Saturday, 12 July 2014

Chemistry with a Lively Twist

While the study of chemistry can be intimidating and is usually only begun in the higher grades, there is nothing more fascinating for younger kids then to discover enjoyable living chemistry books and to try their hands at some of the experiments. 
As Rebecca Rupp notes in her book The Complete Home Learning Source Book:

 "It's a shame that chemistry does not figure more prominently in elementary-level science programs, since chemistry has tremendous appeal for most kids. It's fascinating, fun, and messy; and enormous amounts of scientific information can be absorbed in the enthralling process of concocting gunks and goos, creating phenomenal fizz, or turning things surprising colors."

And so, with so many great living books out there, chemistry really can become a favourite subject!

Here's an intriguing selection for those who would like to start early (or to get older kids hooked just the same):

A great first book for the younger grades, though interesting to everyone (but not so suitable for experiments, maybe!) is Explosives, by Gail Kay Haines

"A fire needs oxygen from the air to burn. An explosive already has oxygen, inside one of its chemicals. It does not need air. And because it does not need air, an explosive can burn much faster than a fire can. As explosives burn, a chemical reaction takes place. Oxygen and other chemicals mix together and change into other things. Solid and liquid chemicals become gases. They expand: that is, they get bigger and bigger as they heat."

This book does not only describe just how an explosion happens, it also tells about the difference between high and low explosives, the problems that occurred with the use of gunpowder in the past and many more interesting things.

- Messing Around with Baking Chemistry, by Bernie Zubrowski A Children's Museum Activity Book. Great kitchen chemistry.

- Gobs of Goo, by Vicki Cobb All about the greasy, sticky, slimy stuff. And lots of neat experiments, as well.

- How to Make a Chemical Volcano and Other Mysterious Experiments, by Alan Kramer
Chock-full of ideas on how to become a chemistry detective and written by one, too. "A real-life 13-year-old student, Alan has been solving mysteries using his chemistry set since he was in the fourth grade." The experiments in this book are real engaging science, though they seem like tricks. 
Make an eerie floating eye, invisible ink or a chemical peacock (based on chromatography).

- Chemistry for Every Kid, by Janice VanCleave   Easy experiments to whet the appetite.

- Value of Learning: The Story of Marie Curie, by Ann Donegan Johnson This is one in the ValueTale series: Written for younger children, it tells the story of Marie Curie, the Polish girl, who went on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and became one of the greatest physicists and chemists of all time, even winning the Nobel Prize twice, in both physics and chemistry.

- Story of Madame Curie, by Alice Thorne 
This fabulous biography of Marie Curie will appeal to older children, it tells her life story more deeply and brings alive the history of the times and the excitement of the new discoveries that were made. Right from the beginning, it will sweep you away to 19th century Poland:

"The classroom was very quiet. Through the big windows on one side could be seen the leafless trees of the Saxony Garden, white now with the first snowfall. But not one pair of eyes strayed from the history books which twenty-five little girls were studying so earnestly.
It was not that they feared the teacher, Mademoiselle Tupalska, though she did have a plain face and a severe manner. On the contrary, 'Tupsia', as they called her behind her back, was much admired by her pupils. For this was the year 1877, and the school was in Warsaw, Poland.
A large part of Poland had been conquered by Russia. It was forbidden to teach Polish children the history of their own country or even their own language. But Tupsia was doing just that, although the Russians had spies everywhere in Warsaw."

- True Book of Chemistry: What Things Are Made Of, by Philip Carona The first lively book on chemistry we explored. 
A good introduction.

- Mighty Atom, by John Lewellen. This is the book that turned our neighbour's daughter into a little scientist - and her dad into an avid seeker of those wonderful, out-of-print books.

- Story of the Atom, by Mae & Ira Freeman
Rarely have I seen a clearer explanation of the make up of atoms and molecules:

"You do not need to see molecules to know that they are always there. There are ways of knowing about things even if you cannot really see them. Look out of the window on a windy day. How do you know it is windy? You cannot see the air itself as it rushes by. But you can be sure the wind is blowing. You can tell there is wind because you see the trees swaying. You see clothes flapping on the line. You see leaves and pieces of paper flying past. So you can be sure that the wind is out there, pushing things around.
Scientists can tell what molecules are doing, even though they cannot see them. They know that molecules never stop moving. And they move very, very fast. If you could let a molecule race with the fastest jet plane, the molecule would win every time."

- All About the Atom, by Ira M. Freeman This one is geared more towards children in the upper elementary grades, explaining the atom and how it works vividly and sooooo well - even how alpha rays pass through the open spaces that atoms have.

- Chemically Active, by Vicki Cobb This book is actually geared more towards grade 9, but it can be tweaked. If the kids have enjoyed some of the above books, they will have absorbed a great deal of scientific principles in chemistry and this book could be used to take them even further, with your help, if they are interested. Especially since all these experiments really work!
Some nuggets from the content:
                                             ~ Extract of Soda Pop
                                             ~ Rock Candy Sugar Crystals
                                             ~ Crystals on Glass
                                             ~ Fast "Frozen" Crystals
                                             ~ Other Crystals to Grow
                                             ~ Splitting Water
                                             ~ Tests for Sugar, Starch, and Vitamin C


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