Monday, March 22, 2010

Flowers & chemistry activity

Received this from  I was getting ready to teach plants, so I thought this might be a great activity to add especially now that spring is here.

Here in Atlanta, GA USA spring is underway. My 9 year old son and I were in the back yard digging up mica and other rock finds when I turned and saw flowers on the side of the house. I showed my son and a huge smile came across both our faces. There was snow on the ground 2 weeks ago. He ran and got his camera and took a picture. This is so wonderful seeing the flowers come out. It gives everyone such a lift and makes things feel so new and happy! (For those of you down under, grab those flowers now before they disappear.) We are also about to enter our high pollen season where yellow powder covers everything like a sandstorm. Ugh! (Achoo!) Excuse me.

When my son took the picture of the flowers it gave me nice idea for you all. I want to let you in on some chemistry fun with flowers. We are going to dry flowers. Have the kids choose flowers they like. You will need a shoe box and Borax. Most dollar stores and general merchandise stores carry it and it’s pretty cheap.

Borax is a natural compound found as rock mostly from lakes and rivers that have dried up then rehydrated and dried up over and over. The main element in borax from the periodic table is Boron. The most well known brand of Borax is Twenty Mule Team. It is named after the twenty-mule teams that were used to move borax out of Death Valley, California to the nearest railroad in the late 1800’s. The elements on the periodic table that make up Borax are Sodium, Boron and Oxygen. The formula is Na2B4O7

Show your children the periodic table and where these elements are located. Let them feel the powder and explain that it is made up of these 3 elements. Take a picture of the flowers before you dry them. Pour the Borax into the shoe box. Bury the flowers in the powder and put the lid on the box. Slide it under the couch or put it on a shelf in the closet and let it sit untouched for 3 weeks. After those 3 weeks pass, check on them. They should have retained their color but be dry to the touch. Take another picture of them now that they are dried. You can leave them as is or you can preserve them by spraying them with hair spray.

Have the kids make a poster. Use the original picture and paste it on the left. Add the plus sign, then add the elements squares from your printable table for Boron, Sodium and Oxygen. Then place the equals sign beside those and the final picture after that. Original flower plus Boron, Sodium and Oxygen equals dried flower. Have the kids make an arrangement in a vase with the dried flowers and give them to a friend or relative. Have the kids explain that they dried them with chemistry. Yay!

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