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This year, Biology Week has gone virtual, and we want to encourage you to bring a bit more science into your kitchen!

 

We've put together a range of experiments you can do using everyday household items, and enjoy celebrating Biology Week from the comfort of your own home.

How do butterflies drink?

Have you ever wondered why insects like butterflies have long, thin mouth parts? Find out more about how butterflies drink using our easy to follow experiment.

This activity is especially suitable for primary aged children, with supervision, help and support from an adult to help with the practical tasks.

You will need:

  • Three types of drinking straw (wide, medium and narrow)

  • One petri-dish (or other flat, shallow container)

  • Sellotape

  • Red food colouring

  • Felt tip marker pen

Experiment instructions:

1.Fill the petri dish with water and add food colouring.

2.Take the three types of straw – wide, medium and narrow – and tape together so the bottom of them are lined up.

3.Place the straws in the water, making sure they don’t touch the bottom of the petri dish, and hold there for 30 seconds.

4. Mark on each straw with a felt pen where the water reached.

5.Use a ruler to measure and record the distance travelled (mm).

Tips for parents and guardians:

  • Ensure children are clear on how to carry out the activity and that they do not attempt to suck the liquid up the straw.

Test your knowledge!

Once complete, test your knowledge with our downloadable worksheet

Why do slugs and snails need slime?

You can make your own slime and learn all about how slugs and snails move upside down and up the sides of your fences and walls.

This activity is especially suitable for children aged 7-14 years old, with supervision and support from an adult to assist with the practical tasks.

You will need:

  • Two small bowls
  • Two teaspoons
  • Cornflour
  • Toothpaste
  • Water

Experiment instructions: 

1.Put four teaspoons of cornflour into a bowl.

2.Add water bit by bit, stirring constantly until it gets ‘gloopy’ – you need to stir slowly.

3.Try the following experiments and record your observations:

  • Gently tip the bowl from side to side.
  • Move the spoon quickly through the mixture and then move it slowly.
  • Pick up some of the mixture in your hands and squeeze it hard.
  • Release the mixture through your fingers.
  • Prod and tap the mixture.

4.Dispose of the mixture in the bin (not the sink).

5.Squeeze some toothpaste into a clean, dry bowl and repeat the experiments.

Tips for parents and guardians:

  • You may need to add more than 4 teaspoons of cornflour to achieve the desired consistency, so don't be afraid to add a bit more slowly, in small quantities.
  • Make sure you dispose of the mixtures when you are done in a bin, do not pour down the sink!

Test your knowledge!

Once complete, test your knowledge with our downloadable worksheet.

Why do leaves change colour in Autumn?

Set up your own chromatography lab and explore why leaves change colour in the autumn from green to red and yellow.

This activity is most suitable for people aged 10 years old and above, with supervision of an adult during the practical work.

You will need:

  • White coffee filter paper
  • Small container of nail varnish remover (acetone)
  • Small transparent beaker
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Cocktail stick
  • Fresh leaves from spinach, coriander or basil

Experiment instructions:

1. Cut your filter paper into a strip roughly 2cm wide and 10cm long.

2. Draw a pencil line on your filter paper about 2cm from the bottom.

3. Roll up and pinch a few leaves between your fingers.

4. Squeeze the leaves tightly between your fingers and rub them into a small dot on the middle of the pencil line

5. Build this dot of pigment up by rubbing a few times and letting it dry.

6. Place a small amount of acetone into a beaker (no more than 0.5cm depth)

7. Wrap the top of the filter paper around a cocktail stick and secure with a paperclip, or poke the cocktail stick through the top of the filter paper.

8. Hang the filter paper into the beaker so that it dips into the acetone. Make sure the green dot is above the acetone.

9. Watch as the pigments move up the filter paper and separate (this may take up to 10 minutes). What colours do you see?

Tips for parents and guardians: 

  • Buying fresh leaves or herbs, such as spinach or coriander, enables you to do this experiment all year round. We recommend using herbs to ensure your leaves aren't toxic.
  • Some leaves will leave a good smudge of pigment on the filter paper. However, to help extract the pigment from some leaves, you may need to cut the leaves up and crush them using a pestle and mortar, a bit of sand for abrasion and a tiny amount of acetone.
  • When you place the filter paper into the beaker, make sure the dot of pigment is above the acetone.

Test your knowledge!

Once complete, test your knowledge with our downloadable worksheet.

Gopher Science Lab

Did you enjoy these activities? You can download these and another seven from our Gopher Science Lab resource booklet one for more hands-on bioscience activities using everyday household objects.

The booklet includes instructions, a short explanation and questions that you may wish to ask a primary age child. Our Gopher Science online training is now free for parents to access for six months, and we have produced a parent explainer describing how the booklet and training can be used.

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