Science Ideas for Kids

Science for Kids: 3 Question Interview with Science Wiz, Marc Balanda


A few weekends back I went to a kid’s birthday party. It was a family friend and I was looking forward to it in the same way I look forward to all kid parties, though I confess I wasn’t expecting anything different or out the norm – but then out walked a Wacky Scientist. I didn’t recognize him at first, but on closer expectation I realized it was the Dad of the Birthday Boy.

Marc Balanda, who recently became principal of Brookfield High School in CT, started his career as a General Science and Biology teacher, thanks to him he says his son has a genetic predisposition to scientific concepts, so he decided to tap into his old skills and put on an awesome birthday party. After seeing things explode, expand, and change color, I figured we need a DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview on how parents can better promote science for kids.

See Also: Daddy! I need more Input

Why do young kids love Science?

Kids are inherently curious about everything around them; they are always looking for answers to their questions. Children always  ask “why” and in some cases adults don’t know how to answer. If it is a question about the natural world and the behavior of the things in it, Science gives them what they are so desperately seeking, an answer. That only spawns more questions, that lead to unanswered questions, and hopefully more investigation. It is hard for me to understand why adults don’t like Science more, it gives us something we are looking for, answers!

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In what ways can parents engage young children in Science?

It really doesn’t take much to peak a child’s interest in the natural and physical world.  In many cases it doesn’t cost a thing.  Engaging kids in talk about what you know, or if you are risky what you might not know, gets them to ask questions, hypothesize, and test solutions.  Celery (w/leaves), food coloring, and water.  You can have a conversation about how plants “drink”.  Potato slices, salt, and water.  You can have a conversation about osmosis.  At bathtime, put a crumpled tissue in the bottom of a cup, flip it over, and submerge with a steady hand.  Ask your child, what happens to the tissue?  Slowly take it out of the water to reveal a dry tissue.  Ask why that happened.  Instant air pressure lesson!  There are tons of links to at home science on the Internet.  The more you show them, the more they want you to show them and do themselves.  

I have failed in my attempts to make a Volcano. I need help! Looking forward to trying this one.
I have failed in my attempts to make a Volcano. I need help! Looking forward to trying this one.

Ok – this question is for me. How do I make something explode like a volcano – I’m talking really REALLY big!

It really depends on the concentration of hydrogen peroxide solution you have available to you.  It will work with the usual brown bottle at your house but on a smaller scale.  I went to a beauty supply store and got 40-volume hair developer which is roughly 12% H2O2  compared to the 3% in the brown bottle.  The empty bottle has the hydrogen peroxide, food coloring (for effect), and dish soap (to increase bubbles made).  Putting the yeast into hot water “activates” them (they are living organisms) and when they go into the hydrogen peroxide solution, then the magic happens.  The yeast acts as a catalyst (speeds up a reaction) that causes the hydrogen peroxide to rapidly lose an oxygen molecule.  That molecule quickly rises through the dish soap (like blowing a bubble). Combine thousands of those reactions in a split second and you create the “volcano”.  Interestingly, the decomposition of the oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide means a chemical bond is broken and the energy has to go somewhere.  In this case, it is heat, which is why this is considered an exothermic reaction!  Be careful with the hydrogen peroxide…it is a chemical that you don’t want to get on your hands or in your eyes.

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Michaels Makes for a Great Birthday Party

Have you ever been to Michaels? It’s an Arts and Craft store that promotes itself as a ‘place where creativity happens’. If you’re looking to get your little one into some type of regular activity then this is a place worth exploring. Once more, most Michaels offer a regular art and craft class on Saturdays at very little cost.

Now I’m not writing to promote Michaels, I’m merely setting up this article to talk about birthday parties that promote some creative thinking. First of all – a winter birthday requires some problem-solving anyway, especially when you have temperatures well below freezing and frozen snow over a foot deep. Luckily, we live in a location that has a number of in-door possibilities for kiddie parties, but they’re really really expensive once you break over ten people. More importantly, they all start to become the same experience, so I really wanted to find something a little different, and perhaps a little cheaper seen as my youngest has his birthday only a few weeks later. So, I started to look for alternatives and came across Michaels in Brookfield, CT. I popped into the store and found the staff to be polite and extremely energetic. Booking the room is simple because it doesn’t appear to be a prime location for parties so we literally could choose any day, time, and even throw in a snow day. The toughest part of the experience is identifying an age appropriate craft. The staff offers some advice, but I wasn’t feeling their suggestions as I was on my ‘I want to be different’ kick. As Lucas is currently into space, planets, and learning about the solar system, it seemed appropriate to propose something space related. After looking around the aisle I saw some small polystyrene balls that are used to create models of atoms. As my science days are far behind me I just looked at them and saw plants. Now, I started to think about a 3D space scene and immediately began looking for some type of box, which I quickly found on sale. I purchased twenty, gathered some paints, stars, spaceships, and we were ready for launch.


The only down side with my planning was running out of time to explore how the planets might best be hung in the box. Luckily some clever parents quickly solved this challenge on the day, and I think for the most part it was a great experience, that offered a little bit of originality, creativity, and at significantly less money than other alternatives – it even engage the parents in some creative thinking. So, for anyone planning a children’s party in the near future I encourage you to get creative and explore some art and craft options. With a simple activity, room, and materials, there’s an endless array of possibilities.

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