My dream house includes a Hogwarts-style library and potions lab in a stargazing tower—with large enough grounds to build a full-size trebuchet—but my actual house has no yard and a teeny kitchen and one carpeted living/dining area with bookshelves crammed in wherever they fit. So our science experiments have to be performed either between meals on the table, if I can get it cleared, or else on the narrow strip of counter around the crock pot and the Kitchen-Aid. This makes lab sciences somewhat challenging.
We do a lot of nature studies both on our own and with our co-op, and for the hard sciences, we read about them. So considering how young we are, I feel like we’re genuinely covering science well enough for now.
But every now and then, I have an impulse to perform a proper experiment with the girls. There’s an old classic one where you take a white flower and put it in colored water and the flower is supposed to turn colors. One day, I found a big bouquet of white pom-pom daisies at the grocery store, and I told the girls we’d try it.
I had a burst of pregnancy insomnia that night, so between 3 and 4 a.m., I wrote a Latin worksheet and pulled out a variety of glass bottles and food coloring so the experiment would be ready. Then I overslept and woke up to find Meg matter-of-factly starting the experiment herself using the food coloring…over the carpet.
I shrieked and explained that food coloring was a WITH ADULTS ONLY supply. Once that was cleared up, we made six different colors of water and plopped the daisies in them. Meg thoroughly enjoyed watching droplets of dye spread into clear water; it really was beautiful.
Then I explained to the girls that they are not allowed to climb on the table when it has six bottles of dyed water and flowers on it because they’ll have the whole thing over. Get off!
“How long is it supposed to take?” Meg asked after waiting half an hour or so.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess that’s part of the experiment.”
Meg apparently felt like the process was taking too long, so she turned some of the daisies upside-down and dunked them in the water blossom first.
I came along a few minutes later and discovered this and pointed out that if you leave the stems exposed to air, they won’t be able to suck up water anymore. Also, we wouldn’t find out if the flowers were able to turn colors from being in colored water. I turned them back stem-down.
Then I left for a women’s retreat.
When I came back, all the flowers were still white, except for drips from their dunking.
The next day, which was a Sunday, all the flowers were still white. I knocked over the bottle of yellow dye while trying to do breakfast or something. I cleaned it up.
That evening I knocked over the bottle of greenish dye and its flower while trying to put away the crock pot. It soaked a game box, several pieces, and a bag of chips, and ran off the edge of the table onto the carpet in two different places. I screamed and caught one set of falling drips in somebody’s abandoned glass of milk, creating greenish milk, and desperately tried to catch the other drips with something else, and Jonathan came dashing up and soaked up part of the mess with a dishcloth, but then the drawer was jammed because we have a broken drawer this week so he couldn’t get any more dishcloths out, and it was all very exciting.
At that point I declared the experiment over. We dumped the remaining bottles of dye and the flowers, every one of which was still white. I’m not sure what we learned about science, but I can tell you that it’s really hard to do experiments in an apartment. It’s a good thing we weren’t using sulfuric acid.
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis. Following images courtesy of author.