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Every year I direct a science fair for our 3rd-12th grade science students. Since the science fair is such a massive undertaking we like to celebrate with a science party day after all the projects have been completed. This year, I decided to try something new by throwing what I am calling, a "Glowmistry Party." What is Glowmistry? It is a glowing science experience students will never forget as they review the scientific method and practices! Students practice making observations, writing predictions, constructing scientific claims, and deepening their understanding of all things that glow! Since my school has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards I wanted to integrate some of the practices into the experience without totally leaving out the scientific method.
Since this was my first time throwing a Glowmistry party I decided to do most of the setup the night before so I could experiment with how I wanted the class to look and operate during the activities. Here are the items I used to set up:
-Black lights (I set mine directly on the tables. They got a little messy but were easy to wipe clean.)
-Neon or fluorescent duct tape
-Black butcher paper
I set my tables up close together to minimize the clean-up and stuck a black light on each table. This really helped direct the black light to specific areas since I was working in a large room. I also added black butcher paper to the tables and outlined them with the neon duct tape for effect. I'm so glad I added the paper to the tables because it really cut down on the cleanup process when we were all done. I rotated sixty 3rd-12th grade students through the activities and that butcher paper was a life saver!
In addition, I added signs and tags for the students and teachers to wear with their glow-sticks. The white and neon signage really popped under the black lights! And can I just say....all the teachers that rotated through my room for this activity wanted the glow-stick with the "Glow Master" tag! (Teachers love glow-sticks too!)
Next I placed tonic water into some cool Chemistry glassware and stuck these right next to the black lights. Tonic glows a bright blue when placed near black lights. (The science behind each of the activities is included in my Glowmistry resource.) We used the tonic water to make glowing oobleck as one of our activities but the tonic water adds such a brilliant glow I just left it on the table the whole time!
Get Ready to Glow!
After my room was all set up we were ready to glow! I led the students through 4 hands-on glow activities and loved watching their eyes light up with each experiment! Here are the activities I did with my students:
In this activity the students explored the topics of density and polarity as they observe glowing fluorescent blobs sink through another liquid. (See video below) To get this affect I added some water to fluorescent glow paint and had students use pipettes to add drops to clear baby oil. I did not tell students what the two liquids were until after they had made several observations, written questions, and made predictions about the two liquids.
After each activity students would complete a corresponding Glowmistry card (see above image) which contained various scientific practices (ie. making predictions, writing claims, asking questions). At the end of the day the students each received a glow-stick with an "I passed Glowmistry" tag. I think my kids were more excited about the tags (bragging rights you know) than the glow-sticks!
Next, I had students test the affect of temperature on their glow-sticks by submerging them in hot/cold water. Students had to write scientific claims supported by observational evidence from this activity. This was a great activity to connect our NGSS practices and have students think about what was happening on a molecular level with their glow-stick.
Next, my students finally got to play with that mysteriously blue glowing liquid (tonic water). They made a simple mixture of the tonic water and corn starch to create a non-Newtonian fluid. Then students played with the oobleck and made observations about how the fluid was behaving.
Our last hands-on activity took inspiration from a documentary we watched first about bioluminescent organisms. Students watched half the documentary (while I cleaned up) and took Cornell notes in my prefilled document. Then students took a break from the video, and began designing their own bioluminescent organisms using recyclable materials. I was amazed at all their creativity! The real magic happened when we turned the black lights back on and students began to paint their creatures with glow paint. Their creations were stunning!
After students finished painting their creatures we finished our documentary and discussed what we had learned throughout the day about the science of glowing! Each student was given a glow-stick with a Glowmistry tag. (See image below.)
Hands down this was one of my favorite activities I have done with my students! It was so memorable and fun and I felt really good about the fact that we actually learned some new content and reviewed scientific practices! I have bundled all four activities with the corresponding student worksheets, classroom signage, glow-stick tags, Cornell notes with the video link, answer keys, and some personal tips for running your own Glowmistry Party here. Click here to check it out!