Juanita Lee
Prep a bar of Ivory soap in a microwave-safe dish for soap soufflé.

Experiments that result in surprise reactions leave a lasting impression on scientists.

Every experiment comes with a "wow" factor that questions the "how" factor.

When I was in elementary school, I loved beginning a new chapter in our science lessons. As soon as the teacher directed us to "open your books to the first page of chapter X," I would immediately turn to the last page of chapter X to see what experiment the book suggested to reinforce the scientific principles learned in that chapter. As we worked our way through the lesson, I would cross my fingers under my desk, hoping the teacher would announce that this time we were going to actually do the science experiment. Very seldom did it happen. I'm not sure if it was a lack of time or lack of supplies, but rarely did we ever get to experiment. I was always so disappointed.

I'm not going to pretend that I was good at science or even that I had a real interest in it. But rather I had an interest in trying things just to see what would happen. Science is one of those subjects where you can accidentally learn something and not even know it.

"Kids are naturally inquisitive and science feeds that curiosity, whether it's animals, planets, themselves, chemistry," says Jacklyne Carlson, associate professor of chemistry at Bismarck State College. "Science develops their observation and analytical skills."

So when my 10-year-old daughter came home from school one day and announced that she wants to be a scientist when she grows up, I took it as an opportunity to dig out a few common household items to try a few of those science experiments I missed out on in elementary school.

What kinds of experiments are best for kids? "It depends on how much of a mess you are willing to have in your house or garage," Carlson says, adding that there are usually ways to contain the mess, so to not let that deter you. She recommends choosing experiments kids can do themselves.

"There will be some things adults will have to do, but if the kids can do the bulk of the work, they will learn the most," she says. And while working, be sure to ask your miniature scientists, "What if we try this?" or "What do you think would happen if we...?"

While I could think of a few good standby experiments on my own, I knew Pinterest would provide a much more interesting list, and right I was. We settled on three easy-to-execute projects and gathered a few more scientists to make the activities even more fun.

#1 Soap Souffle

Bar of Ivory soap (it must be Ivory) microwave-safe dish.

What do you do?
1. Cut the Ivory soap into four pieces 2. Microwave the soap in a microwavesafe dish on high for 1.5-2 minutes 3. Watch as the soap begins to expand and erupt into beautiful, puffy clouds 4. Allow the soap to cool before touching it 5. Dig into the newly shaped mound of soap until it's nothing but powder.

How does it work?
Ivory is one of few bars of soap that contains air bubbles. When the soap is heated, the molecules of air in the soap quickly move far away from one another. This causes the soap to puff up and expand to an enormous size.


#2 Sparkly Explosion

vase baking soda vinegar food coloring glitter pan to contain the mess.

What do you do?
1. Measure and pour 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda into the vase 2. Add 6 drops of food coloring to the soda 3. Top it off with 1-2 teaspoons of glitter 4. Quickly pour 1/2 cup vinegar into the vase and watch for the eruption of sparkles.

How does it work?
Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid, and mixing acids and bases creates a reaction. The glitter is just for fun!


#3 Rainbow In A Jar

corn syrup blue Dawn dish soap water olive oil rubbing alcohol a glass cylinder that can hold 2 and 1/2 cups of liquid.

What do you do?
1. Mix 1/2 cup corn syrup with 1 drop blue and 1 drop red food coloring and pour it into the jar 2. While tipping the jar slightly, slowly pour 1/2 cup of dish soap down the side of the jar 3. Mix 1/2 cup water with 2 drops green food coloring and pour it down the side of the jar 4. Slowly pour 1/2 cup olive oil down the side of the jar 5. Mix 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol with 2 drops red food coloring and slowly pour it down the side of the jar.

How does it work?
This is a great science lesson on the density of different liquids and how some liquids don't mix but rather sit on top of one another. To reinforce this, gently stir the contents of the jar and watch the liquids separate out again.

It was a fun afternoon of experimenting, and luckily it was more trial than error. But when it comes to science, Carlson is quick to tell parents, "Don't be afraid as a parent to try any experiment. Don't worry if it doesn't work exactly like the directions say it will. You can learn a lot about the scientific method by trying to fix a problem."

Juanita Lee and her husband, Jon, have three children. Her day job is communications manager at Bismarck State College.