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Down to a science

When school is out, keep learning with these at-home experiments

June 3, 2014
By RAY HOPPEL - Physics/Biology Teacher (Mifflin County High School) , Lewistown Sentinel

LEWISTOWN - It seems like any worldwide educational study released over the past 30 years has been quick to pinpoint the flaws of the American educational system and its current students. Regardless of what reasons are given as to why American students are falling behind, it is happening. Are today's students more interested in video games? Is current internet technology allowing students to find quick answers to their questions without providing logic as to why something happens? Despite these possible reasons, children continue to maintain curiosity about a great many things. Why not allow them to be curious about science?

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Chemical volcanos are classic projects for science fairs and chemistry demonstrations. The Mentos and diet soda volcano is similar to the baking soda volcano, except the eruption is really powerful — capable of producing jets of soda several feet high. It’s messy, so you might want to do this project outdoors or in a bathroom. It’s also non-toxic, so kids can do this project.
¯ Gather your supplies. You can substitute another candy for the Mentos, but ideally you want candies that stack into a neat column with minimal space between them, have a chalky consistency, and barely fit through the mouth of a 2-liter bottle.
¯ You can choose to substitute normal soda for diet soda. The project will work almost as well, but the eruption will be sticky. Whatever you use, the beverage must be carbonated!
¯ Stack the Mentos. The easiest way to do this is to stack them in a tube narrow enough to form a single column. You can use a test tube or simply roll a sheet of paper into a tube just barely wide enough for the stack.
¯ Place an index card over the opening of the test tube or end of the paper tube to hold the candies in the container. Turn the tube upside down.
¯ Open your full two-liter bottle of diet soda. The eruption happens very quickly, so be sure everything is set up properly. You want the open bottle on the ground; the index card against the bottle opening; then the roll of candies on top of the card so that as soon as you remove the index card, the candies will drop smoothly into the bottle.
¯ When you’re ready, do it! You can repeat the eruption with the same bottle and another stack of candies. Have fun!



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