May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Kitchen Chemistry

Posted: Thursday, November 1st, 2012

by Judith Aguilar

My favorite aspect of attending the CSTA Conference is getting new ideas from practicing teachers. My all-time favorite lesson that I picked up as a new teacher was for Kitchen Chemistry.  It was perfect for my 5th grade classroom. It had all the components I needed for the scientific process and it covered the CA standard for chemical reactions. You set up a station of mystery liquids and powders to demonstrate some common reactions such as exothermic and endothermic, bubbles and fizzes, and creating a neutral solution when mixing an acid and a base. It also follows the 5E lesson plan template, which is a great learning cycle for all students.

All the materials you will be using are perfectly safe to use in the classroom. As the name gives it away, all your materials will come from the kitchen. It takes a lot of preparation on the teacher’s part, but the results are well worth the time. The materials you will need are zip-top bags, plastic spoons, small plastic cups with lids, cabbage juice indicator, vinegar, water, sodium chloride, cornstarch, sodium carbonate, powdered lemonade, Epsom salts, flour, lemon juice, and tincture of iodine. All these materials can be found in your grocery store. The small plastic cups with lids are the type that ketchup and such “to-go” condiments come in.

Label the powders with letters and the liquids with numbers. The chemical reactants are purposefully not identified so students can’t just guess at what caused the reaction. The rule is that the students have to mix two powders with one liquid and witness the change. They will write down the formula they used and the changes they observed, decide whether it produced a chemical or physical reaction, and then go back to choose another formula. They eventually need to choose a change that they try to replicate at least three times, pinpointing the powder or liquid combination that causes that change. The vocabulary words they are using are:

  • solution,
  • reactants
  • products
  • chemical change
  • physical change

During this lesson, students are engaged, ask questions, collaborate with other groups, and it is very exciting for them when they observe an exothermic or endothermic reaction.  They truly experience the scientific process by trying out new formulas and trying to explain what is happening, using what they have already learned from previous lessons and activities.

Powders: Liquids:
A=Flour 1=Water
B=Epsom salts 2=Water w/cabbage juice indicator
C=Powdered lemonade 3=Vinegar with cabbage juice indicator
D=Calcium chloride 4=Sodium Carbonate solution w/ purple cabbage juice indicator
E=Sodium carbonate 5=Diluted lemon juice with cabbage juice indicator
F=Corn starch 6=Diluted tincture of iodine solution

Written by Judith Aguilar

Judith Aguilar is a science teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District and is a member of CSTA.

4 Responses

  1. Yay Judith! Good work!

  2. Thank you for sharing your lesson with us. You mentioned above that you have a 5e lesson plan to go along with this. Can you post the lesson plan as an attachment to your article?

    Thanks Again!

  3. I am glad I was able to share. I have a written out format of my lesson, but I will type it and attach it this week-end for you.

  4. Judith, I was thrilled to see the article and especially you as the author of the article!
    Thank you for sharing your good work. I am soo proud of you.

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California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.