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For STEM Friday we have a middle grade title  Cool Plastic Bottle and Milk Jug Science (Recycled Science) by Tammy Enz.

Tammy Enz has come up with nine intriguing science activities that reuse plastic containers. It's a win-win scenario because plastic containers provide inexpensive containers for science projects, and finding new purposes for water bottles or milk jugs keeps them out of the landfill.

The instructions for the activities are short and clear. There's a list of materials you'll need, step-by-step instructions how to put it together, photographs showing the set up, and a brief explanation of what's happening. Activities range from making a cloud in a bottle in a few minutes to a longer term composting worm farm.

Cool Plastic Bottle and Milk Jug Science is perfect for a busy educator who needs a science activity fast. The best part is the materials are inexpensive and generally readily available. If you are doing science with kids, it's a great book to have on hand.

Age Range: 8 - 14 years
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1515708624
ISBN-13: 978-1515708629

Related Activities:

This video shows an easy demonstration of air pressure using plastic bottles.

Who needs expensive glassware when you can replicate many of the same containers using plastic bottles. Here are two ideas to get you started.

  1. Gravity Filtration

When you separate solid particles from a liquid by pouring the mixture through a filter, it is called gravity filtration. Generally filtration in chemistry involves special glassware, but for simple experiments at home you can use a large plastic soda bottle cut in two, with the top inverted into the bottom. Most soda bottles can be cut with household scissors.


Place a coffee filter into the inverted top of the soda bottle, with the cap off. Fold or cut the top so it fits smoothly. Pour the liquid to be filtered through the filter. Larger particles will be trapped in the filter, and the liquid and smaller particles will pass through into the catchment container. Remove the filter and invert into a dish. Scrape off the solids with a spoon, if necessary.

Certain brands of paper towels will also work as filters, but coffee filters are inexpensive and easier to work with.

2. Distillation

Distillation is a way to separate mixtures that takes advantage of differences in boiling point. The liquid leaves the mixture via evaporation and then the gas/vapor is captured again via condensation.

bottle-distillation-apparatusNote:  This activity works best outdoors on a hot, sunny day.

You can set up a simple distillation apparatus using a soda bottle that has been cut in half. Leave the cap on.

Place the mixture in the bottom of the soda bottle. Place an empty glass in the center. Invert the top of the soda bottle (with the cap left on) into the bottom half. Press down so it fits tightly and doesn’t allow gases to escape. Fill the top of the soda bottle with ice. Cover with newspaper (insulation) and then aluminum foil. Set in the sun. Visit regularly over the day and replace the ice as needed.

The water should evaporate from the bottom, condense on the top and then run into the cup.

Related: Previous review of Build It! by the same author, Tammy Enz.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

We are running a bit behind with our Chemistry Week posts, but better late than never.

Table salt, or sodium chloride, is inexpensive and easy to obtain. It can also be used for a number of different chemistry experiments.


This video explains some background about the history and chemistry of sodium chloride.

Credit: NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation (NSF)

1. A Test for Iodide in Table Salt


  • Iodized table salt
  • Non-iodized table salt
  • Hydrogen peroxide (be sure to use 3 %, the kind sold for home use in pharmacies)
  • Corn Starch
  • Water
  • Tablespoon and teaspoon-sized measuring spoons
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Three clear containers, such as glasses or plastic cups
  • Stirring rods or spoons
  • Sharpie marker, tape or other materials to label the containers

1. Label the containers: A) hydrogen peroxide + iodized salt, B) hydrogen-peroxide + non-iodized salt, and C) water + iodized salt.

2. Measure 100 mL (about 1/3 cup) of water and add it to container C. Measure 100 mL (about 1/3 cup) hydrogen peroxide (3%) and add it to container A. Next measure 100 mL (about 1/3 cup) hydrogen peroxide (3%) and add it to container B.

3. Add two Tablespoons of iodized salt to container A and stir. Add two Tablespoons of iodized salt to container C and stir. Add two Tablespoons of non-iodized salt to container B and stir.

4. Observe the containers for a few minutes. Record any changes that occur.

Check our iodine chemistry post to see what iodine looks like in water or hydrogen peroxide. Do you see anything that looks similar?

5. Now add 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch to each container. What happens?


I love this reaction! It is quick and fairly easy to understand. Let me know if you have any questions about procedures or results.


Tom Kuntzleman has another version of this experiment with the chemistry explained. Here is his video:

2. Studying Density: Table Salt versus Salt Sense®

According to the label of the product, Salt Sense® contains real salt, but there is “33% less sodium per teaspoon.” How is this possible?

Prior to starting, answer the following questions:
What do you know about salt and its structure? How might the company achieve its claim of 33% less sodium per teaspoon? Is there 33% less chloride as well?


  • Iodized Table Salt
  • Iodized Salt Sense® (Available in grocery stores and online)
  • Microscope or hand lens
  • Petri dishes or similar shallow, clear containers
  • Measuring beakers or graduated cylinders
  • Kitchen scale that can weigh grams
  • Laboratory notebook or paper
  • Pen for recording results


1. Place a small sample of table salt in one petri dish and a sample of Salt Sense® in a second petri dish. Look at the samples under the microscope.

Draw what you see for each sample. How might the differences you observe change the amount of sodium per teaspoon?

2. Calculate the density of each substance.

Density = mass/volume

where mass is the weight of the salt in grams and volume is the amount of salt in mL.

Tare a measuring beaker on the scale (ask the instructor or read the manual if you don’t know what “tare” means.)

Pour 20 mL of table salt in the beaker. Weigh the table salt in grams and record the weight.

Now tare the second beaker. Add 20 mL of Salt Sense® to the beaker and weigh it. Record the weight in grams.

Calculate the density of each sample. Which sample is less dense? How much less dense is it?

How might you make your results more accurate?


Manufacturer Diamond Crystal’s explanation of Salt Sense®

Other experiments and activities with salt:

Grow your own salt crystals at

Using salt to melt ice at NBC Learn (grades 9-12)

salt-and-pepper(Public domain photograph of salt and pepper by Jon Sullivan)

Teen interested in chemistry? Are you a high school student who needs to augment your chemistry class? We have gathered some awesome chemistry resources for the 13- to 19-year-old crowd to get you started.

1. Video Chemistry Courses

As you probably already know, instructional videos are a wonderful way to learn a new subject or clarify concepts. Some teachers offer their entire lectures/courses online. Here are some of the best we have found:

Mr. Anderson at Bozeman Science has both Essentials Chemistry and AP Chemistry playlists.

Here is an example of one of his videos:

Crash Course Chemistry has a more "popular science" feel, but contains in depth information, as well as historical perspective. It is hosted by video legend Hank Green.

He starts this video sharing his ideas of how important chemistry is. Who wouldn't want to study chemistry after watching it?

See a longer list of online chemistry videos at East Valley Chem Club.

2. Chemistry Books

Most young adults (what publishers call the reading category for teenagers) experience chemistry in the form of textbooks for their high school chemistry class.  There are, however, a number of popular science books written for adults about chemistry that may be appropriate and interesting for young adult readers as well.

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

Kean takes the reader on a narrative romp through the periodic table, revealing human foibles along the way. He answers how were elements discovered and who discovered them. Why are certain elements useful and what properties does they have? Interesting tidbits, such as the use of gallium by practical jokers to create "disappearing spoons," keeps the reader engaged and enthralled.

(This is a book written for adults. If you have any questions about the suitability of a nonfiction book written for adults, particularly for a young teen audience, you should probably read it yourself first.)

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (June 6, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780316051637
ISBN-13: 978-0316051637
ASIN: 0316051632

For more suggestions, see Science Books for Kids for Popular Chemistry Books for Young Adults.


3. General Chemistry Links

Chemmy Bear has tutorials, notes, animations and tons of other useful information, especially for AP students.

The Exploratorium has Science of Cooking.

Rader's Chem4Kids explains many basic concepts in a particularly clear way.

Want to learn more about dyes? Try The Chemistry of Dyeing.

What's That Stuff explains the chemistry of everyday items (from 2010 and earlier).

PhET has awesome chemistry simulations for some virtual chemistry

Compound Interest reveals chemistry via fascinating infographics. Expect to explore the chemistry everything from highlighters to onions.

Free Rice helps you memorize the chemical symbols for the elements.

4. To the Lab

Many colleges now require high school students to have completed what they call "wet labs," meaning hands-on experiments rather than virtual ones. This requirement can be particularly tricky for homeschooled students, but there are resources available.

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) by Robert Bruce Thompson

If you have been looking for a chemistry lab, you have probably seen this book. It lays out a complete course of chemistry experiments a wet laboratory for the serious high school-aged student (definitely not for elementary or middle school ages). It is comprehensive in its coverage and the instructions are clearly written.

Big Hint:   Robert Bruce Thompson, the author, also offers high school science kits at The Home Scientist website. If you purchase a kit, it comes with a .pdf manual of the experiments you can perform with the kit.

Series: DIY Science
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Maker Media, Inc; 1 edition (May 9, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0596514921
ISBN-13: 978-0596514921

Note:  Some of these experiments may require equipment that is not readily available for home situations. However, it is often possible to substitute. For example, a Pyrex measuring cup may be substituted for a beaker and will often have markings for metric measurements on one side.

Robert Farber 18 chemistry labs at Off the Shelf Chemistry

Flinn Scientific has supplies, resources and videos geared for educators, but could be useful for students as well.

PlayChem is a series of labs from Rutgers

Evan's Regents Chemistry Corner has labs (as free .pdf)

If you want to do a chemistry science fair project, Science Buddies is the place to start.


We are celebrating chemistry this week. The Table of Contents page for Chemistry Week has related posts.


Disclosures:  I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.