Homework, Hogwarts Style

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In this activity on page 8 of the PDF (Behind the Scenes with Chemistry), learners make three of Harry Potter's essential school supplies: quills, ink, and color-changing paper. Learners use supplies from the grocery store to make ancient iron tannate ink (permanent), color-changing paper, and a feather quill pen. Safety notes: Wear eye protection and be careful with hot liquids. The ink is permanent and will stain clothes. Follow Milli's safety tips on page 3 of the PDF.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • 2 mugs, teacups, or small glass bowls
  • 1 tea bag (black tea)
  • Boiling water and an adult helper
  • 1 iron sulfate (ferrous sulfate) tablet
  • A mortar and pestle or a small glass bottle
  • A measuring cup
  • A small storage container, like a pill bottle, with label
  • A strainer
  • Hot tap water
  • Purple cabbage
  • Plain white paper (8 1/2 in x 11 in)
  • A blender and an adult helper
  • A labeled storage container, quart-size
  • A big, flat pan (9 in x 13 in is a good size)
  • Newspapers or plastic sheet to cover work area
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Cotton swabs or wooden skewers
  • Large turkey feather
  • Bowl of warm water
  • Small scissors


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Acids and Bases
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
      • Solutions
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and History

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Food and Cooking
  • Historical Reenactment
  • Literature
  • Photography and Film/Video


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Snell Copes, Jane


  • All rights reserved, American Chemical Society, 2010