Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Holy Unschooling, Batman!


Well, let's see, what did we do today? The girls were playing princess in their room when they decided to listen to Miss M's Disney Princess song player. Lo and behold, it won't play so "Mommy, this needs batteries!" Luckily, we were still stocked up from Christmas and I actually knew where the tiny screwdriver was. Actually I thought I knew, so we killed another twenty minutes looking for that and getting Daddy's big screwdriver out. It worked and we put in new batteries, hit play, and . . . nothing. We discovered that when you let your Disney Princess song player sit for six months without using it your mom should give it away the batteries leak icky stuff out and it corrodes the little connector thingies so that the new battery doesn't make the connection. Science lesson #1: Batteries have acid on them -- DON'T TOUCH -- that can hurt your hands and even eat metal.

I tried to scrape the gunk off to no avail. I got some vinegar out to see if that helped, it didn't. I suddenly remembered a childhood experiment with pennies, vinegar, and baking soda. We got out the baking soda and some q-tips. It made an awesome fizz in the cup but took off very little of the gunk, leaving baking soda crystals in the player. Meanwhile, they asked why I was using baking soda. When I told them about the pennies, we had to go rob penny banks (my pennies were no good) to try it. After slopping around pennies, baking soda, vinegar, trying different amounts and combinations, and wiping up what Little Dude dumped out on the chair and floor, we discovered that it didn't work that well. I told the girls that maybe it has to sit a while (although I was sure our pennies started gleaming right away as a kid), then I managed to get that out and scrape off enough of the gunk so that it played again. I think they listened to it all of 5 minutes and were on to something else.

Then, while tidying up the kitchen, I moved the salt shaker and BAM it hit me! Not baking soda, SALT! I called them back in and we sprinkled salt into two of the cups. The third we left with just baking soda to see if it would eventually clean the penny (it didn't). Science Lesson #2: Salt and vinegar clean copper. If I were a reeeeeeally good unschooling mom, I would have looked up online to see WHY the vinegar and salt clean the pennies. Maybe I'll go do that now.

Curriculum, shmiculum!

I did a little Googling and found this neat experiment. Not only does it explain why the salt and vinegar clean the pennies, it adds a second cause/effect. I think we'll try that today if the girls are still curious.

(Cross-posted to my homeschooling blog)