Teachers don't make a ton of money, that's no secret, so shelling out big bucks for science materials isn't really an option. I mean (hopefully) your school provides basic supplies like pencils, paper, crayons, etc., but you likely aren't given test tubes and bunsen burners. Science experiments are undeniably FUN and provide valuable learning opportunities but how can you create these experiences for your students without spending all of your personal money? These 10 experiments are super engaging and all use materials you probably have in your kitchen pantry right now. Most won't even require a trip to the store! If your pantry is a little bare, you can always ask parents to donate. I'm sure they'll be more than happy to lend you a cup of sugar!
One: Milk Art
Basically, students put a few drops of food coloring into a bowl of milk, then touch the surface with a cotton swab dipped in dish soap. Sounds simple but the results are nothing short of magical. This experiment explores how soap affects surface tension. For a printable that walks students through this experiment using the scientific method, check out this resource in my TPT store. I also have an interactive surface tension lesson for Google Classroom as well as a reading passage about surface tension if you're into that kind of thing.
Two: Soap and Pepper
ground black pepper
Here's another science experiment that explores surface tension. This time students sprinkle pepper onto the surface of a bowl of water. They observe how the pepper appears to float on top of the water because of surface tension. When they touch the surface with the soapy cotton swab, the pepper zooms to the edges of the bowl. This one is actually way cooler than it sounds. You'll definitely hear some "oohs" and "ahs." That same resource I mentioned earlier also covers this experiment.
Three: Eggshell Geodes
clean halves of eggshells (one per student)
mugs (I'm sure you have plenty!)
I do this experiment every year as part of my 4th grade rocks and minerals unit. It's great for observing how crystals form. Dissolve salt in hot water. I use an electric kettle to heat the water, then pour it into mugs of salt and let students carefully stir with a popsicle stick or metal spoon. Once the salt is dissolved, add a few drops of food coloring and pour into half of a washed eggshell. Let sit for a few weeks and observe as the crystals grow! For a resource that walks students through this activity including background info, a response page, and scoring rubric, click here. You might also find this reading passage about minerals useful.
*Salt works very well for this but you can also experiment with other crystal growing ingredients like baking soda and borax, rock salt vs. table salt vs. sea salt, etc.
Four: Lego Volcanoes
LEGO type building blocks (just the basic blocks, none of the fancy pieces)
Ok so I know LEGO style blocks aren't cheap and typically aren't found in a kitchen. However, if you work with anyone who has kids, particularly boys, they are bound to have an absurd amount collecting dust somewhere in their house. You just need to borrow the blocks, they will be returned in good condition... actually, probably even cleaner than they were before you got them! This one is more of a STEM challenge meets science experiment. Students are given a set amount of time and a set amount of LEGO style building blocks to build a volcano. Then, they test their volcanoes by adding baking soda and vinegar to simulate an eruption. It's the oldest science experiment in the book but it never loses its wow factor. One of my greatest successes as a science teacher was the time we did this activity after learning the parts of a volcano and one group voluntarily added a fully functional side vent to theirs! That's the stuff teacher dreams are made of! Anyway, I have a resource for this one too. It includes background info on volcanoes, directions, a student response page, rubric, all the bells and whistles. Click here to check it out. You might also be interested in this reading passage about volcanoes.
Five: Moon Dust
small molds and marbles
Think kinetic sand moon edition. Just mix flour and baby oil to create a moldable dust similar to what you would find on the surface of the moon. My students make moon dust during our moon unit and then use small molds (ramekins and even easter eggs work well!) to "play" with it. They experiment with rocks and marbles to simulate how craters are formed on the moon. For a ready to go Moon Dust resource, click here! I have tons of other moon resources as well, you can check the full collection here.
Six: Make a Mold Fossil
Small plastic animals
Salt dough is SO EASY and there are literally endless possibilities with this stuff. I use it during my fossils unit to make mold fossils but I've also used to to create Christmas ornaments, model different landforms, the list goes on. The basic concept is this: mix flour, salt, and water together to create salt dough and give students a small ball. They flatten it into a disk, press a small animal into it and then remove it to create a mold. Let it sit to dry for a few days and voila! You have a fossil. And you know I have a resource for this one. If you want to get really fancy, you can also make a cast fossil. These are slightly cooler but involve Crayola Model Magic and Plaster of Paris which aren't exactly kitchen pantry staples. I also have a Fossils reading passage and a really awesome interactive lesson for Google Classroom.
Seven: DIY Bubble Solution
This is another surface tension experiment but it can also be used for just plain fun. Students dissolve sugar in warm water and then add dish soap to create bubble solution. Then, find objects around the classroom (or house if your teaching remotely!) to experiment with as bubble wands. What works? What doesn't? For a ready to go resource that goes with this experiment, click here!
Eight: Alka-Seltzer Balloon
Alka-Seltzer dissolving tablets
Small bottle of water
Ok, Ok Alka-Setlzer is more medicine cabinet staple than pantry but close enough. This is a simple experiment for exploring states of matter, particularly gasses. Students crush up a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets and push the pieces into a deflated balloon. Then, they stretch the balloon around the neck of a small bottle of water and jiggle it so that the Alka-Seltzer falls into the water. As the tablets dissolve, they release carbon dioxide gas which fills the balloon and causes it to expand. This one feels very "mad scientist" and offers a lot of bang for it's buck!
Nine: Mentos and Diet Coke
Mentos candy (flavor doesn't matter)
2 liter bottle of diet Coke type soda
This is about as close as you can get to blowing something up at school. So... fun. Does it have to be diet soda? No, but it's a LOT less sticky so I highly recommend. You'll want to do this experiment outside for sure because it's going to make a mess, even with diet. Open the 2 liter bottle of diet soda and place it in an open area away from people and anything else that shouldn't get covered in soda. Now you need to drop the Mentos (about 7 should do) into the bottle of soda all at the same time. One way to do this is to roll a piece of paper into a tube and stack the loose Mentos inside. Place your finger at the bottom to hold the Mentos in until you are ready to release them into the soda bottle. Once you release them, stand back, an eruption will ensue! This one loosely explores states of matter as the soda releases carbon dioxide gas... but it's mostly just a lot of fun.
Ten: Flowers in Food Coloring
white flowers (carnations, roses, or daisies work)
Squeeze a few drops of food coloring into clear glasses (you don't need fancy test tubes or beakers, although they do look cool, simple drinking glasses or jars will work just fine). Be sure to put a different color in each container. Cut a bit off the end of each flower stem (a diagonal cut is best) and place one in each container of colored water. Observe your flowers after a few hours and then again after a day or two. What happens to the flowers? This is a great, simple experiment if you're learning about plants. Students can observe first hand how plants absorb water.
Remember, you don't have to break the bank to plan fun science lessons. Your students will LOVE these simple experiments that mostly use materials you have in your kitchen pantry right now!