Appendix E - Activities and Demonstrations

There are many ways to use these experiments. Some of them are best done by the students themselves so that the students can see the phenomena “up close and personal” and try out variations for themselves. Many of the activities are simple and cheap enough for the students to bring home and show their parents. Educating parents is just as important as teaching students!

You may wish to use some of the activities as demonstrations in which you do only one setup of the activity and show it to the class. Be sure to make your demonstrations interactive! Education research indicates that the presentation of information plays a vital role in students’ acquisition of knowledge. Here are some tips about how to make demonstrations more meaningful to your students:

  • Use students as helpers. If an activity requires Chemical A to be poured into Beaker B, let Child C do the pouring, not the teacher.
  • Begin demonstrations by asking questions and by linking the demonstrations to the related subject matter. This book has many questions for you to ask your students or yourself.
  • During demonstrations, continue to ask questions to the students or allow them to discuss the demonstrations with their classmates. (“What did you see?”; “What do you think will happen if we do…?”; “Turn to your neighbor and explain what you just heard”).
  • At the end of demonstrations, ask each student to write a three-sentence explanation of what happened in the experiment and what they learned from it. Reading these explanations after class will help you to better learn how to improve your use of demonstrations and hands-on learning activities.

Each of the “Countertop Chemistry” activities can be used at a variety of grade levels. Different grade students will learn different things from the activities. Therefore, some of the questions included may be quite appropriate for first grade, whereas others may be better suited for twelfth grade.

Each activity includes directions, questions, materials lists, and tips for carrying out the activity. We have included a section at the end with a glossary of important science concepts as well as a list of references for other demonstrations.
In conclusion, there are two simple rules that we have learned about doing demonstrations or activities with students:

  1. If it stinks, it is chemistry. If it is slimy, it is biology. If it does not work, it is physics.
  2. If a demonstration works the first time, do not repeat it. If a demonstration does not work the first time in front of your students, repeat it only once. Then give up.