Professional laboratory equipment can be expensive. Save money by equipping your homeschool science lab for free using recycled household items.
Doing science in your home can be a fun and rewarding experience, and a great way to educate your children. However, finding laboratory equipment at a reasonable cost is not always easy. Here are some ideas for using recycled household objects to make your own science equipment for free.
Basic Science Equipment – Beakers for Mixing and Measuring
Most science laboratories will be equipped with beakers in a range of sizes, normally from 100mL to 1L. Equivalent vessels can be easily made from recycled plastic pop/soda bottles simply by cutting them in half using a craft knife. The resulting cut edge may not be very regular, and can be levelled off by trimming with a pair of scissors. If any sharp areas remain after this, covering the cut edge with sticky tape will prevent children from scratching themselves while using the beakers.
Adding volume markers to the beakers can be a fun activity for children to join in with. Simply use a measuring jug to measure fixed volumes of water (in increments of 50mL or 100mL, depending on the size of the beaker to be marked), transfer this to your beaker, and mark the level on the side with a permanent marker pen. It is important that this is done on a level surface, and it may be beneficial to add some food colouring to the water, so that the level of the liquid is more easily visible.
The resulting beakers can be used for most homeschool chemistry experiments. Most plastic bottles are made from PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET), and will have a symbol with the letters PET stamped onto them during manufacture. PET is safe, hard wearing and resilient to relatively high temperatures (as evident from the fact that bottles can be washed out in hot water) but will buckle and distort if filled with boiling water. PET is not safe for use with naked flames.
PET has the advantage of being clear, so that children will be able to see what is happening inside their beaker, for example, if they are looking for a colour change or the formation of a sediment.
Mixing Made Easy – Stirring Rods
If children need to mix substances in their beakers, for example when dissolving salt or sugar, wooden lolly-pop sticks make fantastic stirring rods. They are rounded at the ends, so are safe for even young children to use, are sturdy, and avoid the risks associated with glass stirring rods in the unlikely event that they break. These make much better stirrers than tea spoons, particularly when working with smaller volumes.
Separating Substances – Funnels and Filters
The top halves of the plastic bottles used to make beakers make very effective funnels when inverted. Once again, the edges can be trimmed, and sticky tape used to ensure that any sharp edges are covered. The addition of a filter paper from a coffee machine means that experiments for separating solids from liquids can be carried out with ease. Ensure that the funnel used is from a larger bottle than the beaker, so that it will sit on top of the beaker without getting stuck or sinking into the beaker below.