Science is happening all around us, twenty-four hours a day. Every time we breathe in and out, ride our bikes or cook dinner, we are experiencing scientific events. So why should we limit our child’s opportunity to learn about science to one short period of the school day?

Middle school children are learning about all types of science – physical, life and chemical. As parents you can talk about science almost continually though the day, if you really wanted to. Over breakfast, discuss the different compounds contained in the box of cereal. As your child brushes his teeth, talk about the chemical reaction taking place, creating foam. As you drive in the car, comment on the laws of motion – velocity, acceleration, momentum. And perhaps one of the most fascinating to kids is the physical science of chemistry, as they watch the composition and properties of matter change before their eyes.

There are plenty of opportunities to play around with science in the house. And what better place to start than your very own kitchen! Connections Academy, a leading national provider of virtual public schools, offers a Kitchen Science Club that specializes in just that – science experiments kids can do at home in their very own kitchens.

One of the main goals of the Kitchen Science Club is to “encrouage, participate and discuss science using household items,” says Laura Fiala, Connections Academy’s Manager of Curriculum Development. Here are a couple of cool experiments parents can do with their middle school age kids:

Comparing Solutions and Mixtures

What You Need:

  • Rice
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • 2 bowls
  • Cup of warm water

What You Do:

  1. Place a handful of rice and a spoonful of salt in one bowl and stir. 
  2. Pour warm water into the second bowl and add some sugar.
  3. Compare the two bowls and identify the rice and salt as a mixture (ingredients combined with no chemical reaction) and the sugar and water as a solution (a homogeneous mixture that forms when one substance dissolves in another.)
  4. Consider how one might separate the mixture (Colander? By hand?) and the solution (Evaporation? Boiling?)

Matter – Exploring Physical Changes in Matter by Making Gelatin (parent supervision required)

What You Need:

  • 1 envelope of gelatin
  • Water
  • Pot for boiling water
  • Bowl
  • Stovetop
  • Spoon for stirring

What You Do:

  1. Open gelatin and observe its appearance as a solid.
  2. Place water in the pot on the stovetop and bring to a boil. As the water begins to and boil, observe the water change from a liquid to a gas (steam).
  3. Turn off stove and add gelatin to the boiling water – stir. Observe the solid gelatin crystals dissolve in the water, note the color.
  4. Carefully pour the hot gelatin into a bowl and allow to set.
  5. Observe the gelatin in its new solid form
  6. Reflect on how the state of the ingredients changed throughout the course of making the gelatin.

Sometimes science concepts can be complicated, so if kids can make connections between science and their world, they are more likely to embrace it. Fiala says, “The nature of science is that kids should be making real world applications every day.” Fiala explains that when possible, parents should give kids the opportunity to design their own experiments (with adult supervision). It will challenge and reward them because they’ll have chosen to work with things that interest them.

But, says Fiala, “You don’t have to force things. Science can be organic too.” So, the next time you’re out for a walk, let your children stop to examine the muddy puddle by the curb. There may just be a tiny wetland ecosystem in there.