by Michelle Crooker
This experiment is pretty simple—it only requires one thing, and that one thing is tasty! Now, before we get too far, I do want to tell you one of my science rules. I tell this to all of the co-op classes that I have taught, and to my own children when they need to hear it.
“Don’t eat science!”
The reasoning behind this, of course, is that most of the time, you don’t want the kids taste-testing anything that they are experimenting with. Even if there are food products involved, projects like building with toothpicks and marshmallows or gum drops should not be snack time as well. That being said, I’ve now revised my rule to the following:
“Don’t eat science—unless I tell you to!”
With that out of the way, let’s do some science. This experiment is not only simple to do, with most of the necessary materials being things you will find at home, but it is also a great way to sneak in some math.
Are you curious what we are going to eat yet? Well, if you didn’t figure it out from the title, I’ll tell you: it’s chocolate! There are a number of links online about different experiments you can do with chocolate, from separating the chocolate into its various components (called tempering) to a simple sorting experiment where younger ones sort the pieces based on their appearance. Today, we are going to use various methods to melt chocolate and determine which method causes the chocolate to melt the fastest. I did this experiment with my co-op class, grades six to eight. Six Hands (my 13-year-old) is in this class.
- 1 chocolate bar, broken into 8 similar-sized pieces, per child
- hair dryer
- work location—something that can be wiped off if chocolate gets dripped on it
- sunny spot (or a lamp if it is nighttime or raining)
- stopwatch or clock with a second hand
- small plastic bag
- small pot for stove-top use, or a fondue pot
- fondue fork
- Chocolate Science Record Sheet
Break your chocolate bar into similar-sized pieces, then—after making a prediction as to which way the chocolate will melt the fastest—use the various methods to melt your chocolate pieces.
This is the piece of chocolate that is left alone. Be sure to record the time that you start.
#2: Sunny Spot
The day we did this experiment it was raining, so our “sunny spot” was on top of a shelf, near a light.
#3: Location of Your Choice
Note the condition of the cup. This young man’s location of choice was in the chair he was sitting in. After I overheard him saying this, I had him move the cup and chocolate to a baggie so that he didn’t get chocolate all over the chair and himself.
#4: In Your Hand
This is where the optional plastic baggie comes into play. Some of the kids chose to use the bag, while others did not. Some squeezed the chocolate, while one young lady was quite patient and allowed the chocolate to sit on her hand and melt.
If you look closely you can still see the Hershey name on the chocolate.
#5: Fondue Pot
I should mention here that no chocolate was wasted during this experiment. After the class was over, I took the fondue pot with the melted chocolate—along with some plastic spoons—across the hall to where our moms hang out when they aren’t helping somewhere.
#6: Hair Dryer
#7: In Your Mouth (Chewing) and #8: In Your Mouth (Not Chewing)
I don’t have pictures of these—I figured that would be kind of gross. However, I have to say that the kids quite enjoyed this part. We have one child in class who is allergic (my son). For this part of the experiment, he received help from Bug (my five-year-old). Bug ate the chocolate for Six Hands. The rest of the experiment, Six Hands was able to do on his own.
After the kids had melted the chocolate, they tabulated the results using the record sheet.
One of the great things about this experiment is that you can do it with any age, by helping the younger ones with the calculations and timing. With older kids, you can expand the learning by having them figure out if they followed the scientific method and what things they could change to make the experiment better.
BONUS: As a bonus for checking out my post on the HEAV blog, here is a fun tip for summer.
Ever wanted s’mores in the summer but didn’t want to deal with the fire? Never fear! Summertime “fireless s’mores” are here!
Using a plastic food container, place unwrapped chocolate bars into the container (approximately one per person). Then place this container (with the lid on tightly), along with graham crackers and marshmallows, into your snack bag. Do not try to keep this cold—in fact, if you leave it in your car on a hot summer day, or take it the beach, it will work great!
When you are ready for your snack, dip the marshmallow into the now melted chocolate and place it on the graham cracker. (Alternatively, you can dip whatever else you happened to bring along, into the melted chocolate as well. Chocolate-covered marshmallows, chocolate-covered graham crackers, chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate-covered goldfish crackers, chocolate-covered carrots, chocolate-covered PB&J sandwiches…well, you get the idea!
Have fun doing science, and remember the rule: “Don’t eat science…unless I tell you to!”
Michelle, a Virginia native, currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. Active in Scouts, area homeschool groups, and with her family, she can be found on her blog, “Homeschooler on the Edge,” as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.