Though I wish that the mounds of Halloween candy had disappeared while I was away, it was here and in piles. Actually it was here and in three big orange pumpkins. So before we froze what we’ll use for holiday cookies and gave a lot of it away, we had to play with it a bit.
I knew that last year we didn’t tackle the color separation Candy Experiment properly. I didn’t really read the directions on my pal Loralee’s Candy Experiments site like I should have because I think I was more excited to play with the sweet stuff than I was to actually learn about chromatography in candy.
So that’s where we began yesterday–the color separation experiment, 2.0.
Here’s the skinny:
Candy Experiments–Playing with Color:
Maddy, Cora, and I were the primary experimenters because Owen went to hit golf balls with his dad. So the girls and I cleared our workspace, gathered our supplies, and got rolling.
I said to the girls, Okay, we have so much candy here. Let’s do some experimenting with candy like we did last year, what do you say?
They were totally game, as long as they could eat a little along the way. I agreed (because I wanted to eat some, too).
So the experiment we can start with will focus on colors. Let’s hunt for all of the brightly colored candy we can find–the Skittles, M & M’s, lollipops, you name it. Then unwrap them and put them in piles by color. We had no Skittles (total surprise!), but we had plenty of other candies that would work.
After we sorted the candies by color, we used our fancy-schmancy new droppers (thanks to the market at Discount School Supplies at the NAEYC exhibit hall!) to add a few drops of water to each candy so that the color would drain.
Then I cut rectangles out of coffee filters and labeled each one according to the color we would be working with.
I said, You know how you’ve learned that in order to create colors–like green, purple, and orange–you have to mix colors together? Well I think that with this experiment, we’ll be able to see exactly what colors the candy makers use to make candy colors.
By making the candy wet, we’re dissolving the color. And when we put drops of the color on this little piece of paper and add a bit of water to it, the colors will magically separate. It’s called chromatography.
Once each paper was dabbed with color, I put a tiny bit of water into a glass, allowing the paper to absorb the water which would (I think) cause the colors to separate. It took a long, long time for anything to really happen, so while we waited, we thought hard about other foods that had bright colors–other things we could try pulling out colors.
We use the kids’ yogurt–the Yoplait that comes in the tiny cups and is bright colors like nothing found in nature. Maddy also thought of using fruit snacks, so we used them, too. We dabbed the yogurt onto the papers and pulled color out of the fruit snacks with water.
And waited and waited and waited.
Maddy and Cora were crazy-excited to use the little droppers, so after we set up the experiment, they colored and colored and colored. Much like our candy painting last year, this was by far their favorite part.
And then Owen came home and wanted to get in on the action, so as he tried his hand at separating colors, I noticed that the coffee filters that Maddy and Cora had ‘decorated’ and that we set over the glasses had already begun to separate–perhaps because they were drying?
So Owen and I pulled all of the papers out of the water glasses and put them on a drying rack. And as the colors dried, they separated slightly. And the ‘candy masterpieces’ they created looked more beautiful as they dried as well.
What did we learn from this candy experiment 2.0? Before dinner, and as we revisited our colors, Maddy noticed that the yogurt colors and the fruit snack colors did not separate at all but that the browns of the M & M’s did the best job of separating.
Owen found that the brown was actually a lot of blue and orange, and that they must have mixed them together to make the brown M & M.
Colors on the drying rack. . . waiting to separate.
- I wish we would have used Skittles or Nerds as well;
- I wish we would have placed the candy on the plate, then added a few drops of water and then waited longer so the color would have really pulled from the candy;
- I wish I would have placed the coffee filter in water, allowed the paper to absorb the water, and then immediately placed the paper on the drying rack;
- I wish we would have tried other foods;
- I wish I totally understood this whole process so I could have explained it better and perhaps have more clearly set the kids up for success in seeing actual color separation.
It was fun–don’t get me wrong!–and I’m not wishing this experience away. I just know that next time, we’ll do a few things differently!
Many thanks again to Loralee of Candy Experiments for coming up with these ideas, and my apologies to her if I totally was off-track with any information here.
If you are in the DC area this spring, and you want to help Loralee out with her booth at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April, please let her know! I’ll certainly be there, as the Science and Engineering Fest is an incredibly fun family event!
Want a few more fun, foodie-science ideas?