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Spice Up Fall with Science

Science has always been a part of Patricia Goginat’s life. From discussing science news at the breakfast table, to attending science camps, and to looking at water samples with her home microscope, science and exploration has formed the backbone of what Patricia does every single day. Using this passion, she has come up with two scientific experiments that you can do this autumn, which can be both fun and intellectually fulfilling for the entire family.

Gogniat, who goes by @sciencyrocmom on Instagram, currently lives in Irondequoit with her two children, a dog, a hamster, and a recently acquired tadpole of an African clawed frog. When she is not doing science experiments with her children, she works for VisualDX, a Rochester-based health company which Gogniat describes as a “WebMD for Doctors.” When she is not doing her day job, Gogniat loves enjoying nature and teaching a thing or two about its importance to her two children.

Gogniat is an advocate for the idea of forest schooling, which got its start in Germany with forest kindergartens. She uses this idea, which she has been a fan of even before she had children, with her own two children, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. When Gogniat is in nature with her children, some of her favorite activities include traveling, going to museums and learning new information there, renovating old houses, and just spending more time outdoors in general.

“Normally, my kids are in daycare and public school,” Gogniat said. “But during the pandemic when everything was shut down, we engaged [in forest schools] more heavily, and the outdoors became even more of an important venue for learning.”

One of the many reasons Gogniat is so passionate about science is because humanity has gained so much knowledge from the achievements that science has collected over the years.

“Think of all of the technological advances, vaccines, and everything science has given us to improve our lives, and improving the health of people worldwide,” Gogniat said. “The principle behind it is about using technology to combat global warming and human brain power to combat the world’s problems.”

Out of all of the different scientific fields, Gogniat said that her favorite is chemistry because chemistry experiments are classically “sciency.”

Her fall time science experiments are colorful + fun to do with the entire family!

Mini Pumpkin Volcanoes

This experiment combines two concepts that should keep almost any child entertained: carving pumpkins and watching things explode. While the results of this experiment are only “mini” explosions, it is a great way to teach your children about states of matter like liquids, solids, and gasses, and what happens when two different states of matter interact.

To start this experiment, you will first need to obtain about one to three mini pumpkins, along with a suitable sized tray to hold them. Then, carve out the stem area of the pumpkin, the same area where you would start carving a jack-o-lantern. To make the explosion more exciting, make a smaller hole than you ordinarily would for carving.

The next step is to place the pumpkins on the aforementioned tray that is big enough to hold all of your pumpkins and to keep all of the “lava” from spilling all over the place. A lid or a plastic strong container can work as well.

Then, add a few spoonfuls of baking soda, along with a few drops of dish soap. You can also add a few drops of food coloring too, but this step is only optional.

Finally, pour a good amount of vinegar into a bowl and give your kids an eye dropper, baster, or a small measuring cup so that they can add vinegar to the pumpkin and start the mini explosion.

Leaf Matching Activity

In Western New York, there is nothing that says fall more than the foliage. This experiment will take advantage of the falling leaves and use them to help teach children the concepts of gravity, surface area, and tree identification. Gogniat recommends going to Highland Park, the Durand Eastman Arboretum, and the Webster Arboretum, to complete the fall foliage activities because they have good diversity of deciduous trees.

Go to a local park, pick up fallen leaves, and try to match the leaves with the tree they fell from. You can accomplish this by studying the leaves’ patterns, shapes, and colors, and the tree’s shape and type of trunk.

Bonus: Another experiment that you can do is stand on a park bench, hold two different sized leaves, and let them go at the same time. You would then observe which leaf fell to the ground faster and then discuss the reasons as to why one leaf fell faster than the other. You can also use a timer to official measure!

Follow along for family adventures in Western NY and discover nature through science at @sciencyrocmom on Instagram!

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