Though I’m a big fan of having students do labs, I understand that this isn’t always practical for either safety or logistics reasons. As a result, I’ve posted some demos that allow us to show students some cool chemistry (while getting the chance to do fun stuff ourselves).¹ (Updated 6/2/16)
- Dehydration Demo: Though not officially a chemical reaction, dehydration processes occur when hydrates lose water molecules, usually during heating). Though copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate is usually used for this demonstration/lab, I’ve found that Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate heptahydrate) is way cooler.
- Angry Rock Demo: Why is that rock reacting with water? Because it’s calcium metal, of course! Good for teaching single replacement reactions or for showing the reactivity of alkaline earth metals.
- Elephant Toothpaste Demo: You may notice that there are several elephant toothpaste demos on this page – that’s because they’ve been tweaked to teach different concepts. This version is intended to show how a decomposition reaction works.
- Exploding Bubble Demo: An oldie but a goodie. If you want to set the imaginations of your students on fire (but hopefully not the students themselves), give it a shot.
- Boyle’s Law Demo #1: Use a graduated cylinder and a balloon to show the students that Boyle’s law can make an effective pressure gauge.
- Boyles Law Demo #2: It’s the same as the last one, except that you use a much longer PVC pipe. The procedure is slightly different, but it’s the same idea.
- Water bottle pressure demo: A Boyle’s law demo that uses a disposable water bottle and an airplane (though you don’t need to bring the airplane to school).
- Invisible Ink Demo: A neat way to show how indicators can be used to determine the acidity or basicity of a solution; demonstrating that indicators change colors as pH changes color.
- The Acid Breath Demo: Show your students about the workings of indicators, as well as the acidity of your breath using this demo. Also good for showing equilibria processes, should you choose to develop it a bit.
- Elephant Toothpaste Demo (Kinetics): Though the elephant toothpaste demo is usually just a demonstration of a decomposition reaction, it can be used to teach kinetics, too. Check it out!
Disclaimer: Though I have personally done these activities with my students safely, there is an element of risk inherent in chemistry demonstrations and activities. By doing any of these activities, you assume all responsibility for any negative consequences and agree to hold Ian Guch harmless for any injuries, property damage, or any other negative outcome. Remember: Safety is the most important thing when doing chemistry, so if you’re not absolutely sure what you’re doing – and if you’re not wearing goggles – don’t do it!