#StayHomeSTEM: Homeschooling activities on soap chemistry

Seattle Public Schools and other local districts have announced closures in an effort to stem coronavirus transmission, with many kids here, in other states, and around the world staying home. I’ll be sharing on this blog science and engineering activities that we’re doing at our house for temporary homeschooling. All activities are designed for a second grader, but with adaptations as needed, could be useful for Grades 2-4.  #StayHomeSTEM

Soap Chemistry & Handwashing Science Exploration

The first science unit we’ve been exploring at home is focused on understanding how soap works and why handwashing is important. It’s serendipitous science, given why we are all home in the first place. We used a combination of online resources, a science kit we already had at home, and molecular models from my husband’s chemistry classes years ago…..but you can do variations of any of these activities with what you have on-hand at home, if you don’t want to purchase anything new. We spent a couple days of our scheduled science time working on this project.

Activities: For our soap chemistry exploration, we watched videos, read articles, made molecular models of water/oil/soap, made our own yummy smelling soap, recorded videos about what we learned to share with friends, and made a “wash your hands” sign to hang on our front door. Other ideas include making a poster on proper handwashing to post by the sink, developing lyrics for your own handwashing song, or developing an investigation that compares different types of soap or using soap with different temperatures of water.

Helpful Resources:

  • BrainPop Videos: We have access to BrainPop.com through our school district. Relevant science videos include Personal Hygiene, Immune System, Viruses (advanced content), Cornoavirus, and Chemical Bonds (advanced content). Each video has a quiz, challenge, and other related content to explore at whatever depth you wish.
  • CBC Kids: What’s the Scoop on Soap? reading
  • NBC Learn Video: It’s a Wash–The Chemistry of Soap video (4:58 min)
  • Soapmaking: My daughter already had a soapmaking lab kit at home, but all you really need to make soap is soap base, essential oils (optional), and molds. Soap base comes in different types (i.e., glycerin, goat’s milk, aloe, etc.) and can be ordered online. Soap molds in fun shapes can be purchased, or just use cupcake pans or small bowls. Dried herbs like lavender can be added too.


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