Science in a swag bag
Inside your bag you will find several items you can find around the house or at various
fast food outlets. Here’s how to create some really cool science activities using
inexpensive materials. Just in case you are visual learners, videos of all the activities
can be found on the provided memory stick.
The pad of paper kindly supplied by Josh Rosenberg and Gordon Urquhart from
Macdonald Realty is more than just advertising; it is also a science experiment that will
help you understand why planes fly. Challenge your students by having them try this
activity with papers of different sizes. Fold the paper in half so it looks like a wing. Does
the shape make a difference to the lift of the paper?
1. Hold the edges of a piece of paper between the fingers of each hand, leaving the
long ends of the paper hanging down.
2. Blow just on top of the edge of the piece of paper. Try blowing lightly, then take a
deep breath and give a huge blow onto the paper.
As you blew on the paper, it rose into the air. Moving air has pressure. When air is
flowing quickly, its pressure gets lower, or decreases. Slower moving air, on the other
hand, has higher pressure. The higher air pressure below the paper lifts it up. This
principle of moving air and air pressure is what creates lift. The change in the pressure
of moving air was discovered by a Swiss scientist named Daniel Bernoulli, so it is called
the Bernoulli principle.
Here’s a snappy activity that will teach you something about molecules and make you
giggle. Challenge your students by asking them how to make a rubber band get hot
without putting it someplace warm or without using something to warm it.
1. Hold the rubber band across your upper lip or forehead. Make note of the
temperature- how does it feel?
2. Now, moving the rubber band away from your lip, quickly stretch and unstretch the
band several times. Don’t stretch it so far that it breaks.
3. Put the rubber band back against your lip or forehead. Does it feel hot or cold?
Before you stretched the rubber band it felt cool. After you stretched it, the band felt
warmer. When you stretched the rubber band you rearranged the molecules. The
movement of the molecules created heat. So each time you stretched and unstretched
the rubber band you put energy into the band, which was then released as heat.
This stick can do more than swirl sugar and cream in your beverage. It’s also the
beginning of a science experiment. Challenge your students by asking them how to tell
the time without a watch.
1. Find a sunny spot and push the stick upright into the ground, grass or even a flower
pot. The stick is called a “gnomon”.
2. At first light, place a stone or pebble at the end of the shadow cast by the stick.
Continue doing this once an hour on the hour. By day’s end, you will have made a
The shadow cast by the stick changed position and length throughout the day. For the
next few weeks the shadow will match the pebbles at the same time each day. The
length of the shadow will change throughout the year, becoming shorter in winter and
longer in summer. Noon on a sundial is when the sun is at the highest point during the
day and the shortest shadow will be cast.
“A.M” means ante meridiem or before noon, while “P.M.” means “post meridiem” or after
Catsup is not only good on fries, it’s good in a pop bottle. Watch! Challenge students by
asking them how you can get the packet to go from the top of the bottle to the bottom
without turning the bottle upside down.
1. Fill a large clear plastic soda pop bottle with warm water. Drop the catsup, soy or
mustard packet into the bottle. It should float near the middle of the bottle and not sink
to the bottom.
2. Put a cap on the bottle, then squeeze the sides of the bottle.
NOTE: If the packet in your science swag bag doesn’t work, you might need to find one
that has a bigger air pocket. Grab several from a fast food restaurant and see which
ones float when put into a bowl of warm water.
You made something called a “Cartesian Diver”. The food packet contains a small
amount of air. When you squeezed the sides of the bottle you compressed the air in the
packet and the packet sank. When you let go of the sides of the bottle the air inside the
packet expanded and the packet rose.
Salt and Pepper
Cut down your sodium intake by using salt for a science activity. Challenge your
students to separate the salt from the pepper without touching the salt, pepper or plate.
No blowing on the salt or pepper allowed.
1. Sprinkle the salt and pepper onto a plate and gently shake the plate to combine.
2. Blow up the balloon and tie it off. Rub the balloon on a wool sweater, or rub it on
clean hair. Hold the charged balloon over the plate.
The pepper jumped from the plate onto the sides of the balloon but the salt stayed on
the plate. It is easier to lift the pepper with the static charge because pepper weighs less
Did you know that the popcorn sitting in your cupboard is a seed that can be grown into
a plant? This is the perfect activity for a classroom or even a school.
1. Place about 1/4 cup of unpopped popcorn between a sheet of paper towelling or
coffee filter paper. Wet the paper so that it is damp but not dripping.
2. Place the damp towelling with the popcorn in a ziplock plastic bag and seal. Put the
bag in a warm place, like a sunny window. In several days the popcorn will begin to
3. When the popcorn has long roots, gently place the germinated seed into a small pot
filled with potting soil. Place the pot in a sunny spot and watch the plant grow.
Transplant the popcorn outdoors when there isn’t any danger of frost. Harvest the corn
when the husks dry out. The ear of corn will only be about 10 cm long