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The Dancing Hearts experiment is a long-standing project favorite for kids. Not only is it completed with one of the sweetest Valentine’s Day treats of the season, but it’s also a hands-on experiment that makes learning fun. If you’re looking for a fun STEM-related activity to do this Valentine’s Day, this is it!
Using only five ingredients, four of which you’ll probably already have around the home, this is an experiment that can be use to teach the scientific method and be a great conversation starter (thanks to messages on the hearts).
If you enjoy this experiment, you’ll want to check out some of our other ones like the Jelly Bean Hearts STEM Challenge!
The Science Behind the Dancing Hearts
The two main ingredients that make the dancing hearts actually “dance” are baking soda and vinegar. By itself, baking soda is an alkaline compound resembling a finely milled powder. It’s commonly used in a variety of baked goods, such as: pancakes, quick bread, muffins, and some fried foods. Beyond cooking, baking soda is also a go-to ingredient for DIY cleaning solutions.
Vinegar, on the other hand, is an acid and another kitchen staple. It can also be used as a cleaning solution, in foods, and just so happens to be the primary reason why this dancing hearts experiment works!
When these two ingredients are combined, it starts the process of creating carbon dioxide gas. This becomes evident when you see the formation of bubbles in the foaming mixture. When the candy hearts are added you’ll notice them lifting to the top and falling back down once the bubbles lifting them have dissipated.
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How to Create a Lesson Plan for the Dancing Heart Experiment
If you like to use experiments in unit studies or as their own lessons, then these lesson plan suggestions and ideas will help you do just that. These are perfect for homeschooling multiple kids and those varying in age and grade level.
For starters, decide when you’d like to do this experiment. Do you want to wait until closer to Valentine’s Day, or do it the day of? Even if the day falls on a weekend, you can still do the experiment itself on that day. Let’s use a week-long unit study with this experiment as the grand finale for creating a sample lesson plan.
Here’s what that would look like:
- Monday: Introduce the compounds used in the dancing hearts experiment (water, vinegar, baking and soda). Talk about how they are used in the kitchen for cooking and the main ingredients in supplies for a more natural way of cleaning. Watch a few YouTube videos.
- Tuesday: since these ingredients are natural, have a taste test. Have your kids describe what they taste (bitter, sour, etc.). Go over the health benefits of these substances.
- Wednesday: play a guessing game using foods, drinks, and cleaning supplies and have your kids guess which ingredients go in them. For example, pancakes would have baking soda whereas a picture of a tea glass would have vinegar in it.
- Thursday: cook something that uses baking soda.
- Friday: do the Dancing Hearts experiment and review concepts taught/learned throughout the week.
Time to Experiment!
With the lesson plans in mind and just a few ingredients (listed below), you and your kids are ready to have some learning fun in the kitchen with this dancing hearts experiment. Just a few things to keep in mind:
- Although the ingredients for this experiment are natural and not harmful, make sure your kids are supervised at all times (especially with the candy hearts).
- Have some fun by making it a family effort. Give each kid a certain “job” to do and let them know their role is important in making it work.
- Gather all the supplies you need at once to make it a stress-free experience (and experiment).
- Most importantly, have fun!
If you have older kids participating, consider letting them use the Scientific Method before starting the experiment. They can also create a small report about the process and end results.
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- ½ cup vinegar
- Jar or bowl
- Conversation hearts or other Valentine’s Day candy
How to do the experiment:
- Mix the water with the baking soda until the baking soda is dissolved. Pour water into the container.
- Add the candy to the container.
- Slowly pour the vinegar into the container.
- If the candy sticks to the bottom, give it a slight stir.
- Even if the candy settles, continue watching as the hearts will flip over from time to time.
Ways to expand the activity:
- Change the type of container
- Change the type of candy
- Change the ratio of water to baking soda
Be aware that increasing the depth of the water too deep makes it harder to get the candy dancing as the vinegar cannot easily get to the bottom.
I’d love to hear from you! Did you try the Dancing Hearts experiment? Let me know in the comments below!