Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Science Fair and Fun Surprise

The Boy brought home a notice about the upcoming mandatory Science Fair for all 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. No problem! We expected a science fair project would be required. What we didn't expect was the very short time in which to do it. We had just over a month to complete the project and have it ready for judging. Ugh! That eliminated growing anything. This is March. Snow is still a possibility. And the few sunny windows available indoors currently have house plants crammed in front of them.

The Boy and I decided to do a project measuring the effectiveness of UV light blocking materials such as sunscreens, sunglasses, clothing, etc. We read about UV beads that are UV light sensitive and succeeded in finding some online at Steve Spangler Science. They actually look like craft pony beads that The Girl can use after our experimenting is done. The white beads, when exposed to UV light (taken outside) transform into a rainbow of colors. The more UV light, the more intense the bead color.

Coincidentally, the company we purchased the beads from is located in Colorado not far from where we live so our beads arrived in record time (even faster than my fastest Amazon orders). In the package, they included a free gift of Jelly Marbles. They just looked like BB sized balls, but they were actually made of a super absorbent polymer. When added to water, within 12 hours they were the size of glass marbles.

We had a bowl full of semi-squishy, clear spheres that became the main attraction in our kitchen over the course of the next few days. I half-expected the marbles to be sticky or slimy, but they weren't. They were just...wet.

When water was added to the bowl of Jelly Marbles, the marbles virtually disappeared. In fact, The Boy thought they dissolved in the bowl until he saw the reflection of the water on the counter.

We found out later that the marbles "disappear" even more after they absorb additional water.

Elder Boy picked up the large glass bowl of marbles (without the extra water) and looked down into the bowl, through the jelly marbles at the base at the floor. He said it looked like a kaleidescope with all the colors of the rug reflecting off all those clear marbles. The "Pickles" found humor in seeing each other upside-down through the marbles. And everyone enjoyed just walking by the bowl everyday and sticking their hands in it.

When the marbles dry out, they go back to their original BB size state so you can store them for the next time. I'm thinking about getting several pounds of the similar Jelly Crystals to use in my gardening since this area is so dry. Watering is limited and these crystals may very well be the answer to keeping my outdoor plants alive.

I went back to Steve Spangler Science to order a UV black light for additional experimenting with The Boy's science fair project. It turns out we're also getting another free bag of Jelly Marbles in the shipment. Looks like were going to have some water absorbing fun this summer!

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1 comment:

Joy said...

Looks like you all had a great time with that science fair project. How cool!