March is National Reading Month and one of the best adventure series for kids is Harry Potter. Would you like to make has some wizard magic like Harry Potter? He can’t do magic outside Hogwarts but you can with these chemistry magic tricks and wizard science experiments. Hocus pocus up some Harry Potter fun with kitchen science experiments. Teachers and homeschool parents, impress, educate and engage apprentice wizards with these chemistry magic tricks from Harry Potter. Use these weird science experiments for a Harry Potter Halloween party! Children’s literature selections are given for follow up.
Eerie ectoplasm. Ectoplasm is really the outer surface of cytoplasm, but in paranormal speak, it’s the stuff that comes out of someone’s mouth to show a spectral presence. Gross, right? Well you can make play ectoplasm with these super simple kitchen science experiments. Mix equal parts Elmer’s school glue and liquid laundry starch. Work together with fingers until it forms a rubbery putty. This is also called “farting” putty (or more politely, noise putty) because it burps when you fold it. Like a balloon, air is trapped inside and has no where to go. Teach students that this is how you prove that air takes up space and has pressure. Read Dr. Seuss “Bartholomew and the Ooblek” or “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.”
Spirit Writing or Invisible Ink. Use these chemistry magic tricks to make ghostly writing appear from nowhere. Lemon juice makes the perfect invisible ink. Use a cotton swab or toothpick to write a message in invisible ink. To read the invisible ink, you must hold it over a warm light bulb, candle or flame. The writing will magically appear.
Rubber Bones. Turn any ordinary chicken or turkey bone into a bendable rubber bones with simple kitchen science experiments. Scrub a chicken bone clean and soak in white vinegar for 24 hours. When you take the bone out of the vinegar, it will bend and not break. Tell students that you have cast a spell upon the bone to make it bend. The chemistry behind this magic is that the vinegar breaks down and dissolves the hardened calcium and mineral deposits it the bone. Read William Steig “The Magic Bone.”
“Unbreakable” plastic bag magic tricks. Tell students that you have special magic bags that will not leak even if you poke them. Fill a ziploc bag with colored water. Seal it and then gently push a sharpened pencil through the bag and remove it. The plastic is a polymer that stretches and seals the hole so no liquid spill. Teach kids the cute song “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” or read “Basil Brush Gets a Medal.”
Wizard magic fire shield. Tell students that you have a magic handkerchief that can walk through fire. Show them how you coat an old bandanna with the wizard fire shield solution. Dip it in rubbing alcohol, squeeze it out but don’t let it dry. While it’s still damp, hold a match to the tip of the bandanna. Flames will engulf the bandanna but it will not burn up. After a moment, the flames will burn out and the bandanna will be untouched. These magic tricks are obviously dangerous and adults-only science experiments. The chemistry principle that makes this work is that alcohol burns quickly and at a very low heat. It’s combustible but not hot enough to burn the bandanna. This is how an alcohol burner or canned heat (Sterno) works. Restaurants use these flaming drinks and desserts (Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, Greek Saganaki cheese). For a good children’s literature connections, read the classic ballet story “The Firebird” or the Aztec legend of the Quetzel-coatal or Phoenix (the bird who rises from the ashes of a fire and is clothed with all the colors of the fire).
Haunted beans. These are actually called Mexican Jumping Beans and are little beans with a live worm dwelling inside. When you hold the beans in your hand, the worm moves the beans jump and wiggle. You can pretend to talk to the beans, ask them questions, etc. The beans will seem to move in answer to your questions. Order Jumping Beans from Amazon or improvise with popcorn. Tell kids that an wild little sprite lives inside and wants to get out. As you heat popcorn, he escapes. Children’s literature tie-ins are the fairytale “Jack and the Beanstalk” or the Greek myth “Pandora’s Box” and “The Popcorn Book” (Tome DePaola).
Magic color chromatography science experiments. Gather an assortment of black markers of different brands and styles (water color, permanent). Dampen one piece of paper towel for each marker. Touch marker tips to the wet paper. Watch each ink blob diffuse and separate into an array of colors. The chemistry principle behind this is that black isn’t a color but a combination of others colors. So the ink is made up of many colors. Read “A Color of His Own” by Leo Lioni.
Fleeing magic fleas: Fill a pie tin with water. Add black pepper and then red pepper. The different pepper types will repel each other like magnets. What’s really happening is that the pepper is disturbing the meniscus–or molecular force that holds water inside a glass. You can show the meniscus principle by slowly over-filling a bottle. The water will actually rise above the level but stay in place by the meniscus “skin” till too much is added and it breaks. Read “The Flea’s Sneeze” by Carla Firehammer. Or read Anansi the Spider African folk tales.
Genie in a bottle. Rinse a glass bottle and freeze it. Place a dime atop the bottle and then call the genie out. Slowly the dime will lift to let trapped air escape. Then the dime will clink back in place. It will repeat this several times. What’s happening is that as the frost inside the bottle melts, it expands and forces air out of the bottle. Read Arabian Nights “Aladdin’s Lamp” or any of the wonderful Persian “One Thousand and One Nights” stories of Scheherazade.
To round out these literature based kitchen science experiments unit, read the Norman Juster classic “The Phantom Tollbooth” along with this experiment. In the story, Milo is Bored (a word coined in the early1960’s to reflect teen response to post-war complacency). Through a series metaphorical allusions, Milo, Tock (a Watch Dog), and the Spelling Bee learn to look at things differently, to really look at things and enjoy them.