff” is packed into a specific space. All liquids, gases and solids have a density.

Many of us have experience with density columns.  Imagine your favorite vinaigrette--the oil separates out on top and the vinegar down below.  This is caused by the two liquids having different densities.  Items or liquids with more density will sink below items or liquids with less density.  You can change the density of water by adding something to it, like salt or sugar.  By increasing the amount of sugar in the solution (but keeping the amount of water constant), you can create solutions that have increasing densities. The more sugar that is mixed into a measured amount of water, the higher the mixture’s density will become.

We’re going to use our knowledge of density today to make a fun layered punch.

To decide which layer should go on the bottom, you need to look at the sugar content on the label.  The higher the sugar level in a serving means there is more sugar dissolved in the liquid.  This means there is more “stuff” in the same volume. We are using some store-bought Powerade and Juices, but you could easily make your own colorful sugary drinks using plain water, food coloring and different amounts of sugar.

This is best done on a tall, thin glass, like a champagne flute or in test tubes like we’re doing on air.  The larger the differences in sugar content, the easier they will be to layer.  Carefully use a pipette, medicine dropper or turkey baster to layer the liquids.  It is easiest to do the densest liquid first (the one with the most sugar), followed by the middle layer, then the least dense layer.  But you could also have fun trying to pipe them in a different order.  Can you move the pipette to the bottom and squeeze out the densest layer to lift up the middle layer?  Don’t worry if you mess up--just drink it and give it another try!

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

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