Reaction Station: Adventures for Young Chemists


Toolkit for Schools and Museums 

Reaction Station: Adventures for Young Chemists was developed by The Discovery Museums to create an engaging educational tool that is portable, safe, and inexpensive. At the Reaction Station, a portable exploration station, children use real laboratory glassware as they experiment with common household chemicals. Children can safely do fun, messy, smelly chemical reactions, try new techniques, and imagine themselves as "chemists." The model glove boxes were developed in collaboration with Dr. Christine Thomas, a Brandeis University chemist, and the American Chemistry Society (ACS) Student Affiliate Chapter.

Reaction Station is generously funded by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation.                      

Reaction Station Design Instructions - The Reaction Station, a portable exploration station, is easy to construct from common materials,  is designed to look and act like glove boxes used in laboratories. The adaptable curriculum of experiments allows K-8 students to safelyuse common household chemicals and laboratory glassware to do fun, messy, smelly experiments. 


Mystery Liquids: Discovering Acids & Bases with Red Cabbage Juice, a Natural pH indicator - In this popular activity, children use red cabbage juice, a natural pH indicator, to identify clear liquids. The purple pH7solution changes color dramatically as acids and bases are added to it; the colors range from pink, to blue, to green. Children are then challenged to change the colors again by doing simple titrations. They can also transfer the pink vinegar solution into the blue baking soda solution -- the resulting chemical reaction quickly bubbles up the test tube and the color of the solution changes back to purple.

Using Goldenrod Paper as a Base Indicator Goldenrod Paper, a natural base indicator, can be used for several popular activities in the Reaction Station. Children write and erase secret messages with acids and bases. They can also practice important lab techniques such as pipetting andtransferring liquids from an Erlenmeyer flask to a test tube. Goldenrod paper placed in the bottom of the Reaction Station will dramatically highlight any spills or drops because the indicator paper turns bright orange. Children can also create different splatter patterns by dripping small drops from various heights. 

Mystery White Powders - In Mystery Powders, children use a variety of tests to identify different white substances.This activity complements a widely used school curriculum, STC Chemical Tests. 

Reaction Station HazMat Scene (use with two previous experiments) - Simulated HazMat (hazardous materials) scenarios can add a real world or CSI, context to the chemistryactivities. The HazMat or Mystery Box uses matchbox cars, trucks, emergency vehicles, and a liquid or powder spill to create a simulated accident scene--police caution tape adds to the drama. Children are on the HazMat team and they collect the hazardous material sample and take it back to the lab for analysis. They need to identify the chemical so that it can be handled properly to protect the local pond and environment from the spill.  Great discussions about HazMat teams, pollution, and protection arise from this activity. 

American Chemical Society Experiment: Testing Vitamin C, Chemistry's Clear Solution - This activity uses tincture of iodine to determine the Vitamin C content in orange juice and other solutions. Doing this activity in a Reaction Station has many benefits: it minimizes the smell of the iodine, contains the liquids which are apt to spill, and reduces the chances that a child accidentally drinks one of the test solutions. Using a Reaction Station with openings on both sides allows two people to work together, which is helpful in this activity.

NISE Net Experiment: Exploring Nano Thin Films - Children can explore chemical properties and nano technology by floating nail polish on water to make Thin Films. This activity, part of the NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Education) Network nanotechnology curriculum, has been adapted for Reaction Station to contain and minimize the smell of nail polish.