Static Electricity at Home


When a balloon is rubbed against hair, a towel or a jumper, it gains more electrons which have a negative charge. This gives the balloon an overall negative charge. Objects with a positive charge or no overall charge like a tin can will now be attracted (= be drawn) to the balloon. We call this “static electricity”.

You will need

  • Balloon
  • Towel, jumper or your hair
  • Empty soda can
  • Water tap
  • A smooth surface, e.g. a table

What to do

  1. Blow up the balloon.
  2. Put the empty soda can on its side on a smooth surface.
  3. Rub the balloon on a towel, jumper or your hair to create static electricity.
  4. Hold the balloon close to the side of the soda can, but do not let them touch.
  5. Slowly move the balloon away from the soda can along the surface.
  6. Observe what happens.
  7. Rub the balloon again on a towel, jumper or your hair.
  8. Open the water tap, so that only very little water is running. It should be almost dripping.
  9. Hold the balloon close to the water, but do not let the balloon touch the water.
  10. Observe what happens.

You can also watch this experiment here:

Rainbow in a Glass


Density tells you how heavy a certain volume of a substance is. It decides which materials can float on water and which sink. For example, a rock will sink because its density is higher that the density of water. However, wood floats because its density is lower than that of water.

The same is true for liquids. Liquids with high densities sink, while liquids with lower densities float. We are going to use this to make a rainbow in a glass. Chocolate sauce has a highest density of the four liquids and will stay at the bottom. However, water has the lowest density and will, therefore, float on top.

You will need

  • 1 Glass
  • 1 Spoon
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Honey
  • Washing up liquid
  • Water
  • Red food colouring

What to do

  1. Start by pouring chocolate sauce into your glass until it is one quarter full.
  2. Use the spoon to carefully add the honey until your glass is half full. Do NOT stir!
  3. Now add the washing up liquid slowly and until your glass is three quarters full.
  4. In a separate glass mix water with red food colouring.
  5. Carefully add the water dropwise until your glass is full. Do NOT stir!

You can watch this experiment as a YouTube video:


How to build a hovercraft

You will need:

  • 1 balloon
  • 1 plastic pull-out bottle cap
  • All-purpose glue or hot-glue gun (if you don’t have this, tape will do)
  • 1 old CD

What to do:

  1. Glue the plastic pull-out bottle cap over the hole in the middle of the CD using all-purpose glue or tape. If you are using all-purpose glue, ask an adult to help you and let the glue dry off.
  2. Blow up a balloon.
  3. Make sure the pull-out cap is open.
  4. Attach the balloon to the pull-out cap by stretching its opening over the cap. (See image above.)
  5. Put the craft on a table with the CD facing down and the balloon up.
  6. The air escaping from the balloon will produce an air cushion underneath the CD. This reduces the friction between the table and the CD and your hovercraft will move over the table very fast.
  7. Your hovercraft will speed along until it runs out of air and you have to blow the balloon up again.

Investigating Pressure with a Plastic Bottle – Experiment


Air is made from gas particles. They constantly move around at a high speed. When speeding around like this, the particles often collide with the walls of their containers. For example, the air particles in a balloon move around and hit the balloon’s walls. These collisions cause the balloon to stay inflated. We call this gas pressure.

There are two ways to affect gas pressure. One is to change the number of air particles. When you blow up a party balloon, you add more air particles to it. More gas particles hit the walls more often and the balloon’s pressure increases.

The second method to increase pressure is by raising the temperature. When it is warmer, the gas particles have more energy and move faster. If the particles move faster, they hit with the walls more often and the pressure increases. When decreasing the temperature by cooling, the gas pressure will decrease.

In this experiment we are going to look at what happens to the pressure inside a plastic bottle when you cool down the temperature.

What you will need

  • 1 empty plastic bottle (a small bottle is enough, 500 ml or even smaller)
  • Freezer

What to do

  1. Remove the lid and put the empty plastic bottle in the sun or on the radiator to heat up a bit.
  2. Close the lid tightly, so nor more air can move in or out of the bottle.
  3. Put the bottle in the freezer and wait for one hour.
  4. Collect the bottle from the freezer. What has happened to it? Take notes.
  5. Now observe the bottle for a couple of minutes after taking it out of the freezer.


1. What happened to the bottle in the freezer?

2. Why did this happen? Look back at the introduction to find some clues.

3. What happened to the bottle after you took it out from the freezer?

4. Why did this happen? Look back at the introduction to find some clues.

5. Why was it important to close the lid tightly before putting the bottle into the freezer?

6. How could you improve this experiment?

Reading Exercise: Gas Pressure

In a gas, the particles move around at high speed. By doing this they collide with the sides of their container and produce a force. This is the force that keeps balloons and tires inflated. We call it gas pressure.

There are two ways to increase gas pressure. The first is to add more gas particles. More gas particles can collide with the walls more often which increases the pressure. This is what happens when you blow up a balloon or pump up your bike tire. You add more air particles.

The second way to increase gas pressure is to increase the temperature. When it is warmer, gas particles gain more energy and can move around faster. At a higher speed the particles collide with the walls more often and the pressure increases.

If you reduce the temperature, the opposite happens. The gas particles move slower and collide with the walls less frequently. This decreases the gas pressure.


  1. What causes gas pressure?
  2. How can you increase gas pressure? Describe both ways.
  3. How can you decrease gas pressure?
  4. What would happen if I put a party balloon into the sun on a hot day? Why?
  5. What would happen if I put a party balloon in a freezer? Why?

The Science of Chocolate – Investigating the States of Matter

You will need:

  • Some pieces of chocolate (dark chocolate works best, but you can use milk chocolate too)
  • Pan
  • Bowls
  • Water

What to do:

  1. Put water in the pan and place it on the hob.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a bowl over the pan with the water. (See image above.) Be careful not to mix any water with the chocolate.
  3. Turn on the hob and gently heat the water with the chocolate and bowl on top.
  4. Once the chocolate has melted, turn off the hob.
  5. Place half of the molten chocolate in a freezer to cool. If you do not have a freezer, you can use the fridge.
  6. Let the rest of the chocolate cool slowly at room temperature.
  7. Once both chocolates have frozen, compare what they look like. In addition, test how they taste differently and how they feel to the touch.
  8. Although both chocolates freeze and become solid again, they will be very different depending which temperature they are freezing at.


  1. A) Draw a diagram showing the arrangement of the chocolate particles in a solid.  B) Draw a diagram showing the arrangement of the chocolate particles in a liquid.
  2. What happens to the energy of the chocolate particles when it melts?
  3. What happens to the energy of the chocolate particles when it freezes?
  4. How is the chocolate that was cooled in the freezer different from the chocolate cooled at room temperature? Compare how they look, taste and feel when you touch them.
  5. The process of melting and freezing chocolate is quite important in food industry and chocolate making. Based on your experiment which temperature do you think is better for freezing chocolate, room temperature or the freezer/fridge? Why?

How to make an atomic model with sweets

You will need:

  • String
  • Scissors
  • Coloured sweets, for example smarties or skittles

What to do:

  1. Choose three colours that you want to use in your atom. Once colour for the protons, one for the neutrons and one for the electrons.
  2. Cut some string to make the electron shell.
  3. Put the sweets that represent the protons and the neutrons in the middle. The middle of the atom is called the nucleus.
  4. Arrange the string in a circle around the nucleus. It will form the electron shell.
  5. Put the sweets that represent the electrons on the electron shell (string). Make sure that the amount of protons and electrons is the same.
  6. Your atomic model is now complete. If you wish you can label the atom and add the charges for protons, electrons and neutrons.

You can watch this experiment on YouTube:

Reading Exercise: The Dangers of Radioactivity

Radioactive radiation

Radioactive radiation is dangerous because it is ionizing. This means that it has enough energy to knock electrons out of their shells and thus turn atoms into ions.

A large amount of ionizing radiation can cause radiation burns (skin burns) and radiation sickness. Small amounts of ionizing radiation can damage DNA. This is called mutation and can later lead to cancer. If mutations occur in gametes (sex cells), they can be passed on to the next generation and can cause birth defects in newborns.

Protection from radiation

We are exposed to background radiation all the time. However, the amount is too small to harm us. But people who work with radioactive materials are exposed to more radiation and need to take precautions.

There are three ways to limit the effects of ionizing radiation: keeping a distance from the source, shielding and a time limit to exposure. For example, radioactive samples are always handled with tongs to keep a distance and stored in containers with thick lead walls for shielding.

Ionizing radiation is also used in hospitals to detect and treat cancer. Patients can be exposed to small amounts of radiation during their treatment. However, this is only done if the benefits are greater than the risks.

Irradiation and contamination

Sometimes there are accidents in nuclear power stations which can lead to radioactive materials escaping to the environment. This can lead to the irradiation and contamination of plants, animals and people. It is important to understand the difference between irradiation and contamination.

Someone is irradiated if they are close to a radioactive material and exposed to its radiation. Once the person moves away the irradiation stops.

Someone is contaminated if they get particles of radioactive material on their skin or inside their body, for example by eating or breathing. This person continues to be exposed to the radiation until all the material has decayed inside their body.

Things to do

  1. What is ionizing radiation?
  2. Give four effects of ionizing radiation on the human body.
  3. Why is background radiation not dangerous for us?
  4. State three ways to protect yourself from radiation.
  5. Why are radioactive samples handled with tongs and kept in lead containers with thick walls?
  6. What is the difference between irradiation and contamination?
  7. In case of a nuclear accident, what is worse? Irradiation or contamination? Why?
  8. Do you know any examples of nuclear accidents that have happened around the world? If yes, which do you know?

Active reading exercise: Isotopes


In 1932 James Chadwick, a British scientist, discovered the neutron. His discovery explains how isotopes are formed. Isotopes have the same number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons.

We can also say that the atomic number is the same, but the mass numbers are different. Isotopes are the same element because their atomic number does not change.

We refer to an isotope by adding its mass number to the element’s name. The isotope in the diagram below is called carbon-12.


Carbon isotopes

Carbon can occur as three different isotopes. They are called carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14.

Carbon dating is used to identify the age of very old objects, for example the remains of extinct animals such as mammoths. The amount of the carbon isotope carbon-14 in an object is examined to determine its age.

Things to do

  1. Fill in the missing words and numbers to describe the similarities and differences between isotopes of the same element.                                                                                 a) Isotopes are atoms with the same            number but different                   number. b) They have the same number of protons and electrons but different numbers of                      .
  2. Name the scientist who discovered the neutron.
  3. Why are isotopes the same element?
  4. How do we refer to isotopes?
  5. Name the three isotopes of carbon.
  6. Why is the isotope carbon-14 useful?
  7. Using your knowledge about isotopes, fill in the gaps in the table a, b and c.
Isotope name Atomic number Mass number
 Tin-116  50 a
b c 118

Remember that the atomic number is the same for isotopes of the same element.

Active reading exercise: The Atom

A bit of history

In 1805 the English Chemist John Dalton published his atomic theory that said:

  • Everything is made up from tiny particles called atoms
  • Atoms are tiny hard spheres (= balls) that cannot be broken down into smaller parts
  • Atoms in one element are all identical

This helped to explain many properties of materials. However, later experiments showed that atoms contained even smaller particles. In 1897 another British scientist, JJ Thomson, discovered the electron. The nucleus which makes up the middle of an atom was discovered by Ernest Rutherford in 1913.

The Structure of the atom

Today we know that atoms are made from three subatomic particles: proton, neutron and electron.

Protons and neutrons are found in the centre of the atom which is called the nucleus. Both have a mass of 1. Protons have a positive (+) charge and neutrons are neutral (= no charge).

Electrons have a negative (-) charge and have almost no mass at all. They are found on the electron shells on the outside of the atom, circling the nucleus.

What you need to remember

  • Atoms are made from protons, neutrons and electrons called subatomic particles
  • Protons: found in nucleus, positive (+) charge and a mass of 1
  • Neutrons: found in nucleus, neutral (no charge) and a mass of 1
  • Electrons: found on electron shells, negative (-) charge and almost no mass


Things to do

  1. Name the scientist who first introduced atomic theory.
  2. Name the scientists who discovered the electron and the nucleus.
  3. State the names of the three subatomic particles as well as their masses and charges.
  4. State where in the atom protons and neutrons are found.
  5. State where in the atom electrons are found.
  6. Copy and label the image of the atom. Words: electron, proton, neutron, shellLithium atom
  7. Describe in your own words what an atom looks like. Include information about the charges and masses of the subatomic particles.