Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halloweeen! The extra E is for Expanding Matter!

I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. --Dr. Ray Stantz

The Children’s Museum of Memphis is getting ready for Halloween. We’re prepping crafts and gooey experiments for our October 29th Monster Bash celebration! You’ll be able to make a creepy witches hand, slime and hunt for candy!

Yesterday I had the extreme pleasure of purchasing copious amounts of marshmallows...I felt like a 'shelf clearer' on that coupon show, except I paid full price and I'm nice. In addition, I received our edible markers for our Frankenstein craft--marshmallow Frankensteins. (or as Tamara correctly calls him “Frankenstein’s Monster”). Having never used edible markers, I had to try those out. I learn by doing—that’s good considering I work at an awesome hands-on museum! The marker went on smooth as I drew a primitive smiley face and then without any warning, popped him in my mouth—mmmmm sugar!

As the ladies in my office watched me devour one marshmallow man (or woman) after another, I had an idea—more like a flashback, a sugar induced flashback.

It was Easter, 1985. Exhausted from spending the better part of my morning searching for hard boiled eggs, I dug into my Easter basket and pulled out a Peep…and then I ate him. Later that day, my family gathered around our microwave and watched the Peep expand and change shape. In my short 4 years of life, it was literally the coolest thing I had ever seen.

“Again” I shouted!



It is a tradition that has lived on. I can’t wait to teach my nephew how to microwave a Peep. Until that time, this is an activity that you can do at home while learning about how microwaves work! Ohhhh ahhhhh. I would be remiss if I didn’t display a bit of Caution

Yay, you!

What you need:


Microwavable Plate


What to do:

Before doing anything, ask your child a few questions. What do you think is going to happen?Why? This helps them form a hypothesis (an important part of the scientific method).

Once you have some idea’s as to what is going to
happen, place one or two marshmallows on a plate. Place inside the microwave for 30 seconds. Watch and document what happens. Some great questions to ask are: why do you think it’s getting bigger? What do you think is inside?

This is also a great time to experiment further. What do you think will happen if we put the marshmallow in for 45 seconds? A minute? Test these theories until your house smells like a toasted marshmallow!

Now Here Comes the Science:

So what exactly is happening? Microwave ovens are a unique appliance. Inside, microwaves swing back and forth at a frequency of about 2 billion cycles per second. While they are doing this, they are making the water molecules dance! Well not so much dance as move. As they move faster, the molecules get hot and then hotter. The heat from the molecules causes the food to heat up. Now when things heat up, they expand. As the marshmallow heats up, it too expands.

Take your hands and rub them together. As your hands move faster and faster, you can feel the heat. This is like what is happening inside your food. As the molecules move faster and faster, they are creating heat. Yay Microwave ovens!

MARSHMALLOWS **jazzhands**