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teaching science across the spectrum

MielkeWAY Education believes in teaching science across the spectrum.  The boundaries between traditional scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, and physics are becoming increasingly blurred as the scientific problems we attack are becoming more complex. With this blurring of boundaries, modern science is evolving into a interdisciplinary and collaborative endeavor.


The MielkeWAY Science curriculum has been specifically designed for this emerging paradigm.  We address the growing need for students who can approach, think about, and understand scientific problems from multiple perspectives. Students who enroll in MielkeWAY camps and enrichment programs are introduced to this empowering perspective. Learning the foundations of physical, mathematical and life sciences in an integrated, active-learning environment produces students who are better prepared for any educational route they choose.

Here you will find an example of an integrated enrichment session.


(and so much more!)

Today’s Scientific Snack:  Rainbow Foam

The Science Behind It: Gelatin. Gelatin is used to thicken and turn liquid foods into a solid gummy gel. Gelatin is derived from collagen found in the skin and bones of animals, most notably from pigs.

According to The Learning Channel, collagen, also found in humans, is a protein that contributes to the strength and elasticity of “the body’s connective tissues.” As collagen doesn’t dissolve in water, it must be treated with an acid to create the water-soluble gelatin. Gelatin in its powdered form, on a molecular level, are proteins made up of amino acid chains known as polypeptide chains. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of all proteins. When amino acids like the ones found in gelatin (glycine, proline and hydroxyproline) come together, they form chains called polypeptide chains, which are normally bound together by weak molecular bonds. But when these bonds are subjected to boiling water as they when you make Jello or the Rainbow Foam below, those bonds break and polypeptide chains separate from each other. Once the gelatin cools again with the addition of cold water, the chains come back together as those molecular bonds between them re-form. In the process, the water is soaked up and trapped in pockets between the polypeptide chains, resulting in Jello’s characteristic jelly jiggle.



How Does It Work?

Rainbow Glasses have special lenses that bend and separate light into the colors of the spectrum. When you look through them, rainbows magically appear.

What Does It Teach?

Teach kids about the nature of light and color. Discover that light consists of "waves" that can be seen as color when bent or separated by a prism or these amazing rainbow lenses.





So, is black really just black? No! There’s literally a rainbow of color hiding in just one black dot! The burst of color that you see on the filter paper proves that black is really a combination of colors. This technique of color separation is actually called chromatography, which was originally used to separate different plant pigments. The science behind the rainbow is simply this - the ink dissolves in the water (that’s why they call it water soluble) and moves in between the fibers of the paper where it is separated into bands of color. You might see as many as six or seven different circles of color


RADIAL CHROMATOGRAPHY:  The experiment you can wear!

Using a full spectrum of colorful markers, solvent, applicators, chromatography frame, and a T-shirt, our scientists decided to  let chemistry make the fashion statement!                               


The Science Behind It:

Although they may appear to be pure substances, many materials are mixtures comprised of two or more different substances. Since likes dissolve likes, the result of a chromatogram depend greatly on the type of solvent or mobile phase used. The solvent (mobile phase) used in this experiment is isopropyl alcohol which is squeezed onto a simple pattern made with permanent ink on a T-shirt (the stationary phase). As the dyes in the ink dissolve in the mobile phase, they travel at different rates and are separated (according to their polarity) into an explosion of color and chromatographic design.





Using household materials like milk, food coloring, and dish soap, our scientists created an awesome chemical reaction and a beautiful explosion of colors.


The SCIENCE behind it:

Milk is mostly water but it also contains vitamins, minerals, proteins, and tiny droplets of fat suspended in solution. Fats and proteins are sensitive to changes in the surrounding solution (the milk).

The secret of the bursting colors is the chemistry of that tiny drop of soap. Dish soap, because of its bipolar characteristics (nonpolar on one end and polar on the other), weakens the chemical bonds that hold the proteins and fats in solution. The soap's polar, or hydrophilic (water-loving), end dissolves in water, and its hydrophobic (water-fearing) end attaches to a fat globule in the milk. This is when the fun begins.

The molecules of fat bend, roll, twist, and contort in all directions as the soap molecules race around to join up with the fat molecules. During all of this fat molecule gymnastics, the food coloring molecules are bumped and shoved everywhere, providing an easy way to observe all the invisible activity. As the soap becomes evenly mixed with the milk, the action slows down and eventually stops.

Try adding another drop of soap to see if there's any more movement. If so, you discovered there are still more fat molecules that haven't found a partner at the big color dance. Add another drop of soap to start the process again.



The Color Changing Milk activity is a great demonstration of what happens when you combine dish soap and milk. But it's just that... a demonstration. How can you make this colorful and engaging activity a good experiment? Change something, create a new experiment, and compare the results.

  • Repeat the experiment using water in place of milk. Will you get the same eruption of color? Why or why not?

  • What kind of milk produces the best swirling of color: skim, 1%, 2%, whole milk, cream? Does the fat content of the milk affect the reaction?

The dish soap must remain the same in the experiment. Use the same brand for each trial and the same amount of soap. Use the same colors and the same amount of food coloring in each trial. Pour the same amount of liquid into the bottom of the dish. All of these steps ensure that you have standardized the conditions as much as possible and have isolated a variable--the one thing that changes in the experiment. In this case, the variable is the type of milk you are using. Take photos of the reactions (maybe even videotape the reactions) to document your discoveries.






Anyone can stack blocks, boxes, or books, but only those with a steady hand and a little understanding of chemistry can stack liquids. What if you could stack seven different liquids in seven different layers? Think of it as a science burrito!


The same amount of two different liquids will have different weights because they have different masses. The liquids that weigh more (have a higher density) will sink below the liquids that weigh less (have a lower density).




Rubbing Alcohol


Lamp Oil


Baby Oil


Vegetable Oil


Ice Cube






Dawn Dish Soap


Light Corn Syrup


Maple Syrup





To test this, you might want to set up a scale and measure each of the liquids that you poured into your column. Make sure that you measure the weights of equal portions of each liquid. You should find that the weights of the liquids correspond to each different layer of liquid. For example, the honey will weigh more than the Karo syrup. By weighing these liquids, you will find that density and weight are closely related.

** NOTE: The numbers in the table are based on data from manufacturers for each item. Since each manufacturer has its secret formula, the densities may vary from brand to brand. You’ll notice that according to the number, rubbing alcohol should float on top of the lamp oil, but we know from our experiment that the lamp oil is the top layer. Chemically speaking, lamp oil is nothing more than refined kerosene with coloring and fragrance added. Does every brand of lamp oil exhibit the same characteristics? Sounds like the foundation of a great science fair project.

The table shows the densities of the liquids used in the column as well as other common liquids (measured in g/cm3 or g/mL).

Density is basically how much "stuff" is smashed into a particular area... or a comparison between an object's mass and volume. Remember the all-important equation:  Density = Mass divided by Volume. Based on this equation, if the weight (or mass) of something increases but the volume stays the same, the density has to go up. Likewise, if the mass decreases but the volume stays the same, the density has to go down. Lighter liquids (like water or rubbing alcohol) are less dense than heavy liquids (like honey or Karo syrup) and so float on top of the more dense layers.






Astronomers can figure out what distant stars are made of (in other words, their atomic composition) by measuring what type of light is emitted by the star. In this science project, you can do something similar by observing the color of flames when various chemicals are burned.  In this science project, you will use a procedure that is similar to flame photometry or a flame test to observe the color of light produced when various metal compounds are burned.


The Science Behind It:

All matter is made of atoms. Atoms have a nucleus, which consists of protons and neutrons, and is surrounded by electrons. The nucleus is concentrated in a very small space, about 10-15 m. An entire atom is on the order of 10-10 m, so the electrons are relatively far from the nucleus, and, strangely enough, atoms are mostly empty space.

Physicists have found that the electrons traveling around the atomic nucleus can have only certain amounts of energy, called energy levels. In other words, the energy levels of atomic electrons are quantized. If electrons gain energy, they can move from one energy level up to a higher level, but these different energy levels are not continuous—they come in discrete steps. (Watch the animation in Figure 1, below, to see an electron gain energy and move up to a higher energy level.) This fundamental discovery is known as quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics describes how an atom's electrons interact with electrons of other atoms and with photons.


Atomic electrons at higher energy levels can also lose energy, dropping down to a lower energy level. (You can also see this in the animation in Figure 1, above.) Again, the electron moves from one allowed energy state to another. The lost energy can be carried away in the form of heat (vibrational energy) or in the form of light—when the electron reverts to a lower energy state, a photon of light is produced. The photon produced will have an energy equal to the difference between the electron's initial high energy state and the later lower-energy state. For visible light, we perceive these differences in photon energy as differences in the color of the light. Because different types of atoms have different gaps between their energy levels, they make light of different colors when their electrons lose energy.

Not only can astronomers use this knowledge to figure out the atomic composition of distant stars, but it can also be used to create fireworks shows. Have you ever watched a fireworks show and wondered how all the different colors — amazing reds, yellows, oranges, blues, purples, greens, and more — are made? The color, or colors, that a firework makes depends on what chemicals are in the firework. These chemicals are various metal compounds that burn when the firework goes off, and burning the compounds is what makes the colors, like the ones shown in Figure 2, below.




Our Young scientists launched a swirling vortex and puff perfect smoke rings while mastering the movement of air! The trash can smoke ring generator is always a signature finale... Years ago, toy manufacturers like Wham-O sold air blasters that sent bursts of air sailing across a room to the surprise and delight of any innocent victim. With a little practice, it was quite easy to shoot a cup off of someone's head from 20 feet away.  Just think of the surprise when our victim encounters our GIANT trashcan vortex!



The proper name for the air cannon device is “vortex generator”. The “ball” of air that shoots out of the cannon is actually a flat vortex of air, similar to rings of smoke blown by a talented cigar smoker. A vortex is generated because the air exiting the bucket at the center of the hole is traveling faster than the air exiting around the edge of the hole. That swirling or vortex motion can be observed if a little smoke is blown into the bucket just before giving the rubber membrane a gentle push. This activity demonstrates that air occupies space... and the flying smoke rings are an added bonus.



We have created a giant smoke ring launcher made from a modified trash can, but there's a way you can construct a smaller version at home! Using an empty coffee container and a smoke bomb, you'll be creating swirling vortexes of smoke in under 10 minutes. In addition to the awesome smoke ring launcher you'll have, you will also gain a new understanding of the movement of air and vortexes!


The smoke machine is the traditional way of creating smoke rings in your air blaster, but there’s no need for a smoke machine when smoke bombs are readily available around the 4th of July. After lighting the smoke bomb (with adult supervision, of course), fill the coffee tub with the colored smoke. Use caution as hot debris can shoot up from the smoke bomb and burn tiny holes in the membrane. The launcher is ready for you to tap the membrane and produce dozens of colorful smoke rings.


Whether you choose the more traditional smoke machine or the much more exciting smoke bomb, the rule is the same - never blow smoke in anyone’s face (people or animals!) Aim the flying rings of smoke in the air and fire away. We also recommend that you do this activity outside or be prepared for the smoke alarms to go off. It’s always interesting to have to explain the smoke rings to the fire department, especially when the rings are created by smoke bombs... been there, done that.








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