Incorporating art into our STEM always brings something beautiful and more meaningful to our activities. Christmas is a great time for STEAM activities and I’ve loved brainstorming some new hands-on learning activities for my kids. With this STEAM Christmas activity, we bring together two of my kids favourite things…. Christmas and Chemistry!
STEAM Christmas Science Experiment
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This STEAM Christmas Activity is a chemistry experiment at it’s heart, which means kids love the fizzy, messy reactions! I highly recommend you do this in a place where you can clean up easily.
This STEAM Christmas activity is fun for preschool through Elementary.
Using the syringe is also fantastic for building fine motor skills.
If you have done our Hatching Dinos experiment, you are going to LOVE doing this Christmas Chemistry experiment with an artistic twist. If you can’t see this video, please turn off your adblockers as they also block our video feed. Alternatively, you can find this video on the STEAM Powered Family YouTube Channel.
Christmas Chemistry Supplies
Green Food Dye
Silicone Christmas Tree Mold
Paints (we used these ones and find they work great for all our crafting and school work, plus they clean up easily!)
Paint brushes (you will need small ones for this activity)
A freezer or you can use Mother Nature if it’s below freezing
High sided dish, bowl or container to keep the mess and reaction contained!
Latex gloves – optional but HIGHLY recommended
The first step is to make your Christmas trees. Start by putting on the latex gloves. I made the mistake of skipping this step once and my hands were dyed for days.
Add some baking soda to a large mixing bowl. I used an entire box and made 5 trees.
In a container mix water with some green food dye. You will want to use quite a lot of dye to get a nice dark green colour. I was a bit too light handed with mine and my trees were not as green as I had hoped.
Slowly, just a little bit at time, add the water to the baking soda and mix it together with your hands. Now, if you have done my Dino Eggs experiment, you know from that experiment that we mixed until we had a nice sticky, slightly stiff paste. With this activity, because we are using molds, you want to add a little bit more water. You want it to be thick but with just enough fluidity that it will fill all the cracks and shapes of the mold.
Fill the molds with your green baking soda mixture, and place in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours until completely frozen. Overnight is even better.
Carefully remove the trees from the mold while they are still frozen, then promptly start painting them. You don’t want them to melt! Thankfully they don’t thaw quickly, so you don’t have to really rush, but don’t leave them out either.
You can paint them however you want, this is where we can let our creative juices flow. Using glittery paints adds to the festive feel.
Once your tree is painted let it dry for a moment. It’s time to prepare for the big experiment!
Set out a high sided bowl or container, dribble some dish soap into the bottom. This is an important step and we tested with and without dish soap so you can see the difference. Check out the results below.
Now transfer your painted Christmas tree to your prepared container.
We love using a syringe for these experiments. It is a great fine motor strengthening activity, but if you don’t have syringes you could use a spoon. Just don’t let the kids put too much vinegar on at once or the experiment will be over very quickly!
The results always cause a great deal of excitement!
The Science Explained
This simple chemistry experiment uses our much loved baking soda and vinegar reaction. This is a very easy way to explore the reactions between acids and bases.
Vinegar or Acetic Acid has the chemical formula C2H4O2. Baking soda is a base also known as Sodium Bicarbonate and has the chemical formula NaHCO3. During this reaction the products are sodium acetate (NaC2H3O2). Sodium acetate is made of 1 sodium ion, 2 carbon atoms, 3 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The other products are water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is the gas that causes the bubbling during the reaction.
Here is the chemical formula of this reaction:
C2H4O2 + NaHCO3 -> NaC2H3O2 + H2O + CO2
vinegar + sodium bicarbonate -> sodium acetate + water + carbon dioxide
Playing With The Variables
The kids asked me why I added the dish soap, so instead of explaining it, we tested how the dish soap affects the reaction. You can see it is not nearly as spectacular, but doing both was a great scientific investigation moment.
Have fun creating and learning with STEAM this holiday season!