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Diverting a Minor Upset: A Celery Science Experiment


This poor kid has a science teacher for a mother.

I’ve been trying to get this plant to grow on my balcony for a couple of weeks now.  Today, Margo came over to me with one of the leaves in her hand.  She had picked it off the plant, because she said she, “though it was pretty.”

I was pretty annoyed, so I said, “Margo, you know, you should have asked me before you picked that because I’m trying to grow that plant and…

Before I could finish, Margo started to defend herself and I saw that distinct pout-before the cry about to happen.  Oh, silly me, I thought.  It’s just a stupid leaf and here was Margo about to break down into tears.  She didn’t know that she wasn’t supposed to pick it, and that’s why she felt bad.  She’s very reasonable and would never, in a million years, have tried to pick more than one or two leaves off of any plant, unless I told her to.

I shut my mouth up and smiled and I let her have a few quivery breaths.  Then, I said, ‘Let’s have a look at that leaf, it’s very pretty, isn’t it?

Then, I showed her how the leaf has ‘veins‘ for water to circulate, just how she has veins in her body for blood and oxygen to circulate.  She thought that was a pretty rad design.  After I told her all about it, she repeated every word that I said, verbatum, to my husband.  She showed him the ‘veins‘ in the leaf and then the veins in her arm. She’s fascinated by blood and is always asking about the inside of her body and how it works.

I told her if she wanted to go pick some leaves, that she could pick some of the salad greens that were growing.  She picked a few, and was admiring the ‘veins’ and how they went from big thick ones and kept dividing into smaller and smaller ones as you moved away from the center of the leaf.  (Then, she started eating them, yay).

Later at the grocery store, we bought some celery and did the classic celery science fair experiment.  Simply, put food coloring in a glass of water, with a stalk of celery, to show how plants absorb water.  I asked her to give her best hypothesis as to what she thought would happen when we put the celery in the food coloring.  At first she said that she didn’t know.  But, then we talked a bit more about it and she guessed by herself that the celery would turn red from the food coloring.

This is a great little experiment for young kids who are just old enough to grasp the concept.  For older kids, you can do the same experiment, but you can elaborate and do different trials, check on it at different time intervals, etc.  You can carefully peel away parts of the celery to expose the inside of the plant.

Here is an excellent link on how to do the project from Teaching Tiny Tots.  To add my two bits, I used red natural food coloring, but I think if you use the more potent, toxic version you might get the best results, we’ll see what happens.  The link says that blue food coloring works best, so after she went to bed, I put a blue one out so we could do some comparison.  It says the experiment takes about 48 hours to achieve the best results.  If it doesn’t work because of using the natural food coloring, well, then, I think that’s a little bit of fun.  We would have to try it again with the toxic stuff so that it would turn out ok!  Science is not about getting all the right answers on the first go.  It’s also about problem solving.  I’ll be sure to post some pics of how it turns out.

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