Five ways to bring holiday cheer into your classroom, the scientific way

December marks the beginning of many celebrations. There is Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, St. Lucia Day, Festivus and New Year’s, to name a few. Plus, many people celebrate the winter or summer solstice, depending on which hemisphere you reside in. We always like to share little ways to bring science into your celebrations. Below are five ways to bring holiday cheer into your classroom.

Photo by Eva Bronzini on
  • We often eat with our eyes before we start eating our food, so candy makers usually enhance the color of candies with FD&C colorants. Using a special buffer solution, your students can extract the color from brightly colored candies.  Agarose gel electrophoresis allows students to characterize the mixture and identify the food colorants present in the sample.
  • Maybe it’s not cold where you are? Why not try making some fake snow? One common recipe uses sodium polyacrylate, the super-absorbent polymer found in diapers. This inquiry based lab features four different recipes your students can try, and they can experimentally determine which one is the most like real snow.
  • Enzymes play an important role in the manufacture of holiday candies like chocolate covered cherries and other candies with gooey centers. This is often accomplished by adding the enzyme Invertase to a solid fondant. Over time, the invertase splits table sugar (sucrose) into fructose and glucose, creating a thick liquid. In this video and associated lab, students explore the use of Invertase in candy making.
  • We often decorate our homes and labs with shiny tinsel, and curse the fact that it sticks to EVERYTHING. This is because of our friend static electricity. This lab explores static electricity using balloons and tinsel, perfect for bring science into lower grades.
  • Will you be decorating your Chemis-tree? Here are some resources for making your own holiday ornaments and decorations. We can’t wait to decorate our lab with the petri plate ornaments again!
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