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One kid’s trash is another kid’s experiment

Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff

Tammy Enz and Jod Wheeler-Toppen
Capstone Young Readers
111 pp.
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Age Range: 9 – 15 years

Grade Level: 3 – 4

Popsicle sticks, toilet paper tubes, food packaging, and plastic bottles are great resources for school craft projects or children’s activities for a rainy day, but with a bit of knowledge and planning, they can also be used to explain a range of scientific concepts. Divided into four sections based on the type of “trash” material needed for the project, Enz and Wheeler-Toppan combine simple materials into easy projects to demonstrate ideas from physics, chemistry, and biology. Examples include Newton’s laws of motion, capillary action, optics, cloud formation, and surface tension.

In keeping with the idea of recycling trash into experiments, they refer to the scientific concepts as “reusable knowledge,” but this also reflects how the knowledge can be relevant to everyday life. Some projects—such as an exploding chain of woven sticks used to demonstrate potential and kinetic energy—require few resources. Converting those sticks into a series of linked rings requires a little more planning but also gets into less well-known concepts such as the structure of wood. The book includes a large number of photographs to show the completed projects and, where relevant, real-world examples of the same scientific concepts.

Although the instructions for each project are broken down into simple steps, only a few illustrations are included. In most cases, however, it is easy to envision the interpolated steps. Whereas some projects can be done by kids unsupervised and in a short period of time, others will require adult assistance or require longer periods of time while pieces set into shape or glue hardens. So while a little planning is needed to get the most from this book, it has the potential to be a useful resource for teachers and parents alike.