Fall is fully upon us, and as the nights get longer and the temperature drops I’ve found myself spending more time inside. This, of course, includes many of our students who are spending 2020 in a hybrid or fully virtual classroom. Fortunately, remote does not have to mean that students can’t still perform hands-on experiments from their own homes. Below are four ideas for inquiry-based experiments that students can perform this fall.
- Investigate food decay using apples
If you’re like our family you might have taken advantage of the beautiful fall weather to visit a local apple orchard. And then promptly collected enough apples to last for five years. Luckily, investigating how organic matter decays, and ways to prevent it, can be an educational and exciting way to explore microorganisms. Invite students to create hypothesis on ways to prevent food spoilage and then test those hypothesis in their kitchens. You can find a great example of this experiment here, and can take it even further by exploring food safety and microbial growth.
- Explore chromatography with fall leaves
As leaves change color in the fall we are treated to a dazzling array of colors (along with plenty of yardwork). Ask students to collect various colors of leaves from their community, explore the types of trees that they come from and the variety of shapes. And then smash the leaves in a little isopropanol to release the pigments for chromatography! You might remember that we talked about a similar experiment this spring using leaves and flowers… if you have not yet tried this experiment now might be the perfect opportunity. On the other hand, if you would like to take your chromatography to the next level it is easy to adapt many of the Edvotek chromatography experiments into a remote experiment.
- Blend up a batch of Pumpkin Oobleck
Oobleck is a mixture of starch and liquid, usually in a one-to-one ratio, that behaves as a non-Newtonian fluid. This means that it doesn’t follow Newton’s law of viscosity – oobleck will behave as a liquid when gently mixed or poured, but any abrupt force causes it to act like a solid. Add a fall touch to your oobleck by mixing in some pumpkin puree in place of some of the water. The recipe and instructions can be found here.
- Extract DNA… from a pumpkin
Don’t throw out that pumpkin yet! First, scoop out a little bit of the pumpkin flesh, mash it up in a blender, food processor, or plastic bag, and extract some DNA with a detergent and some isopropanol! This experiment is easy for students to do in their own kitchens, and can teach fundamental concepts of DNA and living organisms. Edvotek’s DNA extraction kit has all of the tubes, glass rods, and buffers that you need!
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to incorporate the fall season into some interesting, inquiry-based science experiments for students. Let us know on Facebook , Instagram or Twitter if you have other ideas that you will be running with your students!