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Physical Science in Children's Hospitals


Created by FrankKusiak, last updated 2016-02-16

This list will be full of physical science/chemistry activities that can be done in a challenging environment: a children's hospital. Most of these activities can be done in the hospital classroom, but they can also be done at the child's beside or in their room.


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Strange Attractor: Observe Chaotic Motion

A great way to introduce magnets to kids. For a hospital setting, it's easy to setup in the classroom or bedside on the patient's rolling table. Use easily sanitized magnets and be prepared to throw away the string you use for a fresh/sanitized one -- a solid plastic string can be easily sanitized.

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Repulsive Grape: Diamagnetism

Make sure you have plenty of grapes and replacement materials that can't be sanitized afterwards (like using plastic string instead of normal thread string).

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Groovy Sounds

Easy to do and kids learn something about an old technology (and sound waves!). Have the kids draw on their vinyl "horn" because make and take's are awesome. You may want to bring extra pins if the kid wants the whole thing but only give the pin to the parent if present (a lot of times, the parents will want to try it out on their old records!).

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Electroscope

Simple activity with easily disposable materials (for sanitation purposes).

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Remote Control Roller: Experiment with Static Electricity

Super simple, easily cleaned materials (make sure to wash the can before going to the hospital: especially the interior). You can do a variation of this with Styrofoam cups taped to each other from either end: have the kids decorate the cups, too, as a make and take. Be prepared with a wool cloth or to rub the balloon on your head as a lot of kids don't have hair. Also, many hospitals don't allow kids to have non-mylar balloons so set the kid's expectations (in other words, make sure they know they can't keep the balloon.)

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Straw Oboe: Two lips make sound

Simple activity with disposable material. Make sure the kid doesn't have lung issues, though.

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Balancing Ball: Suspend a ball in a stream of air

Good in the hospital classroom but too noisy for bedside. Make sure to bring in a new hair dryer and only use it for activities (please don't bring in your own hair dryer.).

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Flying Tinsel

This one is hard to do if you don't have the proper materials--practice this one before you do it in the hospital. Best in the winter when you could wear a wool sweater and there's low humidity. If you're worried about sanitation, get a cheap wool sweater or cloth from an online store.

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Motor Effect

Simple materials and simple set up that can be done in the classroom or bedside. Use this if you want to do magnetism or electromagnetism themed activities.

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Ocean Acidification in a Cup

Make sure to use cups with plenty of headspace for the vinegar/baking powder reaction and use clear disposable cups (tall ones are hard to find). You can also use red cabbage juice as an indicator. You can also do this activity with other PH activities.

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Sound Sandwich

Another great make and take for the hospital...it can be done either in the classroom or bedside. Make sure to use brand new popsicle sticks and rubber bands since kids will be putting this to their mouth...you may want to portion them out into plastic baggies as individual kits. Put on a fresh pair of protective gloves when you make your "kits" to keep it as sanitary as possible. Great activity if you're doing sound waves/vibrations.

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Polarized Sunglasses

Simple activity with materials that can be sanitized. Although finding a plug for a bedside activity may be a challenge. Can be paired with other activities that address polarized lenses/calcite/tape art.

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Conductivity Meter

A tricky activity but cool. You can pair this with the electrolysis ph indicator activity, too. If you can use electric tape, I'd recommend that...just be careful to not spill the cups (most rooms have water and sinks which makes water activities easy to do) or drop the battery into the water. For bedsides, pre-make the device but in the classroom, help the kids make it.

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Stripped-down Motor

A very hard yet rewarding activity because it can be matched with other magnetism/electromagnetism activities. Plus the materials are disposable and/or clean easy. Make sure to practice this before you actually do it in the hospital because it's tricky to get everything sized correctly and working. Having a strong magnet(s) (but not too strong), helps. Can be done in the classroom or bedside: it's best to have a pre-made "motor" for both situations just in case a newly built one doesn't work.

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Polarized Light Mosaic

Works great with other polarized light activities, the materials are easy to sanitize, and the kids get to make and take something! Can be done in both the classroom or bedside: highly recommend.

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Bone Stress

Also a great and simple demo for activities that revolve around polarized light. Materials are cheap and easy to sanitize. Can be used for both bedside and classroom.

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Modulated Coil: Hear the magnet!

If you have access to an old tape player, this is a fun activity for kids in the hospital. Make sure the tape player is in good condition and can be cleaned easily. You can also use a headphone jack to Left and Right RCA plug cable instead of splicing a cable (especially useful if you have alligator clips). Great activity to match with electromagnetism. Can be done in the classroom or bedside, but make sure to practice it before you do it at the hospital.

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