Chemistry On The Road

The national parks give us all sorts of great science activities on the road. However, those activities don’t usually involve the branch of science closest to my heart: Chemistry. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be physics, such is life). Consequently, I make sure I supplement whenever possible. We aren’t blowing things up yet (simmer down, ATF friends) but we sure are making something we can light on fire! Baby steps.

(Alan, please note the fire extinguisher close at hand. Safety first. Also, no, Scott was not home when I decided to do this.)

I bought a cheap little kit from Walmart with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. We learned candle making as well as melting point, freezing point, density and a bit about fire (which Scott and I later beefed up with our own descriptions of exciting stuff like plasma and ionization and then… YouTube for the win).

One thing I didn’t take into consideration prior to starting our project was that wax is very sticky. It also catches fire quickly and we only have a gas stove. And the kitchen is below average in terms of work space. Thankfully none of the wax went down the drain. I’ll leave it at that.

After hand dipping the first few candles, a long tedious process by all accounts, we unanimously decided to take a short cut with the last of the wax. I emptied out our Cuties and used the orange peel shell as a makeshift holder. They’re water tight so they make nice biodegradable cups in a pinch. The kids were even more excited about our orange candles than the traditional stick ones.

Overall, cool project and we created something useful. Roadschooling is fun.

Safety first… we had our fire extinguisher close at hand.
This here is a bona fide redneck double boiler.
Pot + cut off aluminum can = candle making awesomeness.