After one of our first homeschool science lessons this year I came up with what I thought was a brilliant application of our chemistry lesson. The chemistry lesson was all about the difference between a mixture and a compound, and I thought, “I’ll give them a mixture and have them figure out how to separate a mixture.”
It was a brilliant idea.
Until my kids heard the instructions, “you have to separate the mixture into its separate components and you cannot touch it with your hands.”
You want to know what brilliant idea they came up with?
They got disposable plastic gloves and started slowly pulling out all of the different components.
And I felt like my brilliant hands on chemistry lesson had been destroyed.
(This post contains affiliate links marked with an *)
Creating a chemistry lesson for the kids on how to separate a mixture
After reading the CKE Chemistry lesson, I put together a mason jar full of materials for each kid. The jar had several legos, some pony beads* (this set is awesome because the beads are pre-sorted into their colors, not that that matters for this activity), seed beads*, and sugar dissolved into water. The materials were deliberately of different sizes so they could use strainers and different things like that to get it separated.
Once I gave the kids their instructions I asked what they were going to use.
And that brings us back to the slowly separating it by hand, and following the letter of the instructions, but not the intent.
I pointed out their method was going to be incredibly slow and messy, and they blinked at me as if that was part of the point.
What tools might you use to separate a mixture?
After I lost my patience with their impossibly slow method of separating it with their hands, they started to come up with some fun ideas for how they might separate out different pieces.
- Use a slotted spoon* to pull out the Lego pieces
- Use a slotted colander* to pull out the pony beads (mine is slightly melted from where I left it too near a very hot pot)
- Use a mesh colander* to get the seed beads out. (I have a small mesh one like the smallest one in this set, which made for some interesting challenges when trying to get the seed beads sorted out, also because of the sugar water they were kinda sticky, my bad)
- Let the water evaporate to get the sugar out.
Then they started brainstorming ways they might let the water evaporate. They asked about boiling their water on the stove. I nixed that one right away because of our past experiences with boiling sugar water.
Next they came up with microwaving it, and seeing if the water evaporated that way. I explained about the dangers of boiling water in the microwave, and they decided that was a horrible idea too.
So finally they decided on the old-fashioned way of letting the water sit outside in the hot Texas sun (it was still August when we did this, so hot Texas sun for sure), and we all agreed this would work.
How would your kids react if you gave them the job of separating a mixture?
Want some more chemistry fun?
- Quest for Arete
- Build an atom cookie
- How to Memorize the Periodic Table of Elements
- Science Behind JELLO