Special Events

How It Works: The Wizard of Oz

This was the last of my How It Works events for the spring and I think it was the most successful. The experiments worked great, we had a huge (for this program series) turnout, and the kids really seemed to enjoy themselves. I need to try and figure out how to work STEM programs around book/movie themes!

Of course, I forgot to take pictures but I have some of the signs I posted and the equipment we used for some of the experiments. First, we made a tornado in a bottle to get our story going. I bought a tornado tube on Amazon and attached two empty soda bottles. It didn’t work great (it required some squeezing and swirling of the bottles) but it worked well enough to show the tornado and why it worked. I made the accompanying sign:

Tornado bottle sign.jpg

The text and information for this sign came from one of my favorite STEM books: The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments: Awesome Things To Do With Your Parents, Babysitters, and Other Adults by Rachel Miller, Holly Homer & Jamie Harrington.

the 101 coolest simple science experiments

The tornado took us “over the rainbow” so next we made our exploding rainbow cups. I put two drops of food coloring and about two tablespoons of white vinegar into each cup. In separate cups I put about a tablespoon of baking soda. Then I picked six kids to help explode the rainbow. They poured their baking soda into the vinegar and WHOOSH! Colorful rainbow cup explosions. (I put the vinegar cups in disposable baking trays so we wouldn’t have a huge mess to clean up.) I made this sign to explain why it worked:

Exploding rainbow cups.jpg

I found the experiment here and used some of the wording on the site.

Once we were in Oz we started to meet our friends. The first friend Dorothy meets in Oz is the scarecrow who wants a brain. So we explored how our brains work. I had them draw corresponding pictures on two circles cut out of card stock. I made a fish on one circle and a fish bowl on the other as an example. (I also told them they could draw a bird in a cage or a person on one side and jail bars on the other.) I had some very creative kids. One drew a nest and a tree and one drew a jail cell and a zombie!

Once the drawings were done, we taped them onto a straw which we then spun between our palms and the two images made one! Totally cool.

Here’s mine:

Brain game sign.jpg

This experiment and sign wording was also found in The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments book.

Next in the story, Dorothy meets the Tinman who wants a heart. So we checked our pulses. We poked a toothpick into a mini marshmallow and placed them on the inside of our wrists and watched our heartbeats. This had varying success. I don’t think the kids were sitting still enough to see anything but they did enjoy eating the marshmallows …

I didn’t make a sign for this experiment since it was so simple but I found it in The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments book.

Finally, we met the Wicked Witch and made “melting” bath fizzies. I’d already mixed together the baking soda, cream of tartar, olive oil, and food coloring. I gave each kid a silicone cupcake mold to fill and take home. (I ran out of molds so we had to give some latecomers plastic cups!) They filled them about halfway and then patted them down nice and tight. I told them to take the fizzies home and let them dry for two days. Once they’re completely dry, they can add the fizzy to their bath (or drop it into a filled sink). I wanted them to have an experiment to complete at home because, of course, there’s no place like home. I told the kids to come back in and let me know if the fizzies worked!

Melting bath fizzies sign.jpg

This experiment and wording came from the Smithsonian Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects book. One of the parents was leafing through it at the end of the program so I checked it in for her so she could take it home and do some at-home experiments with her kids. I like to think the How It Works programs (the family attended three out of four) sparked an interest in science and experimenting!

maker lab

The kids had an awesome time. I had an awesome time. I even wore my red flats so I had on “ruby slippers.” A great way to wrap up our How It Works series!

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