We often throw stuff in the air when we are celebrating. You see confetti at New Year’s, rice (or bird seed) at weddings, but what about St. Patrick’s Day? These flying potato poppers make a cool sound, create a celebratory mood, and they can teach your 4th grader about the power of air pressure. Just make sure she doesn’t point her popper directly at anyone. You can save the poked potatoes and use them to make an Irish supper.
What You Need:
- Cheap ball point pen, ideally out of ink
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Pliers (optional)
What You Do:
- Help your child tug the ink tube from the pen. You might need to use pliers.
- Dispose of the ink tube before it has time to make a mess.
- Place the pen on the cutting board.
- An adult should use the knife to cut off the end of the pen opposite from where your child pulled out the ink tube. When the knife has gotten through most of the pen barrel, it might work best to snap off rather than cut off the last part.
- Help your child sand both ends of the pen barrel until smooth.
- Wash the pen barrel with soap and water, especially if you plan on eating the poked potatoes.
- Have your child scrub the potato, and help her cut it into 1/2 inch slices.
- Have your child cover the top of popper with her finger as she pokes it into a potato slice.
- Remove the pen barrel from the potato. A small piece of potato should be trapped inside.
- Help your child use the narrower end of the chopstick to push the potato piece 1/2 inch farther into the tube. Remove the chopstick
- Ask your child to flip over the pen barrel popper, and poke the potato again with the other end of the popper.
- There should be potato pieces in both sides of barrel now. In the middle of popper, there is a pocket of air.
- Remind your child to point the tube away from herself, you, and any other hazards in the room.
- Have your child reinsert the narrow end of the chopstick into the end of popper that already has the potato pushed in a bit. This time, however, have her use a sharp quick motion to poke to chopstick far into the tube.
- The far potato plug should shoot out, making a pleasant popping sound.
- If your child’s popper does not pop, do not despair. Remove the old potato pieces. Poke the potato again making sure the potato pieces completely fill the barrel. Also, fresh potato pieces work best. Limp potatoes tend to not make a complete seal.
The power of the popper comes from the air inside that is suddenly compressed by the chopstick plunger. This activity might be more fun with several kids, and several potato poppers. Prizes can be awarded to the children with the potato pieces that goes the farthest. Have the kids sweep up afterwards.
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