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If you can’t reuse it, refuse it!

On this #WorldEnvironmentDay the big focus is plastic. Plastics are fantastic materials that can be used for all sorts of things. They can made into different shapes, they can be hard, soft, flexible, rough, smooth, opaque, transparent, strong, durable, waterproof, they can be any colour and they never go rusty! Just have a look at all of the things in your house that are made of plastic (0r a least partly).

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news though. Most plastics take a very long time (hundreds of years) to break down. That’s not too bad if you buy something and use it for a long time but if you use it and throw it away it will add to the mountain of plastic that is just not going away. It’s in landfill sites, in the oceans, in fish’s tummies, on beaches and all around us. That’s really sad.

So what can we do? Just remember the three Rs….Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

REDUCE: this is the most important one. It’s best to use less plastic in the first place. Could you use something else? Do you really need it anyway? Try to choose things that have as little packaging as possible. If companies realise that people won’t buy their products if they are overly packaged, they will reduce it. You can even get your grown ups to remind the government how important you think this is by signing this petition by Friends of the Earth. DO ONE THING: stop using drinking straws or get a reusable one.

REUSE:  Try to only buy reusable plastics…and then make sure you reuse them! Can you use old tubs to keep things in? Can you carry your packed lunch in reusable boxes instead of plastic bags? Remember, it doesn’t need to be you that reuses the things, can you pass them on to someone else when you’re done? Take care of your toys and donate them to charity shops or even sell them when you have grown out of them. DO ONE THING: use a refillable water bottle and make sure you always remember it on days out. There’s no point buying a refillable bottle and then buying more bottles because you have forgotten it!

RECYCLE: This is the one that we are usually pretty good at BUT it should only be a last resort. Plastics aren’t easy to recycle so lots of what goes into the recycling bins won’t actually be used. Really try to make sure that you are reducing and reusing plastics as much as possible first. DO ONE THING: volunteer to sort out the recycling at home. Make sure plastic film is taken off trays as this can mean that a whole lorry load will go to landfill if they can’t recycle it.

Would you like to know more about World Environment Day? You can visit the website for news stories from across the world on how people are finding new ways to reduce their use of plastic.

National Geographic have lots of information about how much plastic we use and what we can do about it. A million plastic bottles a minute is pretty hard to imagine.

You can even get involved in a huge science project with the Litterati app. You can help clean up your local area, while also gathering information which will show which big companies are the worst for making litter.

Let’s all work together to #BeatPlasticPollution!


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Fun with crystals

If you look closely at sugar or salt, you will see it is made up of lots of little crystals. We can ‘grow’ bigger crystals if we start from scratch and let them form slowly. So how do we make a crystal from scratch? We need to dissolve the salt or sugar and then let it recrystalise. You can try out these two experiments to make some rock candy and geodes. Both of these involve boiling water so definitely one for some grown-up help.

Rock candy

Heat a cupful of water in a pan until it is boiling. Then start adding sugar. Stir, add more sugar, stir, add more sugar, stir…you get the idea! Keep going until you cannot get any more to dissolve, this should be at least two cupfuls. This is called a saturated solution. Let the mixture cool down for around 20 minutes then pour into a tall glass. When the solution cools we say it supersaturated, this means it now has more sugar than it can normally hold. It’s ready to start growing crystals! If you hang a bamboo skewer into the glass (use a clothes-peg to keep it in place), crystals of sugar will start to form on the skewer. Remember we need SLOW formation so it will take a few days, perhaps even a week, be patient! It’s really important that it is left undisturbed for this time so put it somewhere out of the way.

Geodes

Geodes are mineral crystals found inside rocks, we can make our own inside eggshells. Make sure the eggshells are perfectly clean and the membrane has come away from the inside. Make a saturated solution like you did before, you can use sugar or try table salt or Epsom salts, then add a little food colouring. Pop the shells in an egg box and fill with this solution, the fuller the better but make sure they won’t spill! Leave them somewhere safe to evaporate and in a few days you should see the geodes form!

Crystals in nature

Crystals form in nature when some things become solids. This can be rocks that were molten (lava) or minerals that were dissolved in water. Molten rocks will solidify as they cool, dissolved mineral will crystalise as the water evaporates.

The size of the crystals depends on the time that they take to form. Fast=small, slow=big. Igneous rocks (ones that are made from lava or magma) might have small crystals if they came from a volcano as they would cool quickly in the air. Sometimes igneous rocks can be made slowly underground and we can often see larger crystals in these. Geodes come from dissolved minerals seeping into gaps in other rocks, the water evaporates soooo slowly that we get beautiful big crystals. You can try putting your egg geodes in different places when they are evaporating, perhaps one on a radiator, one on a windowsill and one somewhere cold. Just make sure they’re not going to get knocked over!

 


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Fab Science are excited to announce our first series of workshops for home educated children. Led by a qualified science teacher, each session will be a mix of structured activities and child-led exploration, with a big focus on hands-on science. The workshops will run at Great Hallingbury Village Hall on alternate Fridays during the summer term.

We have a one-off intro session on Friday 23rd March, just book this event to see what it’s all about and decide whether to commit to the next term. We’re running this ‘taster’ twice on Friday 23rd March: in the morning 10:30-12:00 and in the afternoon 12:45-2:15. Interest in this has already been overwhelming so book soon to avoid disappointment. Booking and information can be found at www.fabscience.co.uk/he.

Please tell your friends and we look forward to seeing you there!


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It’s World Book Day which means (if you’re not snowed in) that children across the country are going to school dressed up. Some schools go for traditional dress-up-as-your-favourite-character, which can lead to lively ‘debate’ about practically vs ideal costumes (Aliens Love Underpants anyone!). Some schools ask everyone to focus on the same author or book, we had an entire school of mini Where’s Wallys a few years ago, it made for some fab photos. Our school generally goes for the more obscure ‘dress as an adjective’ which really gets the children thinking. However your school chooses to celebrate it, World Book Day really does get families talking about books. So here are a few of our favourite science books for children…

See Inside Science (Usborne). We love this book! My sons had this from aged 5 and still find things in it that are interesting several years later. The other ‘See Inside’ books are also great. See Inside your Body is full of facts about poo and other gruesome stuff!

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (Rachel Ignotofsky). A beautifully illustrated book about some amazing women, it includes the most famous as well as many you may not have heard of. It is possibly a bit too focussed on American scientists but an interesting read and easy to dip into.

This is Not a Science Book. Bringing science and art together in a doodle-friendly book, one to keep handy for rainy days. Most of it just needs the book and a pencil so good for keeping kids entertained while out and about, there are a few others that need templates copying and cutting out for when you fancy a bit more of project.

Whizz Pop Bang. While not actually a book, I can’t miss an opportunity to mention this fantastic magazine. My kids still fight over it every month and they love trying out the experiments. It’s a great balance of facts and activities, all presented in a fun and interesting way. It is subscription only at the moment but you don’t have to sign up long term. You even get an email before the magazine arrives giving you a kit list…just add a few bits to your weekly shop and your kitchen will be a science lab on Whizz Pop Bang day!

Happy reading!


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British Science Week 2018 is nearly here and we’re so excited! We’ve been hearing about lots of exciting things planned in local schools, the Big Bang Fair at the NEC is an awesome (and free!) day out for the family and there are interesting things happening in museums and science centres across the country.

For schools, there is still time to make plans. Visit www.britishscienceweek.org for ideas to inspire your classes. Try out the citizen science projects or take part in the  poster competition. Most of all, get experimenting! There are resources galore in the activity packs, we particularly like ‘Poo from the Past’.

We have had a couple of cancellations for school workshops in BSW as a school have had to change their dates. We can now offer Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th March for theme days or curriculum linked workshops. One day for £400 or have both days for £750. We can run sessions for up to 5 classes in a day, working out at around £2.70 per child. See our schools page for more information.


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We have lots of egg-citing egg-speriments, super challenges and heaps of science fun this Easter. Find out about ‘magic’ seagull eggs, see the weight of air make them plop into a bottle, make eggs fly but try not to break them! 

We’ll be in Loughton, Bishop’s Stortford, Saffron Walden, Cambridge, Hertford and St Albans. Check dates and book today.

Some of our summer dates have also been released, we’re just waiting on a couple of venues to confirm…watch this space!


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Data protection laws are changing so we need your help! If you still want to be kept up to date with Fab Science events, you need to let us know. Just click ‘sign up’ below and enter your email address. You can still unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in our emails. As a THANK YOU for signing up, you’ll be entered into a free prize draw to win a Fab Science party*. The draw will be on 25th May 2018 and the prize will be valid for one year.

Sign up

PLEASE NOTE: if you do not sign up, you will no longer receive information from Fab Science about future events after 25th May. Camps sell out quickly so you could miss out!

*The prize is a Fab Science party worth £180. This is a standard party for up to 15 children within 15 miles of Bishop’s Stortford. If you would like an upgrade to a larger party, a venue at a further distance or optional extras such as dry ice or party bags, you may pay for these at the normal prices. Party dates are subject to availability so early booking is strongly recommended. Fab Science parties are suitable for children aged 5 and up.


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It’s time to get messy! Here is one you definitely don’t want to do in your kitchen, take the experimenting outdoors.

You may have already seen or heard about the Coke and Mentos experiment. Basically you drop some Mentos in a bottle of Diet Coke and stand well back as it makes a big fizzy mess! First, you need to know what is going on. Fizzy drinks are just flavoured drinks that have a whole load of carbon dioxide gas dissolved into them. The gas stays trapped inside for as long as the lid is screwed on tight, when you take the lid off it will slowly come out as small bubbles. This is what makes the drink ‘fizzy’. If you’re a very patient person who really likes watching bubbles, you could sit and watch it for a couple of days while each bubble gradually makes its way out. I’m guessing that you would like something a bit more dramatic! By dropping things into the bottle, you can get all those bubbles to form at once and rush out of the bottle in a big fountain. The most famous example is the Mento but it is not the only contender for best fizz-producer. You can try out other sweets, salt, sugar, cake sprinkles…whatever you have in the cupboard. Try different drink brands and flavours, which is best? Don’t waste your money on expensive drinks, I’ve had great results with the cheapest supermarket brands.

Two very important things that you need to know: (1) This is an OUTDOOR experiment!!! It makes a big mess so make sure it is on the grass or somewhere that spillage doesn’t matter. (2) Only use sugar-free drinks, they simply work better (and don’t leave a horrid sticky mess that will attract every ant in the world to your garden). You might like to make a cardboard tube ‘launcher’ so you can drop several sweets in at once. Be warned it ‘erupts’ pretty quickly so stand back!

And … do this outdoors (did I mention that?).


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When you hear someone speak, you don’t just hear what they are saying. You can also tell where they are. Trick your ears by making this simple ‘Ear Switcher’. All you need is about a metre of hosepipe, a couple of funnels and some sticky tape. Cut the hose into two pieces, stick a funnel in the end of each one, then tape it together as in the picture. If you have a plastic Alice band, stick the whole thing on that to make it easier. Pop it on your head and hold the free ends of the tube in your ears (never stick anything right into your ear!). Now close your eyes and get someone to make noises, can you work out where they are? We normally work out direction because sounds reach one ear before the other. Sound travels super-fast (over 700 miles per hour) so there is only about a two-thousandth of a second between hearing it in one ear and then the other. Your brain is clever enough to notice that difference and use it work out a direction….until you confuse it with an Ear Switcher!


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Volcanoes hold great fascination among children (and grown-ups!). Here are some ideas for making your own and experimenting with the best eruptions.

First you need to find out about volcanoes. Do you have any books about them? Try looking up ‘volcano facts for kids’ on the internet. There are some great pictures and videos available too. Do you want to make a cinder cone, stratovolcano or shield volcano? Then think about what to make it out of. You could use sand, salt dough, paper mache, Lego, junk…be creative. It will get messy though! Whatever you make it out of, it needs to be on a big tray to catch the ‘lava’. Put a small bottle inside to be the ‘magma chamber’, make sure you don’t cover the top of this.

Experimenting with eruptions 

There are a few options for making your volcano erupt. You can try them out (on a tray or in the sink!) before choosing one to go in your volcano model.

The most common is vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Just mix a tablespoon or two of bicarbonate of soda with about a cupful of warm water. Pour it into a small bottle, add a squirt of washing-up liquid and then vinegar. You can experiment with different amounts of vinegar and powder.

Or try a mini version of Coke and Mentos. Take a small (250ml) bottle of diet cola, drop in three Mentos and decide if that’s the eruption for you!

My favourite is a much slower eruption but it just keeps on going for ages. This one needs some 6% hydrogen peroxide (available cheaply in all chemists, don’t use any stronger than 6%). Pour 100ml into a small bottle, add a good squirt of washing-up liquid and then add the magic ingredient: a spoonful of yeast mixed with warm water. The foam ‘lava’ is safe to play with, it’s just soapy water.

How do these work?

  • The vinegar and bicarbonate of soda react together because they are an acid and an alkali (see the colour changing cabbage experiments for ideas about this). The chemical reaction makes a type of salt, some more water and carbon dioxide gas. It’s the gas the makes it into an eruption, the washing up liquid just catches some of this gas to make a load of bubbles.
  • See the Fizzy Fountains experiment for ideas about Coke and Mentos.
  • The final eruption is called ‘elephant’s toothpaste’ as it looks a bit like a massive heap of toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. The hydrogen peroxide can break down to make water and oxygen gas. It usually happens pretty slowly but the chemicals in yeast speed it up. All the gas bubbling up through the washing up liquid is what makes all the foamy fun!