Category Archives: periodic table

activities periodic table science


Do you know what happens when you add food coloring to ice and table salt?

salt, colors, ice

Not only do you get a beautiful bowl of colored, fast melting ice; but you can experience iridescence if you use the right pigment. I’m not going to tell you which pigment causes this effect. You’ll have to try all of them to see for yourself. Of course, you can kind of tell in the pictures below, but try it and see if you are right.

red, blue, purple

you need:
table salt
primary food colors
neon food colors- if you can only get one pack, get the neon
*I HIGHLY suggest using both types of food coloring, it’s the best way to discover the pigment that causes the iridescence


to do:
1. fill a bowl with ice
2. sprinkle (or pour, try different amounts) table salt onto the ice
3. add drops of food coloring onto the salt
4. you get instant results with some of the colors, no results with some, and have to be a little patient with one color

salt then color

colors of ice

 Here are some great links to explain what exactly is going on in this experiment and ways to understand what causes color:
1. SciScape 
2. Causes of Color -LOVE this site! Explains color really well.

purple neon

Don’t dump the ice when you are done, let the ice melt down and see what happens to the iridescence. Enjoy!

bowl of ice

periodic table science

science songs and videos (ptoe)

Here’s a little post for my “science nerd” friends!

They Might Be Giants came out with a new science CD/DVD collection called Here Comes Science They Might be Giants! TMBG has always been a favorite band of mine and I find my little ladies loving them as well!  Here’s a sneak peek video of  their PTOE song- “Meet the Elements:”

Not a TMBG song but it is a pretty song and video about the water cycle.

Fauna is fascinated with this one! She wants to be able to sing it word for word. Good Luck Fauna!

craft felt flowers herb kitchen chemistry leaves periodic table seeds sewing Uncategorized

natural dyes- walnuts and goldenrod

Making natural dyes from backyard plants (or frontyard)  is an activity we enjoy to do in the Autumn, when we can heat up the kitchen and still have a window or two open. Yesterday we gathered goldenrod, walnuts and pokeberry to dye a thrifted wool blanket and some wool roving.

natural dyes

 What you need:

vinegar for plant dyes

salt for berry dyes


stainless steel pots- VERY IMPOTANT or a chemical reaction can occur with the color

 cloth or fibers- light colored wool, cotton, silk or muslin works best for natural dyes

cheesecloth or coffee filter


plant material- flowers should be in full bloom, nuts mature, and berries ripe

wool wool blanket

Before dyeing the fibers you must soak them in a fixative in order for the dye to “stick”:

Berry dye fixative: 1/2 cup salt to 8 cups cold water

Plant dye fixative: 4 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar

Directions for fixative: Add the fabric to the fixative mixture and simmer for an hour; then rinse the fabric in cold water and ring out excess water.

natural dyes fixative

Making the dye bath: While the fabric is soaking in the fixative prepare the dye bath. Chop up the plant material and place in a pan. Add the water by doubling the amount of water to plant material. I used a lot of water for the walnuts because they make such a strong dark dye. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer for about a  half hour to an hour, depending on how potent you want the dye. 

walnut dye bath walnut dye bath 2

Dyeing the fabric: Strain plant material from the water. I found out the hard way that you should use cheesecloth or a coffee filter to catch little bits of plant material that go through the strainer. Add the fabric (while still wet from the fixative soak) to the dye bath. Simmer the fabric in the bath until the desired color is obtained. Keep in mind that the fabric will be lighter once it is rinsed and dry. After obtaining preferred color, rinse in cold water until water is clear. Hang to dry (don’t ya love the 1970’s brick fireplace with brass guard?).

drying the wool

The results are so pretty! The goldenrod (left) stained the wool a light creamy yellow color; the walnut stained the wool a beautiful brown with a chestnut tint. I’m planning on staining more wool with the walnut bath so I can make wool trees for the little ladies’ holiday gifts. Araina wants to make a leaf garland and Fauna wants to make a gathering bag with both colors of the stained wools. ****Note- all dyed fabric should be laundered separately in cold water.

dyed wool 2

You can do this natural dyeing  process with any plants you find in your yard. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different plants to get different colors. Plantain and grass would probably make a pretty green color. I was thinking about trying leaf litter too. Have fun experimenting and if you do this please let me know how it turned out!

Note on the pokeberries- last year we used pokeberries to dye some wool and it came out a beautiful pink color. This year I simmered the berries in a  NON-stainless steel pot (I used a large pot for canning) and the beautiful magenta berry color turned pale yellow, which is disappointing when you wanted pink! So I didn’t post that one. But learn from my mistakes and use stainless steel! Hopefully our now green pokeberries that are growing in the backyard will ripen before more nights of frost occur.

For you science lovers out there- learn about the chemical bonding of dyeing fabric here and to learn more about the different types of bonds go here. Enjoy!

flowers herb herbs periodic table

yellow wood sorrel (ptoe-oxalic acid)


 Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)  is another backyard edible.  The leaves, flowers and unripe fruits are edible, with a sour, tart, lemony flavor; it’s sometimes referred to as “sour grass” because of the sour taste. Wood sorrel can be added to salads, soups, or sauces, or used as a seasoning. The leaves can be steeped in boiling water for 5-10 minutes and then sweetened to make a refreshing drink similar to lemonade. I am always reading that  it should be consumed in moderation because the plant contains oxalic acid which is toxic in excessive amounts, but looking at this chart you get more oxalic acid from parsley, purslane, chives, rhubarb stems and spinach.

or Fruit
Oxalic Acid Content
as a percentage
USDA Dr. Duke Litholink
Amaranth 1.09
Apples 0.00
Apricots 0.00
Asparagus 0.13 0.01
Beans 0.36 0.03 0.02
Beans, Fava 0.01
Beans, Garbanzo 0.00
Beans, Soy 0.08
Beets 0.04 0.68
Beet Greens 0.61
Blackberries 0.02
Blueberries 0.02
Broccoli 0.19 0.00
Brussels Sprouts 0.36 0.00
Cabbage 0.10 0.04 0.00
Carrots 0.50 0.01 0.00
Cauliflower 0.15 0.01 0.00
Celery 0.19 0.02
Chicory 0.21
Chard, Swiss 0.65
Cherries 0.00
Chives 1.48 0.00
Collards 0.45 0.07
Coriander 0.01
Corn, Sweet 0.01 0.01 0.01
Cucumbers 0.02 0.00
Currants, Black 0.00
Currants, Red 0.02
Dandelion Greens 0.02
Dewberries 0.01
Eggplant 0.19 0.03 0.02
Endive 0.11
Escarole 0.03
Garlic 0.36
Gooseberries, Green 0.09
Kale 0.02 0.01
Lambsquarters 30.00
Leeks 0.09
Lentils 0.02
Lettuce 0.33 0.01 0.00
Melons 0.00
Mushrooms 0.00
Mustard Greens 0.13 0.01
Nectarines 0.00
Okra 0.05 0.01 0.15
Onion 0.05 0.00 0.00
Parsley 1.70 0.10
Parsnips 0.04 0.02 0.01
Peas 0.05 0.01 0.00
Peaches 0.00 0.01
Pears 0.00
Peppers, Sweet 0.04 0.12 0.02
Pokeweed 0.48
Potatos 0.05 0.02 0.00
Pumpkin 0.04
Purslane 1.31 1.68
Radishes 0.48 0.01 0.00
Raspberries, Black 0.05
Raspberries, Red 0.02
Rhubarb (stems) 1.34 0.86
Rutabagas 0.03 0.02
Shallots 0.00
Sorrel 0.30
Spearmint 0.00
Spinach 0.97 0.66 0.68
Squash 0.02 0.02
Strawberries 0.01
Sweet Potatos 0.24 0.10 0.06
Tomatillos 0.05
Tomato 0.05 0.03 0.00
Turnips 0.21 0.00
Turnip Greens 0.05
Watercress 0.31 0.01

  High oxalic acid foods should be avoided by those with kidney disease, kidney stones, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout. To read more about oxalic acid in foods and get a better understanding of this chart visit

Wood sorrel is another great plant to link to the periodic table, the formula for oxalic acid is H2C2O4.

 Oxalis means “sharp” in Greek and Sorrel means “acidic” or “sour” in French. 

Although wood sorrel has three-lobed leaves, it is not related to the clover which is in the Trifolium family. Those heart shaped leaves belong to the Oxalis family not the clover family.

oxalis 2

Here is a photo of white clover leaves, they are more oval shaped.

white clover2

Shooh, I hope that wasn’t too much info on the science of wood sorrel and oxalic acid; sometimes I just can’t stop myself. ;)

activities aluminum craft periodic table tutorial

Aluminum Art Mobile- Periodic Table of Elements

For this project you need: heavy duty aluminum foil (we used Reynold’s wrap), permanent markers, rubbing plates, scissors, wire cutters, wire (we used florist wire), pliers, ribbon, beads, bells, glue gun, hole punch and cardboard (from a cereal box).

Place the foil on the rubbing plate, press with your fingers to get the imprint onto the foil, then color with the permanent markers.

To strengthen the foil, I hot glued cardboard to the back of the foil art. Then I punched 4 holes.

To assemble the aluminum art together we discovered it was easier to do this on the floor. We simply wired the pieces together adding beads and aluminum bells between each piece as we went along.

We punched 5 holes to the bottom piece and added a lot of pretty beads and bells.
We added a big ribbon to the top of the mobiles and hung them from our Hawthorn tree.
To give credit where it’s due, I got the idea to hang the aluminum art in a mobile fashion from Pepper paints. To learn more about aluminum visit Aluminum and Literature. Visit Anet at the Purple Squirrel for another idea with aluminum.

activities aluminum literature periodic table science

Aluminum Cans and the Periodic Table of Elements

Literature and Aluminum Al
We have been reading the sweetest little book, first published in 1942, called “Twig” by Elizabeth Orton Jones.

The book is about a little girl, Twig, who lives in a city apartment. All she has for a backyard is a small bit of dirt where only a single dandelion is growing. She takes an old can, a gum wrapper, a bottle cap and an old thimble, places it by the dandelion and wishes for a fairy to move into this little home. Low and behold one does, by the name of ELF. Elf shrinks her down to his size and they have many adventures which doesn’t involve leaving Twig’s tiny backyard, including meeting a fairy queen. The photos are just as whimisical as the story and have that old fashioned flair to them.

Aluminum Tomato Can Fairy Home
Without taking the whimsy out of this book I was able to bring the PTOE (Aluminum) into this sweet little tale. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust and is an important aspect to the story. Twig uses an aluminum tomato can, bottle cap and a gum wrapper to make a cozy place for a fairy to live. What a novel idea!
The little ladies gathered some similar aluminum items mentioned in the book and made their own tomato can fairy home.

They spent most of the afternoon playing “Twig and her little friends.” There are all kinds of aluminum can fairy homes in our yard now.

Facts About Aluminum Recycling from Earth 911
1. Discovered in the 1820s, aluminum is the most abundant metal on earth.
2. Over 50 percent of the aluminum cans produced are recycled.
3. A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can in as little as 60 days.
4. Aluminum is a durable and sustainable metal: two-thirds of the aluminum ever produced is in use today.
5. Every minute, an average of 113,204 aluminum cans are recycled.
6. Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95 percent less energy than using virgin materials.
7. 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore.
8. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours or run your television for three hours.
9. Tossing away an aluminum can waste as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.
10. In 1972, one pound of aluminum cans was equivalent to about 22 empty cans. Due to advanced technology using less material and increasing the durability of aluminum cans, in 2002, one pound of aluminum cans is equivalent to about 34 empty cans.
11. The average employee consumes 2.5 beverages each day while at work.
12. An empty aluminum can is worth about one cent.

Visit Earth 911 to learn more about aluminum cans. Novelis has a fun site about aluminum cans with a free coloring book called My Life as a Can. For more PTOE activities visit moss terrarium, onions, decomposing ecosystem, and carbon stars.