Friday, March 29, 2013

Slippery Slope

Remember last year, when I got sucked into planning a Star Wars birthday themed party with Belinda and Winifred? And I rewrote the plot of Star Wars using a napkin and added popcorn in order to appeal to a wider demographic? Yeah. It's that time of year again. There be birthday planning in the air! And, despite my totally authentic pirate impression in that last sentence, Katie is not having a pirate themed birthday.  Because, we did that once. And, while Jon and I thought it was whimsical to dress one of her favorite stuffed animals up in a pirate costume and then have all the kids pelt him with sock cannon balls, Katie did not.  Because, pirates should be nice. And if we had just talked to Pirate Bunny, and explained that he was being mean, he would apologize and then we could all be friends and hug. Because no one should be mean.  It's just not logical*. And, while the traumatization didn't make it to this level, we decided to go in a different direction this year.


Meaning, it's a perfect time to dust off my pre-mommy Museum Educator hat and work up some fun!, exciting!, boisterous!, mirthical! and  age appropriate enlightening educational stations! (Also, it's a chance to write a post where I don't make an inappropriate joke about murdering Jon or being arrested. Because, apparently, Jon didn't see the humor in those specific situations. And, you know, so my mother-in-law will start commenting again.... PS, FYI and YOLO Jon is still alive and happily researching electric assist bicycles. Because, obviously, he's already learned everything there is to know about hovercrafts.) What's that? Will I share my science themed learning stations with you? Oh, I couldn't possib-OK. You talked me into it!

Station One:

Launch Your Own Astronauts!

What You Will Be Doing:
Defying Gravity!

1.  Draw a face on a ping pong ball.  Name them if you want, and write their names on the back! (I named mine Bob.)

2.  Turn on a hair dryer, set it to high, and point it straight up.  Place 1 astronaut in the airstream. WHAT HAPPENS?

3. Try it with more that one astronaut! WHAT HAPPENS?

Scientific Stuff/Why This Works:

Gravity pulls things to the earth.  Sir Isaac Newton figured this out when an apple almost hit him on the head! BUT if you have a force strong enough to work against gravity, like air, things will float!

What have you seen floating before?

The air stream actually pushes the astronauts upwards (against the force of gravity) until the upward (air) and downward (gravity) pushes are equal and then the ball floats! The high pressure in the non moving air surrounding the air stream keeps the astronaut in the center of the moving air / astronaut flying chamber!

Optional: Try it with a roll of toilet paper on a stick or an inflated balloon with a penny inside. What else happens?

(Experienced Educator Note: Use Beer Pong balls rather than Ping Pong balls.  They're cheaper and the kid's won't notice the difference until at least college! Or, if they're smart, until they buy a condo in one of those 55+ retirement communities.)

Station 2:

Basic Bernoulli Balloons

What You Will Be Doing:
Air is weird.  It affects things differently.  For example, with airplanes, the air both lifts AND pushes!

1.  Suspend two orange sized balloons from a string.

2.  Have someone hold them up in front of them approximately two inches apart.

3.  Have another person blow a stream of air between the two balloons. WHAT HAPPENS?

Scientific Stuff/ Why This Works:
Bernoulli’s Principle of Air Pressure! Bernoulli! Bernoulli! (It’s just fun to say!Try it!)

Basically, Bernoulli found out that the fast moving air caused a reduction in air pressure between the balloons. Meaning, that the pressure of the air on the outside of the balloons was now greater and could push the balloons together!

(Experienced Educator Note: Really, any of your basic citrus sized balloons will work. Except kumquats. But that's probably just because I don't like them. Also, I call dibs on being named Bernoulli in my next life!)

Station 3:


What You Will Be Doing:
Let’s explode something!! (For science, of course.)

1.  Find an empty field.

2.  Place a bottle of diet soda in the middle of the field.

3.  Using the Geyser Tube (or a rolled up paper) drop the first number of Mentos into the bottle.

4.  RUN!!! (Wait! Don’t forget to look back to see what happened!)


6.  Repeat the experiment with a different number of Mentos.  Is the geyser bigger or smaller with the different amounts.  Record your data below by circling the correct description:

2 Mentos: high hugely high really really really hugely high
4 Mentos: high hugely high really really really hugely high
6 Mentos: high hugely high really really really hugely high

Scientific Stuff/ Why This Works:
First, it works because of what makes all those bubbles in the soda: Carbon Dioxide (or CO2), and, there’s a lot of CO2 in the soda bottle! If you shake a can or bottle of soda, some of those bubbles cling to the wall of the bottle, THEN when you open it up, wooooosh!, SPRAY EVERYWHERE!

But, by adding Mentos to the CO2, we’ve created a much more interesting, and messy way, for the CO2 gas to escape! Mentos (and other things) have tiny pits on them, called nucleation sites by scientists, and the act of bubbling is called nucleation. So! By dropping Mentos, which have a lot of nucleation sites on each candy piece AND are heavy so they sink to the bottom of the bottle, a LOT more CO2 can be released! And BAM! You have an awesomely BIG EXPLOSION!

(Experienced Educator Note: If you want the kids to just hold up signs instead of circling the correct data description make sure you don't spell the word "Hugely" as "Hugley". Because that's embarrassing. Seriously. It's almost as embarrassing as that one time in 8th grade when you stayed up until midnight, MIDNIGHT!, working on your president report poster board and then, when you carried it carefully and lovingly into the orchestra room, and you proudly showed it off to your friends, someone, let's call him Jon, walks by and says, "You know you spelled president wrong." and then walks away! Dude! Seriously! I mean, what am I supposed to do about it now? Gosh!

Now, if I was smart, I would have stopped there. But, obviously PinINterest exists for a reason. So, excuse me, Belinda and I have to go whip up some homemade buttercream frosting, fill plastic test tubes with Skittles and rotate the organic strawberries I'm dehydrating to naturally flavor the cupcakes. Because, dude, you can bet that there's no way I'm slipping down this PinINterest birthday party slope alone!

*Do you think if Sherlock just explained this to Moriarty?...


  1. Awesomely awesome. I just may swipe some or all of this for future parties.

    Also, when I saw "orange sized balloons," it took me until your blurb about kumquats to realize you meant citrus, and not the color orange. I am awesome.

    1. Swipe away!

      And about the orange? Awkward sentencing isn't just for Star Wars fans!

  2. I love the theme of the birthday party and the stations are fabulous ideas. I pinned your blog so others can plan such awesome parties for their birthday kiddos. I'm looking forward to pictures, especially of the exploding diet soda. :-)

    1. Thanks, Karen! The kids had a blast! And so did I! But next year, I should probably spend more of the budget on photographers rather than Mentos, because, when all is said and done, Mentos are gross and all I took were two pics of the cupcakes. And they were blurry.

    2. It's very difficult to take pictures while dumping Mentos into exploding soda - I can understand why the cupcake pictures might be a bit blurry. :-)