Thursday, April 12, 2018

Science Club: Forensics

As an avid fan of Forensic Files, I can assure you that I think forensic science is fascinating. As such, I figured it would be a fun idea to bring a little bit of it into science club. Specifically, we're concentrating on ink chromatography and fingerprints today.


Chromatography is the separation of a material (in this case, ink) into its component parts (in this case, the colors that make up the ink) by using a solution in which it dissolves (such as rubbing alcohol) on a medium in which different colors move at different rates (here, a coffee filter).

Basically: Different brands of pen will use different types of ink, which are all *slightly* different shades of blue. Perhaps one pen is a little more green, and another is a bit more purple, but it's hard to tell by looking right at the ink. What to do? Separate the ink into its component colors! Every pen will have a different pattern, and you'll be able to see which pen wrote the note.

The Story

I started by telling a very sad story: SOMEONE has stolen Miss Kat's chocolate! They left a note saying, "sorry!" but didn't sign it. How can we figure out whodunnit?

Well, I just so happen to have collected the favorite pen of three of my coworkers. I've already used chromatography to analyze the ink in the note - now we have to analyze the ink in the pens to see which pen wrote the note (and therefore which person ate my chocolate). 

You Will Need

  • At least 3 pens of the same color, in different brands (I used blue pens, because it was easier to see the color differences in blue than black ink)
  • Coffee filters
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Pencils and small binder clips

Setting Up

Step 3: My guilty party.
1. Cut the coffee filters into rectangles, roughly 1" wide and 3" long. You will need 3 rectangles per participants, plus extras in case anyone messes up.
2. Label the pens, so we can keep track of which pen makes which mark. I labeled mine with the names of coworkers (with their consent), but using A, B, and C, or 1, 2, and 3 would work just fine. 
3. Use chromatography to separate out the ink of one of the pens, as described below. This is your guilty party, which the scientists will all try to match the suspects' pens to.


Each participant gets one lab report, three coffee filter rectangles, three binder clips, a pencil, and a plastic cup.

Take turns using the pens to write on the coffee filters; at the top of each, write the suspect's name. About 1/2" from the bottom of the filter, draw a thick horizontal line (or, scribble with pen enough that it looks like one solid line). 

Clip one binder clip to the top of each rectangle, and thread all three clips through the pencil. Add about 1/2" of rubbing alcohol to your plastic cup, and suspend your pencil and its test rectangles over the cup. The bottoms of the rectangles should reach the liquid, but the ink line should be above the liquid's surface.

Wait and watch in wonder as the ink starts to separate. It may take a good 15 minutes before your samples are done, so this is a good time to start on fingerprinting. (Of course, it starts right away, so sometimes it's hard to stop watching it...)

See that teal stripe at the bottom?
It was LAURA who stole my chocolate!
Once the ink has stopped separating, you can carefully remove the rectangles from the cup, and examine them to see which pen wrote the note - and therefore which coworker stole the chocolate.

NOTE: If you don't want to use rubbing alcohol, this experiment can be done with washable markers and water.


I had originally intended to use an ink pad for fingerprinting, but that can be messy, and there's an easier way.

What You Need

  • Pencils
  • 2 pieces of paper per participant
  • Clear tape

What to Do

  1. Using your pencil, make a large dark mark on your paper. 
  2. When you have plenty of graphite on the paper, rub your finger in the spot until it's covered. 
  3. Then, press the sticky side of a piece of clear tape to your finger and press down. 
  4. Remove the tape and stick it to a piece of clean paper (or, in this case, the lab report). 
  5. Repeat for all fingers.
Then, take a look at all the whorls, arches, and loops that your fingerprints have. Do any of yours match? Do they match anyone else at the table? They shouldn't! It's a one in a million chance that someone has even one fingerprint the same as you do. 

Lab Report

Here's the lab report I made up for Chromatography and Fingerprinting. I actually taped my Guilty sample to the "The Culprit" section of the paper and color-photocopied it before we began.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Super Quick Bunny Craft

I did a bunny storytime today, and I supplemented my books and bunny songs with a very easy bunny craft. Then, some of the kids who come to my older craft club saw it, and they needed to make bunnies, too (which was awesome! But I made them cut out their own).

What You Need

  • Cardstock
  • Glue Sticks
  • Crayons, markers, googly eyes, etc. to decorate
  • Pom-poms or cotton balls - optional, but cute

What To Do

  1. Print the template below onto cardstock - I used white, so the bunnies could be colored in any way the artists saw fit, but colored cardstock would be nice, too. Cut the pieces out.
  2. Color and decorate your bunnies while they are flat, being sure to explain that one side of the bunny is the front, and the other is the back.
  3. Fold along the dashed lines.
  4. Apply glue to the inside of one bunny head and ears; glue to other side. You don't have to go any lower than the head.
  5. If desired, glue pom-pom to the bottom at the back, for a fluffy tail.
  6. Sit back and enjoy your bunny.


I can't figure out how to upload the PDF version of this, so here it is as a JPG. It should print onto 8.5 x 11" paper perfectly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Emoji Corner Bookmarks

Emojis are, and probably will be for a while, quite popular. The emoji bookmarks that I bought are flying off my desk, and when we made valentine cards, probably half of them had emoji faces on them. As such, I decided to pull out an old standby - the corner bookmark - for Art Club this week, and make emoji bookmarks!

What You Need

Colored paper, mostly yellow
Scrap paper to cut out eyes, mouths, etc.
Glue Sticks
Colored pencils, markers, etc. to decorate with

How To Do It

1. Make sure all your paper is square. You can start with square origami paper, or cut it down to size. Be sure to save the scraps for future projects.

2. Fold your big square into four smaller squares.

3. Remove one of the smaller squares, so you have 3 left.

4. Holding the paper like a V, cut from the right corner of the bottom square, to the top corner of the right square. Repeat on the left. It will look like a kitty cat.

5. Fold one of the flaps over onto the full square. Cover the top side with glue. Make sure you don't have any glue on the bottom of the flap!

6. Fold the second flap over on top of the flap with the glue. This will make a little pocket.

7. Keeping the opening of the pocket at the top, decorate your bookmark. I found that cutting out eyes and other features from paper and gluing them on worked better than markers or crayons, but it's up to you. Note: You probably don't want to use anything 3D like googly eyes or sequins, because then your book won't close flat.

8. To use, slip a few pages into the pocket of your bookmark and save your page.


Mmmm! March!
I've made these to look like monster faces, Harry Potter characters, big arrows that say "I stopped reading here!", etc. It's a very easy, flexible craft, and can be as detailed or basic as you desire.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Soda Can Science

My science club has hit a bit of a plateau. I only get 3 to 5 kids, and their ages are so varied that it's hard to find something that interests all of them. I read somewhere in my travels that diet soda floats, while regular soda sinks (Really!!), so I designed this density experiment to celebrate the awesomeness of this fact. 

This week, I only had three kids for Science Club  - but they were all of similar age, and they all had a fantastic time. Plus, it was easy!

What You Need

  • A large clear plastic tub mostly filled with water
  • 6 cans of soda - a mix of regular and diet (please note: this doesn't work with mini cans)
  • Canister of salt
  • 2 plastic cups
  • Kitchen scale
  • Something to stir with (we used a ruler)
  • About 20 sugar packets
  • About 20 artificial sugar packets
  • Orange (nice but not required)
  • Aluminum foil (optional)
  • Willing kids to participate (hereafter referred to as your scientists)

What To Do

The Optional Part
Place the tub of water on a table so everyone can see. Shape your aluminum foil into a little boat. "Will this float, or sink?" Your scientists will all agree that it floats. Demonstrate.

Crumple the foil into a ball. "Will it float now, or sink?" (Please note: you need to crumple it REALLY WELL, or it will continue to float, and you will look silly.) The scientists usually agree that it will sink - if you did it right, it will. So, what changed? The density changed, which is a measure of how much something weighs compared to how much room it takes up. 

"Will the orange sink or float?" You may get differing answers on this one but the orange should, in fact, float. Neat. What if we peeled it? Your scientists will probably agree that it will still float, but they will be surprised to see it sink! Why? Because the orange peel has so much air in it, it acts as a flotation device, like if you wore a life jacket when you went swimming. So what does it mean if it doesn't have as much air in it? The orange without the peel is more dense. (You see where I'm going with this.)

The Rest Of It
SO! Will a can of soda float, or sink? Drop the cans in one at a time, starting with a regular (non-diet) soda. It will sink. ("Duh," I was told.) Then, try a diet can. It... floats? WHAAAAAAT? Continue with all of your cans. 

What's the difference between the cans that sink and the cans that float? The ones that float are DIET sodas. So what's the difference between a regular soda and a diet soda? Fish out all the cans and take a look. (You can put your tub of water aside now, if you have room.)

The sodas all have the same amount of liquid in them - that's the volume. Put them on the scale one by one and notice that the diet sodas weigh less than regular sodas. This means that the regular sodas are more dense than the diet ones.

This is 16 packets of sugar.
But why? Well, take a look at the sugar content of the sodas. The regular soda cans that I had each had 49 grams of sugar (!) while the diet ones have sugar substitutes in them.

Put an empty plastic cup on your scale and zero out the weight. Ask the scientists to add enough sugar to make 49 grams, and count how many packets of sugar that takes. (Our count was 16 packets. SIXTEEN PACKETS, in one can of soda!)

Put a new cup on the scale and zero it out. Now, take 16 packets of artificial sugar and see how much that weighs (about 16 grams). Allow the kids to feel the difference in the weight of the cups, and also the weight of unopened packets. Wow, so that's why it's such a difference in weight, and therefore in density!

If you have moved your water tub, it's time to bring it back. Ask if anyone has any ideas on how to make all the soda cans float. (Mine didn't, aside from pouring out the cans.) "Well, we can't change the density of the cans, but we can change the density of the water." Bring out a container of salt and allow the scientists to pour it (all of it!) in, and stir (we used a ruler for this) until it was as dissolved as possible. 

We put the cans back in and noticed that the diet ones bobbed at the surface even more than before. The cans on the bottom sank more slowly than before, but when one of our scientists started stirring the "soda soup," we noticed that the cans moved when the water moved - it was hard to see, but they were, in fact, floating. Magic? No! Science!

Kat's Note: because of the sugar content of ginger ale, which is less than most cola, orange soda, and grape soda, ginger ale will float, but not as high in the water as diet soda. Maybe skip the ginger ale.

Lab Report

I made this lab report with Canva. I have it in PDF form; just shoot me an email if that works better for you. Otherwise, right click and save these images and paste into a Word document to print.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Valentine Stampers

I wanted to show you this super simple Valentine's Day craft in plenty of time to plan out an event.  It's such a cute idea, and the kids tend to really love it. I had some kids make two, three, or even four valentines for friends and family (but I set the limit at four, because that's a lot, you're good now). 

You Need:

Paper in various colors, some cut into hearts of various sizes
Paint (I used washable tempera paint) in red, pink, purple, and blue
Toilet paper/paper towel tubes
Rubber bands (optional, but useful)
Other things to decorate (glitter, feathers, crayons, etc.)

How It's Done:

Take your toilet paper tube and press in on one side, bending it inward. On the opposite side, bend it out a little bit. This makes it a heart shape. If desired, hold this shape in place by wrapping a rubber band on the outside of the tube.


Put out paper plates with various paint colors. Glue paper hearts onto construction paper, and decorate by stamping the cardboard tube into the paint, and then onto the paper.

Decorate with markers, crayons, glitter, etc., until you're happy with the result. 


This was super popular, and very, very easy. The kids loved that I let them make multiple valentines, and some made them to send to grandparents, etc. They loved the "I made it myself!" aspect, and the parents enjoyed that it was easy, fun, and also looked pretty nice, even with the smallest children. (It's hard to mess up stamping.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Kirigami Paper Flowers

I am all about the paper crafts lately. This easy paper flower is a hit with my teens, and since you can quickly learn how to make them, I just so happen to have about 10 of them on my desk right now - not that I'm complaining. So cheerful!

The photo at the left here is actually two flowers stacked on top of each other. Doesn't it look lovely that way?

This craft isn't origami, because it's not just folding, and I don't know if it's technically kirigami (folding and cutting paper), because you're also using tape, but it's still fun. We can call it kirigami, anyway.

You Need:

Paper - any kind, but probably not something too thick, like card stock.

Here's How:

Start with a square of paper. If your paper isn't square, you can make it square by folding the short side of a rectangle onto the long side, and trimming off the excess.

Fold your paper in half on the diagonal, then in half again, and then again.


With your favorite pair of scissors, cut off the corner (the right angle) and round out the shape. This will be your petal shape.

The next cut you want to make will be in an arc shape, as I drew here. Make sure you start at the open end of the paper (not the corner where all the folds meet), and cut toward *but not all the way to* the other corner.

Unfold your paper, and behold its beauty.

Put a bubble of tape in the center of your flower. Then, take the center paper flap on one of the petals, and fold it toward the middle of the flower, securing it to the tape.

Repeat on the other three petals. You are done!


You can use any type of paper at all. You can paint/color/decorate blank paper to really customize them, or use recycled books, origami paper - anything! They also look very nice when you stack them on top of each other, as in my original photo (at the top). GORGEOUS, I tell you!

Monday, January 8, 2018

3D Paper Snowflakes

Have I mentioned how much I love arts & crafts? I really do. I've started an almost-weekly art program for teens, which I'm calling "Crafternoon" (I also love puns), and I've pulled out all my favorite crafts - plus a few new ones! 

This craft is also my current decoration on the windows near my desk. 

It's super easy to make these, and you can use any kind of paper that you want. Origami paper, wrapping paper, construction paper - even boring old printer paper. I've chosen to upcycle an old book that had been recently weeded, since I'm in a library and all. 

You will need:

Paper - 6 sheets per snowflake


 1. You need six sheets of paper for each snowflake, preferably all the same material, if not color. Because my book wasn't a square to begin with, I did the old trick of turning rectangles into squares - fold the short side against the long side to form a right triangle, and trim the excess.

2. Fold your square in half diagonally, and then in half again.

3. Starting at the folded edge, make three cuts parallel to the long side of the triangle. I've drawn them here in orange marker, but you don't need to draw anything out - just cut through the entire piece of folded paper, starting at the folded edge - but don't go all the way to the end.

4. Unfold your paper and behold its beauty. It should look like this: see how the cuts make a V at two corners, but are joined on the other two corners? Perfect.

5. Take the paper flaps in the center of the square and curl them toward you into a small tube. Tape to secure.

6. Flip your paper over and take the next-innermost flaps, and curl them toward you into a small tube. Tape to secure.

7. Again, flip your paper over, so your last tube is on the bottom. Take the next-innermost flaps, and curl them toward you into a small tube. Tape to secure.

8. One last time, flip your paper over, and tape the last two corners together into a tube. 

THERE! Isn't it beautiful? Your paper tube-spiral should look like this.

9. Repeat with all sheets of paper, so you have 6 paper tube-spirals.

10. Take three of your spirals, staple them together at one end. Then, staple the spirals where the paper touches, at the widest part of the spirals. Repeat, so you have two of these.

11. Staple your two half-snowflakes together, and attach the last two corners of the spiral. And... voila!


Since you're attaching multiple sheets of paper together, your snowflake may be larger than you expected it to be. You can always start with smaller sheets of paper, but it becomes much harder to staple together when the snowflake is a smaller size. Glue or tape may work better in that instance.

You can also make snowflakes with 8 or 10 sides, but even numbers always look nicest, because they're symmetrical.