Investigate Chromatography

Well… day whatever of self isolation. I’m missing routine. I’m unmotivated and finding it difficult to find things to blog about. They’ve just announced that school won’t be back in session until at least May 31st. Pray for us mommas. In light of all this, I thought I would repost this article I wrote for a fellow blogger looking for some science ideas. It’s not been posted on my site, so – perhaps it would be a fun project you could do during isolation? God’s creation is vast and colourful, and hopefully spring will bring me some new ideas to muse about, but until then, enjoy this one! Stay safe, friends.


Greetings!  I am so pleased to share some thoughts with RedHeaded Patti as a guest blogger!  As a scientist and mom of four (plus the extra odd neighbourhood kids and students that sometimes visit) it was a no brainer for me to answer her call for a SUMMER OF STEM ideas!  We are always learning and love to share with others! So let’s get right down to it:  Let’s investigate Chromatography!  We originally tackled this project for this year’s science fair and it is a perfect investigation for all sorts of children or students… you can tailor it to any age by investigating just a bit deeper or a little less.  We wanted something easy, fun and colourful to learn about!  To read about our finished project, check out the link here.  We post every Tuesday and would love to have you join our adventure over at mittonmusings.com!

ChromatographyChromatography, in its simplest terms, means “separating parts of a mixture”.  Scientists do this for all kinds of mixtures:  gases, liquids and solids can all be separated into their various parts.  For example, blood can be separated out to search for specific diseases.  Oil companies often use chromatography to weed out impurities in their products. Gases can be diffused and distilled to investigate all about bombs and warfare.  Distillation is closely related to chromatography and is another method for separating mixtures.  Perhaps you can investigate the differences!  For our example, we are going to be using paper chromatography to separate liquid pigments (in markers) into their various colours.  Pigments are also found in other everyday objects like leaves and candy… even more to investigate!

So… let’s gather our materials:

paper cups

coffee filters

markers (various colours and types)

rubbing alcohol

elastic bands

a dropper

a coin

water

Once you have all your materials now is when the fun starts!!  Here’s the basic method and what our results were.  Feel free to try all sorts of markers and colours and see what results you get!

We took 6 cups and wrapped one coffee filter on the top of each cup and secured it with an elastic band

We picked 5 sharpie colours and traced the coin to make a circle on the filter

We dropped a few drops of alcohol inside the ink circles and watched the circle as it “grew” and separated by moving along the filter paper

We did the same with the Crayola marker, except we used water instead of alcohol (you’ll see why later)

Our Results:

colours

The ink separated (spread) and some turned into different colours along the coffee filter.

Green…. showed yellow

Dark Blue…. showed a light then darker blue

Purple…. showed pink and violet

Teal…. showed yellow and blue-green

Black (Sharpie)…. showed purple

Black (Crayola)…. showed blue and pink

Our favourites were teal and purple!!

Wasn’t that fun?!  Now, as good scientists, we have to ask the question: WHY?  Markers have ink — that’s what makes the colours.  Ink is a mixture of a fast-drying liquid and pigments (the substances that give something colour).  Sharpie markers have alcohol-based ink (permanent), and Crayola markers have water-based ink (not permanent).  So, when we added more liquid (alcohol or water), the ink spread out and separated into other colours.  Did you notice that black is really a mixture of a whole bunch of colours?!

We also observed that some colours spread out further than others.  The water based marker spread the most. This is because “solutes” (the things that make up a mixture) will move along depending on how much of the solute there is in the mixture.   Water based inks have a lot of “solvent”(the stuff that solutes are mixed into)…which is why they are not permanent and are easily washable. Some inks showed more than one colour even though they started out looking like only one!  This shows us that inks (or pigments) are really made up of a mixture (or solution) of different colours that produce the various shades of “single” marker colours.  Isn’t science great?!

We hope you enjoyed this fun and easy science experiment.  Remember it next time you are enjoying some colouring this summer with your markers — and don’t ever stop learning!leaves

What Makes a Good Teacher?

There has been much going on in my neck of the woods with regards to education recently. Teachers strikes, contract negotiations, optimum class sizes, budget cuts. It is all becoming a little cumbersome. We are parents in a somewhat unique situation, in that we have grown (well, almost grown) children and one still in elementary school. So we have a broad base of comparison. Youth is a whole other entity and we should have a prayer list a mile long for these blessed creatures. Then a double prayer list for their mommas and dads. Oh no, parenting is not for the weak. Or the squeamish. Especially if you have been blessed with boys, or an over dramatic girl. Or a partner who cannot handle barf. But, I digress. I’ve been working on a baby gift that I have to send off to some new parents soon, and pondered about how differently their little one will grow up — even compared to my youngest. The world changes so rapidly and we must do our best to keep up.

I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of one particular type of education. It’s not my place… although I would love to sit down with you and discuss home schooling vs. private school vs. public school vs… well, let’s just say I would love to sit with you. I have my own views and opinions that may differ from yours. Which is okay because I am not raising your kid. For the record, I am not an educational expert, either. I’ve seen a few systems, though. And most, if not all, of them are broken. There is not a “perfect” way to raise a child — because there are no perfect parents, and no perfect children. Oh, and here is a big revelation… there are no perfect teachers, either. Or class sizes, or budgets, or salary caps, or… you get the picture.

Which is why I always say that you must be involved in your student’s education. It is vital you know what goes on in the classroom and in the system. And in the heart of your student. But let’s back up a bit and think about that: “education”. What does it mean? The short answer is this: Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. (Wikipedia — which may not be your choice for “educational” definitions, but serves my purposes here, so let’s all move on, shall we?) The acquisition of knowledge. You can get that from sticking your finger in a light socket. No system necessary there. But “facilitating learning”? Much deeper thoughts. How does one do this for such a diverse generation? Can we do it for our own kids? For ourselves?

What about those values and beliefs? Who is responsible for those? The high priest? Pastor? Youth specialist? YouTube? We were teasing our church’s youth pastor, recently, that because he wasn’t a skilled ice skater and didn’t know how to play the guitar, that somehow he didn’t have all the necessary “qualifications” of youth leader. (It’s not true, of course!) but what should our teachers possess in order to make them “good” and “qualified” teachers? Four years of seminary? Greek study? Summer mission experience? Married? Single? Oh, we fiercely debate such things. And so I muse: What does make a good teacher?

I think it is someone who cares about the student. Dare I say loves the student so deeply that they want to see them succeed in that “acquisition of knowledge”… so that it changes their lives forever. Someone who can foster a lifelong love of learning. My favourite teachers were the ones who inspired me. Frankly, I hardly remember a thing they taught. I remember the comments or the encouragement, or the way they made concepts come alive or applicable to me and my measly existence in the universe. People who may have thought differently than I, and challenged my way. In turn, solidifying my core values and/or correcting my habits. So, you see, it is all of us. Formal education is only one part of the puzzle. It’s people who challenge the norms, it’s intergenerational mentorship, it’s cross cultural experiences, it’s formal learning in traditional sessions and it’s being creative and using the gifts God gives us. I don’t care if you have your own kids or not, when you come in contact with mine, you are teaching them. Whether you like it or not.

And we fail. Often. But failure, too, is part of learning. Overcoming the failure and the ability to move forward shapes the next mistake, and the mistake after that. So, be encouraged, my friend, that there is only one perfect teacher who walked the Earth. Yet Jesus also grew in “…wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man…” (Luke 2). He was taught, and was the Teacher. His goals were clear, but loved the students so much that no one was denied the learning experience. Learned men, women, children and outcasts and sinners sat at His feet and were taught with patience and love. Sure, we have our preferences. We have our strategies and pedagogies and they too, ebb and flow as our society changes and the next generation leads the way for a new one. But we should never stop learning. And teaching.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Last week, if you’ve been following along, I posted about using up my leftovers. My Instagram feed shared how I made some little treats for our backyard friends. It turned out to be great timing, because shortly thereafter, we had a wackload of snow dumped on us! I’m sure the birds and the squirrels have tucked themselves away and hunkered down in their hidey-holes to wait out this extreme freeze and snow. Which got us a-musing: How do those teeny little birdies survive this cold? They seem so petite and frail.

Turns out, birds are a little like us humans. Some prefer to give up entirely on winter and fly to the tropics. Let’s just say, those migrating types don’t count. A few of us who can’t afford the time and effort of flying south, choose to batten down the hatches and hibernate for a few days in this extreme cold. Technically, with wildlife, it is called torpor and involves a period of “slowing down” in order to conserve energy. Much like some of us who choose to stay inside and drink hot chocolate on snowy days. I love it when I see evidence of God’s handiwork in nature! It’s all so interconnected and perfectly orchestrated!

This was brought home to me, again, a few weeks ago (before the snow) when I happened upon a tiny clutch of wing feathers. Putting aside the gruesomeness of this tiny winged creature’s demise (discovery and education has a dark side), let’s focus on the science for a minute. Feathers are uniquely designed like tiny, little zippers. If you observe one under a microscope, miniature little barbs link together to keep the fibres tightly attached.

A bird preens and fluffs up to keep the zippers zipped… enabling air to be trapped underneath the layers. The tight barrier allows for flight as the wind gets pushed down, and helps the bird stay warm in extreme weather! Fat build up and specialized body feathers help too… literally the birds wear a down jacket! The piece of wing I found was so small. Perhaps a sparrow? It’s feathers were layered so tightly and knit together so well, I marvelled at the intricate design. Tiny. Perfect.

And so, I am encouraged, again, by the promise in God’s word, that if He takes care of the tiniest sparrow, how much more are we loved? They were uniquely created to survive the harshest winters, knit together and infused with warmth by God’s own breath. As are we. May you be encouraged of that fact, my friends, as am I. Until next week — stay warm!


My backyard goodies were made with leftover gingerbread house pieces and pine cones (from a winter centerpiece) spread with some nut butter and dipped in bird seed! You can also use coconut oil or lard for the “sticky” part if you need a nut free option! It’s a fun Sunday School craft if you need an object lesson on how God cares for us!!