Egg Day

August 23, 2011

Egg day couldn’t begin without a little thematic breakfast! No, the kids would NOT eat it, Sam-I-Am, they would not eat Green Eggs and Ham! But, I did! And, after I managed to hard-boil about a dozen more eggs, we got to work. Today, we completed several “Egg-speriments,” including the old egg-through-the-bottle trick and, later, an egg-drop from a second story window. We finished some egg and egg-carton art projects. And we graduated from Chocolate Soufflé 101.

Egg-Speriments, Round One

This morning, I presented the kids with miniature composition books (from the dollar store), and asked them to use these as lab-books for our classic egg-speriments. (I say “classic,” because you can easily find descriptions of these science projects by entering “Experiments with Eggs” into your search engine. We found all of ours at Fun & Easy Egg Experiments).

Before we got down to business, the kids and I discussed the meaning of the word “hypothesis”. Then, I had the kids get started by writing a general description and a hypothesis for each of our three basic trials with eggs: Will It Float? Will It Slide? And, Will It Spin Fast Enough?

Will It Float?

For our first science project, we filled two mason jars with water, adding a few tablespoons of salt to one of the jars and stirring until well dissolved. Then, I asked the kids if they thought the egg would float in one or both of the liquids. Both hypothesized that the egg would float in the salt water and sink in the regular water. Their rationale for this was that the salt water pool at our hotel in Niagara Falls made them “float better” than in our community centre pool. Strangely, neither egg floated at first!!! I was quite surprised to see the egg in the salt-water bath sink right down to the bottom. What had we done wrong? I asked the kids to remove the salt-water egg and to add several more tablespoons of salt to the jar. Once this batch of salt was well-dissolved, we tried our experiment for a second time. This time, the salt-water egg rose right up to the top, while the still water egg stayed still at the bottom of the mason jar. We finished by speaking about the meaning of the word “density” and the relative density of the salt-water versus the still water.

Will it Slide?

[Please note that this experiment ABSOLUTELY requires adult supervision and should only be attempted in a well-ventilated, fire safe area. We kept plenty of baking soda handy out in the back yard.]

The kids predicted that neither a hard-boiled egg nor a water balloon could possiblly descend through the opening of a glass bottle, even when that bottle was filled with smoke and flame. And, despite the long history of evidence to the contrary….I had a feeling that for today’s experiment, they might be right! See, I’d had difficulty finding the traditional glass milk bottle required for this science project. No time to hit the organic grocer…So, we had to settle for a pair of small lemonade bottles and an oversized beer bottle salvaged from someone’s recycling… We were starting out at a slight disadvantage…The mouths weren’t wide enough. Still, we championed through!

I lit a rolled-up slip of paper, shoved it into our giant beer bottle, and placed an unshelled, hard boiled egg over the open top. Wh6at happened? Nothing! Our paper did not stay lit, and the egg showed no signs of “sucking itself in,” so to speak, and descending. We figured that because the fire went out, we had not created enough air pressure inside of the bottle to force the egg downward! Trying again, we switched to a flimsier slip of paper, got it burning, and shoved it down into the bottle. Tobes jumped back at the popping sound the egg made as it began to descend through the bottle opening. It was obvious, however, that our hard-boiled-egg was still too large to squeeze itself down that hole, despite the large amount of smoke and heat built up in the bottle. Still, about 1/3 of the egg managed to slip through the open top before the egg white on the upper half of the egg split off and fell onto the table. The kids were impressed by the “air pressure” we created, though. Three cheers for eggie!

We tried this experiment again with another egg and one of our smaller glass bottles, with similar results. The first few times we placed the egg over top of the flaming paper, the flame went out, and nothing happened. Finally, we got a good blaze going in our jar and set our egg on top for one last try. Suddenly, the bottom of the egg began to shimmy down through the jar’s opening, while the top of the egg basically “bubbled over” and, finally, popped open. Still, this illustrated the basic point about the increased air pressure inside of the hot bottle as compared to the lower pressure outside.

For a third and final test, we tried a variation of this procedure using a small, water-filled balloon instead of a hard-boiled egg. I thought that this would work, for sure, but even this fake egg had problems making its way through the jar opening. It DID plug up the opening firmly, though. It was a struggle to remove.

This series of tests reminded me of my days in high school chemistry (thank goodness for my patient, detail-oriented lab partners!). Things didn’t necessarily go as planned, or as we knew they were supposed to go, but they worked “enough” to prove our point. Unfortunately, my hair and clothes didn’t fare as well. I smelled like smoke for the rest of the day…The kids had a blast.

Will It Spin Fast Enough?

Bea and Tobes hypothesized that a hard boiled egg would spin faster than a raw egg because it was “sturdier” than a raw egg, as they put it. And, as we spun our eggs on a cookie sheet, they found themselves to be absolutely right! The hard-boiled egg spun fast enough to become blurry while the raw egg just bobbled to and fro. We had a reprise of the old family talk about solids, liquids, and gasses before we cleaned up. With the first half of our science lesson over, we headed inside for some art projects.

Egg and Egg-Carton Art

Self Portraits and Animal Drawings

Inside, I had the kids do self-portraits and animal drawings on hard-boiled eggs. We cut an empty toilet paper roll into four sections to use as stands for our four hard-boiled eggs. Then, with their every-day markers, the kids draw self-portraits on one egg and a favourite animal on the other. Bea’s fingers got in the way of her face, so to speak, so she ended up with a blurry but beautiful figure of herself in pink. She drew a “fantasy elephant nobody’s ever seen before” on the companion egg. Tobes drew himself as a miniature green stick figure. He also drew the turtle pet he is longing for.

Egg-Carton Owl Puppets

Since we had used so many eggs, I wanted to recycle our egg-cartons creatively, as well. I found a fabulous owl puppet for the kids to make online. From an egg carton, we cut out two “pairs” of egg-holders for the owl eyes, as well as four single cartons for the talons. Our cartons had quite long dividers to keep the eggs in place. So, as we cut our cartons, we made sure to include a divider in each pair of owl eyes to be bent down into a bird beak. We coloured the bird beaks and the talons with yellow and black markers.

We took googly eyes (more dollar store supplies we had on hand) and glued them into the bottoms of the egg-carton eyes.

Then, with a brown paper lunch bag face up on the table, we traced a u shape on the bag to designate the owl’s breast and belly. We coloured everything except the space inside of this u-shape a deep, dark brown.

Next, each of the kids folded pages of creamy coloured construction paper in half and traced both a wing shape and an ear shape along the fold. We cut out these wings and ears and divided them from along the fold so that the kids each had a pair of wings and ears for their owls.

We used white glue to attach the owl’s eyes to the bag, as well as the ears above those eyes. We also attached the wings onto the top undersides of the lunch bag. The kids also took a moment to colour in the wings and ears.

Then, we attached the talon cartons to the bottom front of the bag.

We let them rest and dry for a few hours before we took our owl puppets around the house for a flight!

Egg-Speriments, Round Two

World Famous Egg Drop (No Soup)

When I took Physics in High School, students could earn extra credit by participating in the annual “egg drop.” This event consisted of a group of students devising contraptions in which to place raw eggs (within a certain, low, weight limit, and sans styrofoam or bubble wrap) and dropping them from the rooftop of the school gym. The more eggs you incorporated, the more total weight you could drop, and the more points you were eligible to accumulate should your eggs land without cracking. Today, after consulting an instructables website, the kids and I tried our own egg drop at home.

In their lab books, both Bea and Tobes predicted that their eggs would not survive a fall from our second story window, even with tissue paper, a coke can, and a plastic-bag parachute as protections. Despite their negative hypotheses, or perhaps because of them, though, they were more than willing to create their egg-drop vehicles.

First, I emptied, rinsed, and cut a side door into the side of a soda can for each child. (I used a regular knife to make my incision, and it was fairly easy to maneuvre the knife – Still, this is certainly not something I would let the kids do at their age.) Then, the kids each wrapped a raw egg (Bea got a brown one, Tobes got a white one) in a single, large piece of tissue paper. First, they rolled the egg down the center. Then, they wrapped the remainder of the paper on each side around the egg for further protection.

Carefully, we inserted our wrapped eggs into the cans via the doors we had cut into their sides. Then, we used regular gift-wrapping tape to keep the door shut.

Raising up the ring-top of the soda can, we threaded the handled ends of a plastic bag through the large open loop of the ring-top. Then we took the remainder of the plastic bag and threaded it through the handles of the plastic bag, completing our parachute.

We were all ready for our egg-drop. I asked the kids go out onto the back-porch while I climbed the stairs to the second story and removed the screen from one of the back windows. The kids looked up and screamed as I dropped their parachute-cans from above. The parachutes inflated a bit as they fell, but the cans made big thuds as they hit the wooden deck.

We took our cans to the table and began the process of removing our eggs to assessing their status. After we removed the tape from one can, we opened the door and found a bit of moisture on our tissue paper. “Ut oh!” Tobes and Bea said, in unison. But, as we unwrapped our egg, we realized that this moisture had come from the the water we had used to rinse the cans! Bea’s brown egg was perfectly in tact! Next came can number two and Tobes’ white egg! Yet again, we found moisture on our tissue paper. Yet again, the egg was in tact!

The kids kissed their “egg-babies” hello and danced around to celebrate their success! They were glad, in the end, that their hypotheses had been incorrect! I sure wish I had been able to do this for extra-credit back in the day!

Now and Later: Eggsplosion or Elasticity?

Without giving them much of an explanation, I had the kids set up one final experiment by placing a raw egg in a small mason jar and filling it with vinegar. Then, I asked them to predict what would happen to the after two or three days. Both of the kids decided that the egg would eventually explode inside of the jar. I was a bit puzzled by this, considering that we had spent a good deal of time making pickles, recently…But we have also made a lot of baking soda and vinegar volcanoes in our time.

Silly kids! I’ll have them watch over the next few days as their egg loses its shell and becomes a rubber orb! (View our results here)

Tea-time Treat: Chocolate Soufflé 101

Owl Puppet Inspecting the Batter

I’ve never been much of a soufflé person. I chalk this up to my appetite for savoury foods. The few (i.e. two) times I’ve been persuaded to pre-order a chocolate soufflé have been at long, multi-course dinners with friends. These comestimables have always tasted fabulous. But, by that point, I’d so entirely enjoyed the meal, the wine, and the conversation, I could hardly eat a bite. For this reason, I thought, we should make our soufflé for an afternoon snack or “2:30 tea” (we had to indulge earlier than the “tea” norm, because we had a dentist appointment). This way, nothing could really interfere with our appetite for the good…

I had contemplated using Julia Child’s recipe for the soufflé, and to some extent, I wish I had…but for the purposes of attempting soufflé for the first time in my kitchen, and with kids, I wanted to keep things simple, so we opted for the version we found over at Canadian Living. Bea and I had picked up a special carton of eggs from the Leslieville farmer’s market over the weekend, and it was these we used for our treat!

I heated the oven to 375 as Bea rubbed a 1.5 litre soufflé dish generously with butter. (It was about this time that Tobes volunteered to eat the finished product in good humour, while opting out of the baking in favour of his turtle book, so Bea and I tackled this project by ourselves.)

Then, we made a little hat or wrapper out of butter-rubbed parchment paper (the reciped called for foil, but we had run out) to avoid having the soufflé spill over the side of the dish. Personally, I have to wonder whether or not this little wrapper has any place in soufflé making. Shouldn’t it just rise straight up if you’ve done your job right and if you refrain from filling it over the indentation/fill line in the dish? But what do I know…

Next, Bea chopped 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and we melted this with 2 tablespoons of butter over a pot of boiling water. We also separated 4 room-temperature eggs.

As the chocolate cooled, we beat our four egg-whites and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar in the mixer at a medium-low speed. (We had placed the mixing bowl and whisk in the fridge before lunch, by the way).Once the whites started to whip up into soft peaks, we added 1/3 cup of sugar in slow increments. Bea called this process, “raining sugar.”

Then, we continued to beat the whites in our mixer until it was glossy and formed “stiff peaks.” Bea usually likes to put her fingers in to confirm the accuracy of my hypotheses about these peaks…but I didn’t catch her in the act this time!

Next, in a separate bowl, we whisked our four egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar for about 5 minutes by hand. We whisked and whisked and whisked, that is, until the mixture became glossy and ran in ribbons from the tool. To this golden glory, we added two tablespoons of instant espress0 (I had mixed about 1 tbs of espresso powder with a few tbs of the boiling water in the pot we used beneath the melting chocolate). Then, we incorporated the melted chocolate and butter.

To complete our batter, we first folded 1/4 of our egg whites into our chocolate mixture. Then, we incorporated the rest of the egg whites with our spatula. We eased this batter into our soufflé dish and placed the dish on a pan on the bottom 1/3 of our oven. Apparently, there was an EARTHQUAKE just about the time we placed our soufflé in to bake. We didn’t feel a thing…but did our soufflé?

No! After 35 minutes of quiet and restful play, we opened our oven and found that our soufflé had risen and was ready to eat! Quickly, we removed our dish from the oven and scooped out the prize into three glass bowls. The kids loved it!

I did too, though, in retrospect, I’d have to say that this was not the most chocolatey or tasty of soufflés. It tasted just fine, mind you. And, as far as I could tell, Bea and I had “done it right,” which makes me sparkle with pride. Still, I think that I would have like a darker, more chocolately result. Perhaps we could just add a few more ounces of chocolate? Who knows..Still, for a first try, this was fabulous, so thanks and thanks again to the cooks at CL. Next time, we’ll be tackling Julia Child!

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