Liz Heinecke of Edina, Minn., is the creator of The Kitchen Pantry Scientist, a blog that features experiments for children using everyday household items. She also created the KidScience app ( www.kidscienceapp.com), which includes all her “recipes” and videos for experiments. Follow her on Twitter as @KitchPantrySci. Questions and answers have been edited.
Q: You studied art before transitioning to bacteriology. Did that background shape your views about science and science education?
It made me aware that inspiration and creativity are enormously impacted by collaboration – sometimes across seemingly unrelated disciplines. We might not know the names Picasso or Hemingway if it weren’t for their friends who were benefactors, writers, artists and poets. The same is often true in science.
Our society likes to pigeonhole people, but mixing science and the arts is a great way to make science attractive and attainable to kids with diverse interests.
Q: How do you come up with the experiments for the blog?
Working in research labs for 10 years taught me to be innovative. Some experiments, like “Frankenworms” ( http://kitchenpantryscientist.com/?p=2453), I’ve come up with on my own. Others, I’ve modified from experiments online or in books. The challenge has been to make them safe, fun and inexpensive using things people already have around the house. No parent wants to make three trips to the store with young kids.
Q: What are the best ways to get children excited about science?
Getting parents excited about doing hands-on science with their kids is half the battle, which is why I made the KidScience app and set it up like a recipe app. I want people to understand that many science projects are as easy as baking cookies or doing a craft project.
You don’t have to be a scientist to make science relevant to your kids’ interests.
If your child loves art, ask them how they think paint is made and let them make some egg dyes from the pigments in spices or cabbage juice. Music lovers can watch a Bill Nye video about the science in music. With the click of a mouse, you can visit NASA’s Earth Observatory ( www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov) to see what erupting volcanoes look like from space.
And remember, even the most science-dubious kid will love inflating a balloon with carbon dioxide gas by mixing baking soda and vinegar in a plastic bottle ( http://kitchenpantryscientist.com/?p=3277).