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'I love messy projects'

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EXPERIMENT:Sarah Morbitzer, children’s department manager, helps children take turns adding ingredients to the “elephant toothpaste” experiment Wednesday at the North Manchester Public Library.
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WARM: The “elephant toothpaste” experiment is exothermic, so heat is produced.
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CREATIVE:The project in question was an “elephant toothpaste” experiment, which was part of the library’s weekly Creative Kids program.

by Rob Burgess , rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com

 

It was just after 3:45 p.m. Wednesday outside the North Manchester Public Library, and things were about to get messy.

But, as Sarah Morbitzer, children’s department manager, explained, that was the idea.

“I love messy projects,” she said.

The project in question was an “elephant toothpaste” experiment, which was part of the library’s weekly Creative Kids program. Other sessions scheduled for later this month include 3-D fall art, funny face flipbooks, Mason jar ring pumpkins and Ojo de Dios (Eye of God) weaving.

To complete the experiment, children took turns adding each ingredient. They poured a half cup of hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of dishwashing soap and a few drops of food coloring into the water bottle. Then, they swished the bottle around to mix the ingredients.

In a separate container, they mixed 1 tablespoon yeast with 3 tablespoons of warm water.

Then, they had to wait a few minutes before pouring the yeast mixture into the bottle.

During that time, Morbitzer took the time to explain how the experiment worked.

Hydrogen peroxide is a reactive molecule that readily decomposes into water and oxygen, she said. In this demonstration, yeast catalyzed the decomposition so it proceeded much more rapidly than normal. Yeast needs warm water to reproduce.

The dishwashing detergent captured the oxygen released, making foam. Food coloring colored the film of the bubbles.

As the mixture was combined, children screamed with surprise as the foam quickly spilled over the top.

In addition to being an example of a decomposition reaction and a catalyzed reaction, the elephant toothpaste experiment is exothermic, so heat is produced. However, the reaction just makes the solution warmer, not hot enough to cause burns.

“You can feel how the bottle is getting a little bit warm,” said Morbitzer, who instructed the children to place their hands above the mixture, but not touch it.

That first combination used yellow and blue, which produced green. They then set the experiment up once again, this time combining different colors.