Pepper and Water Chase

School is Back in Full Swing and so is our Learning Fun in Elementary Science! This activity can be done at home or in school but be careful with the pepper – it can make you sneeze and should never be put near the eyes!  Have fun!

Pepper and Water Chase:

Not all liquids can be mixed together. Oil and vinegar are insoluble, meaning they do not mix together. Liquids that do not mix well together will try hard to separate into layers to form what chemist call a suspension.

In this activity students will observe two insoluble liquids and how they react around when mixed with each other.


Milk & Food Coloring

Water & Pepper

Liquid Dish Soap

Flat pan with sides (cake pans work great)



  1. In the pan add about a half-inch of milk to cover the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add several different colored drops of food coloring.
  3. Dip a toothpick into the liquid soap; be sure to make sure any excess soap drips are removed. There should be some soap on the tip of the toothpick.
  4. Place the toothpick (with the end with the soap first) in the center of the pan and watch the milk and food-coloring move.

(The milk may begin to swirl as it continues to try to move away from the soap on the toothpick). You can repeat this same activity using water and pepper. Placing the water and pepper in the pan and using a toothpick with liquid soap to make the pepper scatter.

How It Works:

The soap is made up of water and soap particles. In the milk the fat particles are hydrophobic meaning they do not like water and want to move away from the water in the soap. This is what is observed when the colors spread and the milk moves away from the soap on the toothpick. As the fat molecules in the milk continue to move away from the soap, they take the colors with them and form a swirling mixture of colors.

When teaching chemistry concepts that involve new vocabulary, it is helpful to create flashcards that can be posted in the classroom to reinforce the new word. For this activity, you can take a picture of the mixture, to remind the students about how insoluble mixtures do not mix or have a picture of an oil and water mixture. Science should not be a standalone topic, but instead can be incorporated in language and in math. To read more about integrating math into science, visit:

For Our Fun Learning Game about other great science activities, you can visit here!


Plant a Butterfly Garden! And 4 Free Guides and Lesson Plans!

Planting a Butterfly Garden is a Gift Free to All Ages from National Geographic IMAX!  The following is the 1st Free Download (see bottom of of this article).  Following this are 3 others including: Grade 7-12 Learning Guide; Flight of The Butterflies (79 pp); And, also in Spanish!  See Below!

Objective: Students will plan and plant a garden in their schoolyard.

Background: Planning and planting a butterfly garden is a positive action that your students can take to help provide monarchs and other insects with resources they need to survive.  In addition, they will work together on a long-term project, planning where and when to plant their garden, deciding what equipment and supplies they will need and actually planting seeds or seedlings.  Since butterfly gardening is becoming more and more popular, you may be able to visit an existing garden with your students to get ideas.  Other resources include our references, garden supply stores and conservation and gardening organizations.  Many schools work with a Master Gardener in their area in planning and caring for a school butterfly garden.

In this lesson, we include suggestions for creating a school garden.  Many of the ideas and information come from an article by Jennifer Goodwin Smith in the January 1995 issue of Science and Children (p. 29-32).  She planned and planted a school butterfly garden with sixth and seventh graders in Maryland and wrote the article to make it easier for others to do similar projects.

National Geographic IMAX  Flight of The Butterflies Trailer:

Key Concepts:

• Gardens provide a habitat for many organisms.

• Humans can help preserve and cre-ate habitats for organisms.

• Seeds have various requirements for germination.

• Garden plants are either annuals or perennials.


• Read for information

• Create representative drawings and symbols

• Use a scale measurement ratio

• Use a scale drawing to plant and identify flowers in a garden


• Graph paper for planning garden layout

• Seed catalogs, gardening magazines, butterfly guides, books on butterfly gardens

• Seeds or seedlings

• Gardening supplies (soil, fertilizer, shovels, rake, hoe)

• Containers in which to start seeds (yogurt containers, egg cartons, nursery flats)

Step 1: Planning to Plant

1. Get permission from school administration and maintenance personnel.  It is especially important to gain the support of the people who maintain the grounds.

2. Discuss how butterflies and other insects use plants, and how they need special plants at different times in their life cycle.

3. Discuss the work involved in a garden, including maintaining the garden during the summer and raising money for seeds and other materials.  Also brainstorm benefits of a garden (such as decreased noise and air pollution from reduced mowing, reduced soil erosion, a beautiful garden, food and shelter for many organisms).

4. Develop a timeline for the garden. If you start from seed, you will need at least three months.  A good timeline is:

•           First month: get administrative support, choose a site, hold fund-raisers if necessary, order seeds, germinate seeds.

•           Second month: monitor seedling growth, design the garden.

•           Third month: prepare garden site, transplant seedlings.

5. Decide on the criteria you will use to judge a site.  Important considerations include available sunlight, level of foot traffic, visibility to school and community and vulnerability to vandalism.

Step 2: Planning the Garden

1. Choose the plants that you will use.  Sources of information include seed catalogs, gardening magazines, books about butterflies and butterfly gardening, and other resources.

2. Encourage students to choose plants that bloom at different times.  Perennials are good since they only have to be planted once, but including an area for annuals will allow future classes to participate in planting each year.  Also consider plant height, color and length of blooming time.

3. Make suggestions as to the garden design, such as choosing colors that blend and making sure all plants are visible (i.e., tall in back, short in front).

4. Plan the garden together, using graph paper to draw a plan of what you will plant where.

Step 3: Starting Seedlings

1. Buy seeds (or plan where you will buy potted plants).  Sources include gardening catalogs, hardware stores and nurseries.  You may want to plan to use a combination of seeds and purchased plants.  Plants should not be purchased until it is time to plant the garden.

2. Have students bring in yogurt containers, foam egg cartons and other containers in which to start seeds.  You can buy, borrow or ask for donations of potting soil, fertilizer, straw, shovels, a rake, and a hoe.

3. Plant seeds.  Punch a small hole in the bottom of containers, fill with soil, bury seeds according to instructions and place containers on trays to catch extra water.  Students should be responsible for caring for their plants.  They can also measure plant growth, ger¬mination time, and other variables and keep track of their progress in a science journal or lab notebook.

4. Keep seedlings in a sunny window or under grow lights.

5. After 4 to 6 weeks, seedlings will be ready to transplant.

Step 4: Planting the Garden

1. Prepare the soil.  Turn it over and add some fertilizer.

2. Plant seedlings outdoors.  Make sure danger of frost is past.

3. Apply mulch to prevent soil erosion, maintain soil moisture and slow weed growth.

4. Set up a schedule for garden maintenance as a class.  Tasks may include watering, weeding and replacing mulch.

5. Set up a time to observe the garden once a week.  Keep track of what plants are present, which are blooming and what insects are seen in the garden.

6. Clarify a no pesticide policy.

7. Make a plan for caring for the garden over the summer.  Parents are often happy to help, especially if they have been involved in planning the garden.  The more people are involved, the less likely your garden will become a burden for a small number of people.

NationalGeographic IMAX Free Classroom Butterfly Lesson Plan Guides!

Classroom Activities – Flight of the Butterflies – All Age Groups

Classroom Activities – Flight of the Butterflies – Grade 7 to Grade 12

Educator Guide – Complete for All Ages – Flight of the Butterflies -sm   (79 pp)

And in Spanish!

Spanish – El Vuelo de las Monarca – Guia del Educador – 11.1.12 – FINAL

Other Great Butterfly Learning Resource Links:

Our Favorite:  The Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Program, in New York:

Wilton Preserve Blue Karner Recovery:

Nature Conservancy Karner Blue Recovery

Nature Conservancy of Canada Karner Blue Recovery

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

New Mexico Butterflies

And for other Fun Learning Science Games, we invite you to visit here:

And Our New High School and College Study Guides (All Supporting The Recovery of The Karner Blue Butterfly!:

Pass the Nelson Denny: Complete Study Guide and Practice Test Questions:

Pass the PSB COMPLETE Health Occupations Aptitude Exam Study Guide and Practice Test Questions:

Practice the HOBET V!: Health Occupations Basic Entrance Test Practice Questions:




Pennies in Motion: Newton’s Law of Physics

Newton’s 1st law of physics states that an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion. This is an easy physics concept that can be taught to students of all ages. For example, when a bowling ball is rolled down a bowling alley, according to Newton, it would continue to roll until a force acted upon it, like when it crashes into the pins, or if it rolls over a rough spot on the alley. Often things continue to move until it is pushed back by another force, called gravity. This activity is a neat way to teach this principle of motion and allow students to experiment with different variables like changing the size of the coin, the size of the balloon, even the rate at which they spin the balloon.

In this activity students will experiment with the principles of motion.



Pennies (other coins are optional)


  1. Place a penny in the balloon before you blow the balloon up.
  2. Blow the balloon up and tie the end to keep the air in.
  3. Move the balloon in a circular motion to get the penny moving.
  4. Using enough force (without popping the balloon) continue to move the balloon in a circular motion until the penny is spinning along the inside of the balloon.
  5. When you stop moving the balloon, the penny should continue moving around the inside of the balloon.
  6. Allow time for each child to try to get the penny to spin.

How It Works:

The penny begins moving because of the force and motion applied to it. The penny is not stopped by the inside of the balloon because there is no friction (or resistance) making the penny stop spinning. The penny is able to move in a circular pattern around the balloon because of centripetal force, which is a force that draws things into the center of a circle. This is force is greater than gravity, which is why the penny does not fall until, you stop spinning it and gravity takes over.

Teaching physics concepts to students may seem daunting especially if you are unfamiliar with physics concepts yourself. Here is another great physics website that can get you well on your way to feeling more comfortable with teaching physics-related ideas like Newton’s laws of motion.

And for other Fun Learning Science Games, we invite you to visit here:

Automaton: Elementary Science of The Old-Fashioned Robot

This month’s Elementary Science feature is about the very early example in science history of what today we call a sophisticated robot.   An Automaton is basically an old-fashioned robot, or a “non-electronic moving machine “. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes one as:
1. a mechanism that is relatively self-operating; especially : robot
2. a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions
3. an individual who acts in a mechanical fashion
This photo above from Wikipedia is a beautiful Japanese Tea Making Automaton.

In Jan., 2012, CBS Sunday morning produced a VERY COOL short video clip of Charles Penniman demonstrating Maillardet’s Automaton today home at The Franklin Institute Museum in Philadelphia.  Also known as the “Draughtsman-Writer”, this Automaton was built by Henri Maillardet, a Swiss clock mechanic who worked in London producing clocks and other mechanisms around the year 1800. After going through 2 fires, it eventually was found and donated to the Institute in November of 1928, after which a number of mechanics specialists worked diligently at its restoration. Compared to other old-fashioned mechanical robots through our scientific history, the Maillardet Automaton has the largest “memory”, including the ability to construct with its mechanical pen – 4 drawings and 3 quite lovely poems in both French and English languages. The Franklin Institute explains that his robot doll, as it is sometimes named, was humankind’s “…effort to imitate a living being by mechanical means…intersecting art and science…”.  The Franklin Institute homes objects of invention that tell the history of science and technology, such as Flight, Computing, Electricity, Photography and Instrumentation.

The Maillardet Automaton was a principal inspiration for Brian Selznick’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. His book was later in 2001 turned into Hugo, a 2001 film directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Asa Butterfield, Hugo is a PG film produced in 2011 about the story of the first automaton. Set in 1930`s Paris, an orphan named Hugo lives in the walls of a train station and is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. He finds a friend (Asa Butterfield) who helps him solve the puzzle.

This photo is of a Swiss Made Automaton in CIMA museum (Centre International de la Mécanique d’Art).  There is also historical evidence of a very early example of an automaton from ancient China, from the text Lie Zi in 3rd Century BC; and an even earlier meeting and dialogue between King Mu of Zhou (1023-957 BC) and a mechanical engineer known as Yan Shi, noted as an “artificer. The text accounts Yan Shi proudly presenting The King with a life-size, human-shaped figure of his handmade automaton:

The king stared at the figure in astonishment. It walked with rapid strides, moving its head up and down, so that anyone would have taken it for a live human being. The artificer touched its chin, and it began singing, perfectly in tune. He touched its hand, and it began posturing, keeping perfect time…As the performance was drawing to an end, the robot winked its eye and made advances to the ladies in attendance, whereupon the king became incensed and would have had Yen Shih executed on the spot had not the latter, in mortal fear, instantly taken the robot to pieces to let him see what it really was. And, indeed, it turned out to be only a construction of leather, wood, glue and lacquer, variously colored white, black, red and blue. Examining it closely, the king found all the internal organs complete—liver, gall, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, stomach and intestines; and over these again, muscles, bones and limbs with their joints, skin, teeth and hair, all of them artificial…The king tried the effect of taking away the heart, and found that the mouth could no longer speak; he took away the liver and the eyes could no longer see; he took away the kidneys and the legs lost their power of locomotion. The king was delighted. (Needham, Joseph; Science and Civilization in China: Volume 2. Cambridge University Press; 1986)

Another very simplified example of an automaton is that of a cuckoo clock. Once activated, the cuckoo comes out every hour and sounds “cuckoo…cuckoo”. Here is a short video from “How it is Made” showing how a cuckoo clock is made:
For some of our Fun Learning Science games such as How to Become a Teenage Genius by playing Our Learning Brain, you can visit here:


The Olive Tree of Life

Often known as The Tree of Life, The Olive Tree is this month’s focus on Elementary Science.  The passing of an Olive Branch has been longtime known as offering a sign of Peace. The Olive fruit, oil and leaves all have significant healing and strengthening properties for the human body.  In Jesus’ Biblical times, Noah had sent a Dove out of the Arc to see if there was dry land, and the Dove returned with an Olive Branch in its mouth to signify there was dry land and sparkling life beyond the waters of the Arc.  All of His sermons were given on The Mount of Olives.  In Greek mythology, the Goddess Athena brought the Olive Tree to the people for abundance and a long healthy life.

Here is an indoor and outdoor activity your class can do for learning the science of The Olive Tree.

Growing From Seed:

Here are some basic instructions for growing an Olive Tree from a seed, though most likely, the plant won’t ever bear actual fruit.  For some reason we are still researching, the only ones that bear fruit once growing, are the trees that are sourced from a cutting.  However, you can still have fun planting an Olive Plant in the classroom from a pit, and watch it grow through most of its stages.  Or, you can have your class visit a Nursery and retrieve actual cuttings to plant.


Empty milk or juice carton (2 for each student)



Sea Soil (Soil that has been fertilized with seaplants like kelp)

Cactus Potting Soil (sandy)

5/6 Olive Pits

Small pebbles or small broken terra cotta pot pieces

Desk-size piece of leftover cotton fabric

Thick Pencil or Pen

1/2 Spray bottles to share

First Carton:

1  Have all students bring from home 2 empty milk or juice cartons, and a handful of pebbles.

2  Lay out a piece of cotton fabric to catch dirt drippings

3  Cut the first carton down to about 3 inches and fill with compost.

4  Place the Olive seeds sporadically across the compost soil.

5  Once the seeds are in place, spray with water bottle to moisten the seeds.

6  Keep the seeds and compost damp (but not soaking wet).  Place them on window sill where they will receive lots of warm sunshine

7 With constant daily spraying and sunshine, germination will take place within several weeks.

Second Carton:

1  After the seeds have begun to sprout, cut the top off the second milk/juice carton.

2  In the bottom of the carton, poke the pencil or pen through the middle and create a hole about 1 inch in diameter.

3  Layer the bottom of the carton with 8 or 10 of the pebbles, not covering the entire surface, though enough to allow water to flow through.

4  With a ratio of about 1:3 mix seasoil with cactus potting soil and fill the carton to about 3/4.

5  Move the healthiest looking germinated seeds from the short cartons to the second taller cartons.

6  Water the seedlings well – only when the soil in the pot feels dry.

7  Keep the plants in the same warm, sunny area indoors – even if is warm outdoors, as the plants are still in a stage where they need extra nurturing.

8  As it grows, prune the lower leaves off of the Olive Tree as it begins to grow, to encourage its upward growth into a tree.

9  Transplant the small trees outdoors only if you live in a warm climate.

Planting From a Cutting: 

If you want to grow an Olive plant that one day bears actual fruit, it is better to grow from a cutting than the seed.

1  Find a friend or local tree nursery who would give you a small cutting of their already growing olive tree.

2  With a sharp set of scissors or branch trimmer, cut a small branch off a tree, just under where the “V” is (sort of two small branches in one).

3  Dip it in water and if you have some available, then dip the cutting in “root stim” (Comes in a small bottle and looks like this: (  Root stim is a plant hormone that can aid in getting a cutting to grow a root.  You could possibly borrow a bottle from a neighbor or a nursery may donate one to your class.

4  Follow the same instructions of the Second Carton section from above.  Keep the plant in the sunlight, Spray the Leaves, and water once a week.  It is important to spray the leaves everyday as this is how the plant will first take in water, whereas there are no roots as of yet.  Olive plants need lots of sunlight as they are originally a plant from the Middle East.

Note:  if you are planting from a raw cutting, it is always best to cut just under one of the “V’s” or “W’s” where the very new baby growth is, as this is what will grow new roots with best possibility.  The older wood pruned off can be saved for other activities, like handing someone an olive branch (sign of peace).

For more tips on growing and pruning Olive Trees, you can visit here:

and here:

Olive Tree Nursery Outing:

Have your class visit a local Tree Nursery.   Phone ahead and ask if they have any Olive Trees there to study.  If there are no Olive trees yet around to study, study some of the other trees at the Nursery.  If a trek to a local nursery is not possible, have a simple outdoor trek around the school grounds.  Ask the Learners to study the growth patterns of the tree branches.  If your school is close to the ocean, visit the beach and retrieve seashells that clearly show the spiral growth pattern.  It is called the Fibonacci Spiral. Here are some of the other plants and seeds they may find to see the Spiral: the Pinecone, in the Branch growth pattern of trees, the mini-fruit pieces of the Pineapple, the Artichoke flower, a Fern during its uncurling, and Seashells.

Science and Math are so intricately connected in all areas.  The Fibonacci Spiral and The Fibonacci Sequence is a great example of this. Fibonacci is a Number / Integer Sequence, that when applied in geometrical form, manifests in a Spiral as in that of a Pine Cone or a SeaShell.  The sequence was named after an Italian mathematician known as Leonardo of Pisa (or Leonardo de Fibonacci).  In 1202, he wrote a book called Liber Abaci in which he gives name to the number sequence.  There are historical examples of the sequence showing up in East Indian mathematics as well.

In Spiritual Theory, Life must look back on itself before it can move forward.  In Relation to the human species, we must look back toward our Ancestors to learn Wisdom and give Gratitude to Life in the Present in order to move into the Future in the best way and in the Best Direction.  Because in theory the Spiral is not quantifiable in the concrete sense; i.e. it is a sequence that is Infinite (no final end number), mathematicians use straight lines around the spirals to give it as close to a concrete geometric equation as is possible.  Hence, the spiral looks like a spiral of expanding squares as shown here, and is known as the Golden Mean Ratio.  In biological settings, The Fibonacci Sequence can be seen in the Spirals of the Pinecone, in the Branch growth pattern of trees, the mini-fruit pieces of the Pineapple, the Artichoke flower, a Fern during its uncurling, and Seashells.

To further see the mathematical relationship of the Fibonacci Number Sequence to the Fibonacci Spiral, you can visit our Math-Skills page:

And for other Fun Learning Science Games, we invite you to visit here:


Creating a Platylope

How about a “platy-lope” – an animal that is half platypus and half antelope?

This week, have your students create a new species, and write about and draw a picture of their animal. Have them examine the qualities of different species, and combine them into what they think would be the most adaptable survivable animal.  It could be a “dolphi-gator” – an animal that is half dolphin and half alligator. It could be a “spid-eagle” – a half spider and half eagle. Continue reading “Creating a Platylope”

Create a Weather Chart for Your Elementary Classroom

Your grade school / elementary age children have a natural curiosity about the weather, so why not spend some time teaching them about it?  It’s especially helpful if you create an activity that is heavy in visual excitement.  One idea that fits the description:  Having the kids create their own weather chart.

To do this, you’ll collect materials that are found in the classroom or around most homes. For the background, use a regular sized piece of paper.  Although construction paper is usable, as is also something with a border, even plain white printer paper will be fine.  What will truly create the visual excitement will be the elements that you’ll put on it:  things such as small suns, snowflakes or raindrops, clouds, etc.  On each of the following steps, have the kids add the creative items.

To create the sun, on a separate piece of paper, draw a sun.  You should either use yellow construction paper for this, or if you only have the white, then make sure you color in your sun brightly with yellow marker or crayon.  Adding a smiley face inside is a cute extra touch.  Beneath the picture, write “sunny.”

Continue reading “Create a Weather Chart for Your Elementary Classroom”

Teaching Your Class About Mammals

Want a fun way to teach your elementary kids about mammals?  Here’s a plan of teaching tips that your class will find entertaining and you will know is educational.  To do this, you’ll need:

1)    several pictures of mammals

2)    index cards

3)    books or websites about mammals, and

4)    some mammal take-home sheets

Once you have the materials, start by showing your students pictures of five mammals that are quite different from each other.  For instance, a dog, rabbit, whale, kangaroo and monkey.  Inform the children that each picture is a picture Continue reading “Teaching Your Class About Mammals”

Make a Nest & Bird Feeder

The early fall weeks of the new school year are a good time to teach your elementary students about the birds that live around them.  This is the time of the year when the birds that are still around, are looking for shelter and for something to eat.  That gives your kids the opportunity to learn about their feathered friends by working on projects such as a bird nest and a bird feeder.

Let’s talk about the nest first.  On a day when the weather is not too chilly, take the children outside and go on a nest hunt.  Have them look in an area with plenty of trees for a real nest.  As you look at it together, (or talk about it if you don’t happen to find one that Continue reading “Make a Nest & Bird Feeder”

Teaching Through Natural Inspiration

For learners to become lifelong learners and well-rounded happy people in society, it is important for us to work with them.  Finding innovative ways of teaching that will produce effective results is a challenge that every teacher faces in the classroom.  Integrating learning with games simply makes teaching and learning fun.  In some cases where needed, it can provide an impetus for re-stimulating a child’s natural desire to learn.This is especially important if, during anywhere in the child’s schooling, there was an overemphasis on making the grade – where making the grade became a subconsciously anxiety-driven displaced goal for recognition and appreciation. Continue reading “Teaching Through Natural Inspiration”