Thursday, October 6, 2011

CELL-O: A Science Project

Day 6 of NaBloWriMo (National Blog Writing Month)...

When teachers assign projects that require working on them at home rather than at school, I wonder if they reserve a place in the grade book for the parental participation factor.

The first science experiment I remember having to do at home involved the use of the freezer, different liquids, and various containers. The objective was to determine what would freeze, what wouldn't freeze, and prove that water expanded when it became a solid. What I concluded was that isopropyl alcohol left in the freezer long enough will haunt the entire appliance and taint food in the refrigerator from time to time for years to come--or so my father liked to yell and remind me about on the occasion that his food tasted off.

Another science experiment I recall involved the sensation of touch, tasting, and smelling different baking ingredients--salt, sugar, baking soda, flour, etc., and then determining by blind taste test which was which. I'm sure there was no mess involved in that one!

This week, I strolled down memory lane as I helped my 7th grader with her at-home science experiment. The assignment was to create a plant or animal cell with things found around the house. My very resourceful daughter located an idea through a Google search using Jell-o and assorted candy to build our model. Sounded like a good idea. (Notice I'm already using the word "our").

The project was due on Monday morning. I bet you can guess when we began the process...

8 p.m. - We go to the local market and buy the least expensive lemon Jell-o, gummy worms, fruit roll-ups, and a plum.

8:15 p.m. - I instruct my daughter how to boil water for the dissolving of the Jell-o, and we prepare a gallon Ziploc bag in a big pan to hold our cell...errr, I mean the cell.

8:20 p.m. - Stirring the lemony powder into the boiling liquid and adding ice cubes to accomplish a speed set, I then confidently pop it in the fridge and wait.

8:25 p.m. - I cut the plum in half, and we lay out our purchased candy. I then find some Halloween candy from last year in addition to our purchased booty to represent the Golgi Bodies, Mitochondria, Vacuole, Lysosomes, Ribosomes, Vesicle, and Cytoskeleton.

8:30 p.m. - Upon removing the pan with the bag of Jell-o from the fridge, I place in the Nucleus--our plum half. Instead of staying in place like we needed it to, it floated around like a tourist in a hotel swimming pool. I told my daughter to get ready for bed and put the still liquid mass in the freezer.

Now let me just interject here that there is a fine line between runny Jell-o and Jell-o that is too set to add additional ingredients as those of you can testify that have made Jell-o salads; and let me just say that we crossed that line...

8:45 p.m. - I remove the pan of Jell-o from the freezer and could see it had already set, but we didn't have any more time (or any more Jell-o), so we commenced to adding our candy pieces to make the cell model look like the picture in the textbook...haha. I felt like we were at one of those Halloween party activities where the blindfolded victim has to stick their fingers in the cup of peeled grapes while hearing someone in a spooky voice proclaim, "The zombies want their eyes back."

By the time we finished poking all the components in the Jell-o, we were not only a sticky mess, but our cell model looked like a toddler's dinner plate!

With bed time long past, we set our mess in the refrigerator and went to sleep. In the morning, I was half expecting to open the refrigerator and be swallowed whole by a giant lemon blob.

I took the now thoroughly set bag of Jell-o out of the pan and could not believe what I saw. I was so sure my poor daughter was going to suffer the humiliation and torment of bringing the messiest cell model to class that I had to do a double take when I flipped the bag over. From the bottom down, we had the most perfectly formed and proportioned cell model in the history of all homemade cell models. (I haven't actually seen any other homemade cell models mind you, but this one had to be the best!)

To insure it stayed intact, we placed an icepack in the bottom of a shoebox and packed wax paper in around the cell-o model on top of the icepack. We then transported it to school as if we were chauffeuring the queen to the castle.

While no one actually sampled the sweet gelatinous treat, several of my daughter's classmates did want to touch the finished product and told her how "cool" it was. And had it not been for the perishable factor, the teacher would've kept it to show off to the rest of her classes.

In case you're wondering...we got an A+!

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Raige Creations said...

oh we have SO been there and done that with having to help with school projects. one kid, we had to send to bed while WE stayed up half the night so he could hand in SOMETHING!
the joys of parenthood.
your blob turned out great, btw...

Deborah Rohne said...

Thanks for the comment, Rebecca! It was fun to blog about the blob! LOL!