Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer Science

Last month, on the drive home from college, my son asked me, “So, have you made any summer merit badges for Younger Daughter yet?” 

Knowing that he did not have a summer job lined up, I revealed my secret plan to him.  “I have this great idea!  You are going to teach chemistry to Younger Daughter this summer!” 

This idea solves two dilemmas.  The 10th grade chemistry class is difficult, so YD could use as much advance preparation as possible.  Son could use some goals and purposeful activities for the summer.

And thus, the Summer Chemistry Merit Badge was born.  Here are the requirements we came up with.

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The Summer Chemistry Merit Badge
1.   Cut a round onion into small chunks. Separate the onion chunks into three equal portions. Leave the first portion raw. Cook the second portion of onion chunks until the pieces are translucent. Cook the third portion until the onions are caramelized, or brown in color. Taste each type of onion. Describe the taste of raw onion versus partially cooked onion versus caramelized onion. Explain what happens to molecules in the onion during the cooking process.  (Note: this also counts toward the “Science of Cooking” merit badge.)

2. Learn the layout of the periodic table of the elements.  Memorize the name, symbol, atomic number, group, period, block of 5 elements.

3. Perform chromatography and describe what is happening in the chromatography process.

4. Learn the factor label method.

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#1 is taken directly from the Boy Scout chemistry merit badge.  #2 is what I thought would be important and not annoyingly difficult.  That web site has a nifty interactive periodic table.   #3 and #4 are Son’s suggestions.  I have no idea what the factor label method is.  Maybe I should try for this merit badge.

We also came up with this merit badge, as a complement to the Chemistry badge.

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The Summer Science of Cooking Merit Badge
1. Complete Requirement 1 of the Chemistry Merit Badge.

2. Perform the chocolate-cake-in-a-mug experiment (see separate page) and show your recorded results.

3.  Predict and then observe the psychological change in your mother when you make an entire meal and serve it to the family.  Meal must be pre-approved for nutritional value, taste, and ease of preparation.

4.  Make homemade ice cream.  Explain what a phase change is, and how salt is involved.

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And here is the “Chocolate-cake-in-a-mug” experiment.  Son’s task on Monday is to test it to make sure that the batter does not overflow and create a mess in the microwave.  His other task for Monday is to mow the lawn.  I wonder which one he will do first.

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Chocolate Cake in a Mug Lab Experiment

Lab Equipment for Recipe 1 and 2
1 large coffee mug
Measuring spoons
Mixing spoon
Stopwatch or other accurate timer
Clean ruler

Recipe 1
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoons cocoa
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
2 Tablespoons egg (whip with fork) OR egg substitute
1 1/2 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon chocolate chips
1/8 tsp vanilla

Recipe 2
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
2 Tablespoons egg (whip with fork) OR egg substitute
1 1/2 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon chocolate chips
1/8 tsp vanilla

1.  Do not do this experiment all in one day.  That would be too much chocolate cake at once.  Before starting, check that you have all the ingredients on hand.

2.  Predict the outcome of each recipe.  Explain why this prediction is not a hypothesis.

3.  Make each recipe 3 times  - that’s a total of 6 small cakes-in-a-mug. Use the same size/kind of mug each time. (Note that the ingredients are halved from the original recipe.)  Measure the ingredients accurately.

4.  Measure and record your observations about the following.  For c and d, please record the observations of 2 people (yourself and one other).
a.  Height above or below the rim of the mug immediately upon removal from microwave, in centimeters.
b. Height above or below the rim of the mug 1 minute after removal from the microwave, in centimeters.
c. Taste it, and describe the texture of the cake.
d. Overall taste of the cake (rated on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being awful and 5 being the best unfrosted chocolate cake ever). 
e. Did the chocolate chips sink to the bottom?

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.

Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.

Add the chocolate chips and vanilla, and mix again.

Put the mug in the microwave and cook for exactly 1 minute.  Remove from microwave and record your observations.

Remove from mug and share half with someone.


Cassi Renee said...

Hmm . . . if I can find some egg substitute (?), I will have Emma perform this same experiment. BTW, I think #4 in the cooking badge should also count toward the chemistry badge :-)

Common Household Mom said...

Cassi, by 'egg substitute' I mean "Egg Beaters" or egg whites in a container. I just thought it would be easier to use that rather than to crack egg(s), whip them up, and then only use a portion. But by all means, you could use eggs.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Truly brilliant.
Way to work the kids for mutual success.

The Crislers said...

I still LOVE the summer merit badges idea. Was your original post on this last summer? I've been getting ready to introduce this idea to our kiddos, but wanted to re-read that post. I've looked through your older posts a bit, but wasn't able to locate it. Help?

Common Household Mom said...

Ooh, I feel all giddy that somebody likes my idea!

Here's the link to my post last summer about Summer Merit Badges:

I had posted it at the END of summer, thus making it nearly impossible to find.

I will warn you, I have more summer merit badges to post soon.

smalltownme said...

This is so good!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I am incredibly impressed. I'm passing this on to my rising 9th grader (who could then also work on his B.S. chemistry merit badge) and his brother who is heading off to college in September.