Chemistry Party -8yr- Coke and Mentos
Anne in West Hartford, CT, US
For my son's 8th birthday, he wanted to have a science party, including experiments that he and his guests could perform. We looked at several websites, including this one, and decided on a chemistry theme, with a focus on the elements, molecules, and polymers.
Invitations: I developed these in Word using ClipArt, which has a decent collection under chemistry" even including a little boy chemist we used to represent my son on the invite. On the cover was a scientist with a test tube and another clipart object with the words: "Experiments Explosions Excitement! You're invited to Sean's 8th birthday party!" On the inside with an additional two clipart chemistry objects were the details: "Please join us for cool chemical reactions wacky experiments and explosive science fun.*" then the date time (ours was 10-12:30 and "Lab cafeteria will serve lunch.") place (Dr. Sean's Lab and our address) and RSVP to "Lab directors" my husband and me. Then to follow-up on the asterisk to the parents: "We will conduct several fun (and safe) experiments. Lab coats and goggles provided." On the back of the card was the boy chemist copyright symbol and the words "Sean ___ junior chemist." I printed them on metallic paper.
Decorations: We found a great science chalkboard topper set and a perfect "science lab" bulletin board set at our local teachers' supply store. The chalkboard topper went around the room at chair rail height and I used the "Science Lab" sign for the front door adding my own partial banner "Welcome to Dr. Sean's" with the other beaker test tubes microscope cutouts also on the door and scattered around the room. I made the birthday banner using the same (enlarged) clipart from the invite and letters I made and cutout "Happy 8th Birthday Sean!". (This becomes a great place for group pics.) Based on these decor items our colors became royal blue orange and metallic silver so I purchased balloons in these colors blue plates orange napkins and clear cups and cutlery.
We hand-drew with sharpies the atomic symbol on the plates (were originally going to put it on the cups but they had a textured surface so that didn't work out). For centerpieces we pulled out Sean's microscope some petri dishes for one end of the table and I ordered two racks of six test tubes online (see activities below). In one rack I put orange spider mums and gerber daisies in the middle two test tubes. This went in the center of the table. In the other we made some mini experiments to guests to observe at the other end of the table. The table was covered in a cheap vinyl table cloth for protection with a metallic plastic liner on top to make it look like a lab table. I also removed our cloth-cushioned chairs and borrowed metal folding chairs. I hung silver swirlies from the ceiling lamp and in the windows and scattered balloons around the room. Perhaps the most exciting decor element was a laminated poster of the periodic table of the elements I got online. We referred to this in our activities and at lunch...
Activities: For our opening/settling in activities while everyone arrived I explained that our party was about chemistry and asked them if they knew what "matter" and then the "elements" are. Several kids were right on. Then we introduced the periodic table and pointed out several elements they already knew--helium in the balloons oxygen in the air etc. I passed around a worksheet I'd made using about.com's chemistry page with the molecular structures of several compounds starting with easier ones like H2O and CO2 and moving to more difficult ones like sucrose and ibuprofen. Kids made the structures using spice drops and toothpicks. This was a great activity for the kids to spend time together doing something with their hands.
The second activity was about lab safety. I put together another worksheet also from about.com's chemistry page with two columns of "science lab safety symbols" and then the text for each in mixed up order in between each column. Kids had to match text to symbols. There were some great ones like "corrosive" and "radioactive" but I also made sure to make it relevant so that when we went through the answers I explained the "Do not eat or drink" for example was important because several of the fluids we'd use would look like water.
After this we moved on to experiments: I'd ordered from Steve Spangler the following: Clear Slime Insta-worms Water gel Oil Spill Absorber Insta Snow Gel Marbles and two Geyser Tubes. (We conducted the experiments in this order except that the Gel Marbles had to be made ahead and left out overnight so these became something that we surprised them with--hidden in a bowl of water and cups of colored water for them to discover after the meal.) The clear slime was a great gooey funny way to start off. Kids loved it! We got right into polymers with this one and then insta-worms and then with water gel and oil spill absorber talked about their really useful practical applications. Kids loved being "in on" how these two polymers could be used in the real world. (Note: Oil spill absorber uses real oil so should be done outside. We did in on our deck table. We recommend gloves and use only containers and other tools you plan to throw out. This one was mostly a demo. We didn't let each child perform the experiment as with all the others but did let them try to get the oil off the water using a spoon and then add the polymer powder for the experiment.)
We took a break between insta-worms and water gel for run-around on our backyard playscape. Even with "staging" experiments ahead--a must! it took time to get ready before each experiment and also we bagged up their slime worms in ziplocs to take home. After the oil spill "cleanup" we broke for lunch and cake.
Following that we went back out on the deck for insta-snow (This was especially great since it was August!) and the grand finale: Coke and Mentos explosions. The Geyser tubes are really great for this. We bought two so that we could run one and have another "on-deck." We bought enough 2-liter bottles so each child had one each geyser tube came with a pack of mentos and then I bought another six-pack. Kids loves setting them off. Best ending! For 8 kids we definitely recommend having both parents as well as an additional helper both for experiments and to keep things moving/ take care of any details that come up.
Food: I made ahead ham and cheese sandwiches cut them in fours and with cheez whiz (It's still available!) "wrote" element letters on each square. For 8 kids I made 6 full sandwiches since not everyone likes ham and cheese. Then I brought them out on trays and announced "Let's eat the elements!" I also had baby carrots and cut up celery with dressing for dipping. (Turns out cheez wiz is made with sodium alginate the same substance I'd just told them about in the insta-worm experiment!) For drinks V-8 has a new fruit and veggie line of drinks called "Fusion" which I was excited about (too much so for my son he said) so we had that and then PB&J for those who didn't want cheese. We also had bowls of chex mix around for snacking on since it kind of looks like different molecular structures.
Cake: I made the "Fantastic Flask" cake from Family Fun. With the blue cotton candy coming out of the top it was a big hit. Since it's made with two bundt cakes it was also enough for both the kids' party and my family who came later for round 2. Costumes: We also ordered child-sized disposable lab coats and borrowed two adult coats from a doctor friend for me and a friend who helped. I made lab "badges" using the same clipart and the text "Dr. ____ Chemist ID# _________ and included a bar code. We borrowed goggles from our school's lab. Kids loved getting in costume. They found all these at their places when they arrived to our "lab."
Favors: I bought white handled paper bags and using Amy Locurto's blog "livinglocurto" printed out the "Open with Caution" radioactive symbols page she developed on sticker sheets. Sean put one on each side of each bag and wrote "Dr.____" on each one. Inside we put Pop Rocs and Smarties and then a "mini test tube experiment" from Steve Spangler. (This was one of the two test tube racks I ordered…if you buy six you save $ and get the rack. The other rack came with the set of 6 "baby soda bottles"/test tubes I ordered just to have/for décor) I also had to get two add'l mini experiments so that I had the full 8. To this they added all the slime worms etc. they'd made as well as their lab coats and badges. Kids had a great time and parents thought it was very creative. One event asked if we could have a "science camp" next. I maybe spent more than I have in the past since the Steve Spangler order was $100 but this allowed us to do the specific experiments my son wanted to do and we have quite a lot left to do more experiments in the future!"
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