Did you know that some scientists make potions? Well, kinda. They're called "chemists." They don't create the types of potions you see witches or warlocks making in the movies, with crazy ingredients like worms or wolfsbane. Instead, they use different kinds of chemicals to create entirely new substances when combined. It's a little like magic. Chemists are behind many of the inventions and advancements that have shaped our lives, from the batteries that power our devices to the cleaning supplies and sanitizer we're all using so often right now. Today, you'll learn more about chemists by becoming one yourself, and you'll get to make a special chemical reaction of your own when you create elephant toothpaste!
what you’ll need
- A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
- Pens, crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- Food coloring
- Hydrogen peroxide (3% or 6%)
- Dish soap
- An empty plastic bottle
- A funnel (optional)
Ask About Today
What is a chemist and how do they help the world? What is a chemical reaction?
What would you call your brand of elephant toothpaste and who would you sell it too? Which other animals could possibly use it?
Skip the Ads
Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.
Chemistry in Our Lives
So... what is chemistry and what's so magical about it? Before we begin to make potions or chemical reactions of your own, take a few minutes to see how chemistry has changed our lives.
Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.
Meet Mad Scientist Bill Nye
One of our favorite scientists of all time is Bill Nye! Join him as he takes us on a wacky ride through the world of chemicals.
6 Chemical Reactions That Changed History
Did you know that cooking food over a fire involves a kind of chemical reaction? It's true—and that particular reaction is pretty important to our everyday lives. Watch this video from PBS to learn about other ways chemistry has shaped our world.
Make Some Elephant Toothpaste
Let's put chemistry in action and make elephant toothpaste!
Note: Both older and younger kinda campers should be able to do this activity, but younger campers will need more help from an adult.
Did you know that you’ll personally experience over 100 chemical reactions today? Read here to learn how eating your breakfast, washing your hands, and even using charging your electronic devices all involve chemical reactions.
Now that you're all set with some elephant toothpaste, you should probably learn a thing or two about elephant teeth (including their tusks, which are actually giant curving teeth). Open wide!
For younger explorers
What Is Science?
Read along and find out!
For younger explorers
CeCe Loves Science
CeCe loves asking questions like "why?" and "how?" So it's no surprise she loves science, too.
Little Alchemy is a science game where you combine elements to create new ones! Start by mixing and matching the first four basic elements to create new ones. (We’ll give you a hint: water + earth= mud!)
The first few may be easy, but there are 580 combinations for you to find, so take your time. We’ll be playing all week, so you can either sign in to start and close it out each day OR keep this tab open so that you can return to it whenever you like!
For younger explorers
Get Planting with Sid!
Plants are full of chemical reactions—and Sid the Science Kid and his friends need some help planting! Head on over to PBS Kids to lend a hand.
Science takes stamina! Get your heart pumping with this fun family cardio challenge. See if you can do it twice!
more to explore
Get a Look at Some Lab Tools
If you've ever seen a scientific lab on TV or in the movies, you know that they are full of stuff, like test tubes, burners, and beakers. What do all those crazy-looking jars and tubes do? And how do chemists stay safe while they work? Watch this video to find out.
Meet the Chemist Kid
This kid is studying college-level chemistry—and he's only 7 years old.
Careers in Chemistry
If you loved making elephant toothpaste, you might have a career in chemistry ahead of you. Find out more about what chemists do in this article from CareerExplorer.
Meet Some Mad Scientists
History is full of mad scientists—people whose imaginations and experiments stretched the bounds of science, sometimes in bizarre ways. The story of Frankenstein, for example, was inspired by a real 17th century alchemist named Johann Conrad Dippel, who lived in Castle Frankenstein. Let's meet a few others!