top of page

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.


Take Flight

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.


What happened?

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.


Rubber Band

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?

What Happened?


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



What Happened?

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 Packet

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.


What Happened?

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.


What Happened?

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

than salt.


Popcorn Plant

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

bottom of page