Science is sometimes a difficult subject for students to grasp fully. One way to help bring the topics to life is through the use of experiments. The hands-on learning will relate science to real life. A fun (and delicious) way to do this is through using candy. Luckily, there are plenty of great candy experiments that can be done to supplement learning.
Mentos and Diet Coke Volcano
One very popular science experiment includes adding Mentos candies to Diet Coke. The resulting geyser of cola is explosive and exciting. This well-tested experiment has been performed in many ways and was even tested on the television show Mythbusters. The combination of the Mentos and Diet Coke creates the perfect explosion for a volcano.
Creating a Mentos and Diet Coke volcano is a great activity for any student studying Earth Science, and in particular volcanoes, at any age level. However, younger children should be closely supervised by an adult and just watch to keep them safe. This activity should take about 30 minutes to make and decorate the volcano, and about five minutes for it to erupt after waiting about a day for the paint to dry.
Model an explosive erupting volcano using Mentos candies and Diet Coke.
- Two large pieces of white poster board
- Pencil or pen
- Masking tape
- Paints (various colors)
- One large piece of cardboard
- One two-liter bottle of Diet Coke (or other diet cola)
- Several pieces of newspaper
- Five to seven Mentos candies (any flavor)
Students should wear safety goggles or glasses and protective clothing. An adult should always be present and should drop the Mentos into the Diet Coke for young students. This experiment should be performed outside, if at all possible.
- Balance the two-liter bottle of Diet Coke on its lid in the middle of one piece of the poster board. Trace the lid onto the posterboard using a pen or pencil and then put the bottle to the side.
- Using the ruler, draw a straight line from the lid tracing to the edge of the poster board.
- Cut up the straight line and cut out the circle in the middle.
- Fold the posterboard into a cone shape and secure it using the tape.
- Fit the cone over the top of the bottle (you may have to cut the hole at the top bigger to fit it over the lid). Make sure the lid is coming out of the hole and can be twisted off easily.
- Cut the bottom of the posterboard so it is even and use the second piece of poster board (if necessary) to make the cone big enough to cover/hide the entire bottle.
- Flip the bottle and cone over and stuff the empty space with crumpled up balls of newspaper to hold the bottle securely in place.
- Tape the cone and bottle down to the large piece of cardboard to secure the entire volcano in place.
- Paint the posterboard cone to look like a volcano. The cardboard can also be painted as well. Let the paint dry completely.
- Unscrew the lid of the Diet Coke and put the lid aside.
- Hold the Mentos in a stack in one hand. Drop the Mentos into the bottle all at once and stand back!
- Clean up and dispose of the materials properly.
Separating Dyes in Skittles
Many types of food, such as candy, contain dyes to make them colorful and more appealing to consumers. These dyes are actually mixtures of colors that can be separated using the technique of chromatography. Paper chromatography will show which colors are contained in candy dyes by separating the different colors by weight or size. This activity can be done by students at any age level, although fully understanding the concept of paper chromatography is most likely more suited to middle school or high school students. This activity should take about 50 minutes.
Separate the dyes in various colors of Skittles candies using paper chromatography.
- Skittles candies - 1 of each color
- Distilled Water
- 400 mL beaker (or 2 cup glass measuring cup)
- Table Salt
- Toothpicks - one per color being used
- Filter paper (or a bottom of a coffee filter)
- Eye dropper
- Plastic wrap
- Petri Dish (or small bowl)
- 2 coffee mugs
- 1 drinking straw
Students should always wear protective eye coverings and other safety clothing when performing experiments.
Separating dye in Skittles
- On a piece of plastic wrap, place one candy of each color available about 2 cm apart.
- Use the eye dropper to put about 6 drops of water onto each candy and let them sit while you prepare the chromatography solution.
- Weigh out 0.5 g of table salt and add it to 250 mL of distilled water. Stir until fully dissolved (this is your chromatography solution).
- Cut a piece of filter paper into an 8 cm by 8 cm square.
- Draw a pencil line about 2 cm from the bottom of the square and make a pencil dot for each color candy you have on the line (evenly spaced) and label them with the colors.
- Using the toothpicks, transfer a small amount of the dye off the candies onto the correct pencil dot and gently blow on the dots to get them to dry. Be sure to use a different toothpick for every color.
- Repeat the transfer of colors and drying for a total of 4 times to make sure there is enough concentrated dye on the filter paper.
- Fill the Petri dish with the chromatography solution so it is about half way up the dish.
- Set the two coffee mugs upside down about 10 cm apart and place the straw across them. Place the binder clip in the middle of the straw and use it to secure the top of the filter paper so it hangs with the dyes at the bottom.
- Set the Petri dish between the mugs and adjust the clip until the bottom of the filter paper is touching the solution (but make sure the solution is NOT touching the dyes).
- Watch and record your observations until the dyes are at about 1 cm away from the top of the filter paper.
- Take the filter paper out of the solution and set it aside to dry. Clean up the lab and dispose of materials properly (or maybe make a fun Skittles wrapper purse!).
Sweeteners in Gum
Chewing gum is used for many reasons. Some people use it to freshen their breath, while others use it to stop cravings. Whatever the purpose of the gum, sweeteners are what make the gum taste so good. Those sweeteners can be tasted right away when the piece of chewing gum is first put in the mouth, but they often fade after chewing for a short amount of time. So are the sweeteners just on the outside of the gum, or are there more inside the gum?
Since sweeteners are easily dissolved in water, it is easy to find out where the sweeteners are in a piece of gum. This experiment can be done by students at any level, but high school and middle school students will more readily understand the results than younger students. The activity should take about 30 minutes to complete.
Determine whether sweeteners are added only to the outside of chewing gum, or if they are dispersed evenly throughout the gum.
- Two pieces of chewing gum (not sugar-free)
- 250 mL beaker (or 2 cup glass measuring cup)
- Paper towels
- Mesh strainer
Be careful when using scissors. Students should always wear protective eye gear and clothing when necessary.
- Unwrap two pieces of chewing gum. Measure the mass of each piece on a scale and record the results.
- Add 150 mL of cold tap water to a 250 mL beaker. Place one piece of chewing gum in the water and stir with a spoon for two minutes.
- Pat the gum dry using paper towels. Measure and record the mass of the dried gum.
- Use scissors to cut the second piece of gum into small pieces.
- Repeat step two with fresh water. Try to keep the pieces from clumping together while stirring.
- Use a mesh strainer to remove the water from the gum. Pat the gum dry using paper towels. Measure and record the mass of the dried gum.
- For the uncut piece of gum, calculate the mass of sweeteners and flavorings that dissolved in the water (the difference between the original mass of the gum and the mass of the dried gum).
- For the gum cut into small pieces, calculate the mass of dissolved sweeteners and flavorings.
- Evaluate your results: If the cut gum has a larger difference, the sweeteners are throughout the gum.
Making Science Fun
One of the biggest complaints about learning science is that students do not see how it relates to their lives. A great way to connect science lessons to their life is by using candy in experiments. This helps students understand how it all connects, and it is delicious!