January Theme: Fire + Ice


January Theme: Fire + Ice

By Adventure Science Center

This month, we're focusing on all things fire + ice.

Check out a few of the activities we're facilitating this month and explore the science behind it all!

Themed programming will take place:

Tinkering Garage Build of the Month

  • DIY Campfire
    • Looking for inspiration in Tinkering Garage? Visitors can follow staff-curated instructions to craft a campfire display out of wood and tissue paper.

Early Explorer Storytime Books and Activities

  • January 1: Finding Fire
    • Early Explorers will use string, paint, and sticks to "light" a fire on their paper. They'll explore the different colors that can be seen in a fire and take their DIY fire home with them.
  • January 8: Ice Cycles: Poems about the Life of Ice
    • Early Explorers will use flashlights and magnifying glasses to observe orbs made of ice.
  • January 15: Not Your Typical Dragon
    • Early Explorers will make a "fire" breathing dragon out of a cardboard tube and streamers.
  • January 22: The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle
    • Early Explorers will enjoy a frozen treat made with liquid nitrogen!
  • January 29: Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle
    • Early Explorers will learn how to make their own candles. Explorers can choose their candle color and take it home with them.

Time: Every Monday at 9:30 am
Location: Eureka Theatre on the second floor
Ages: Pre-K (Kids Under Five)
Follow us on Instagram for a sneak peek at each week's story and associated activity.

Floor Cart Activities and Demonstrations


Liquid Nitrogen Marshmallows

What happens when you mix cryogenic liquid nitrogen with soft, fluffy marshmallows? A delicious science demonstration! Our science center staff will place marshmallows in a bowl with liquid nitrogen and serve up frozen marshmallows to our visitors. Are they safe to eat? Let’s learn about the science behind this sweet treat.

Liquid nitrogen is -321°F (-196°C) and does not naturally occur on earth. It has many practical uses for things such as cryopreservation of cells, contracting metals, and flash-freezing foods. Since nitrogen is a common element on Earth, it is a relatively safe chemical to work with and is highly abundant.

A marshmallow is mostly made of sugar and has a relatively high moisture content. When a marshmallow contacts liquid nitrogen, the moisture in the marshmallow immediately freezes. The resulting texture of the marshmallow is brittle. The frozen marshmallow can be safely eaten once removed from the liquid nitrogen bowl. There is no remaining liquid nitrogen in or on the marshmallow – just frozen moisture! 

Freezing is a different process than dehydrating. Lucky Charms marshmallows are a good example of dehydrated marshmallows. They have had their moisture removed and will not go back to being soft and fluffy. On the other hand, liquid nitrogen marshmallows have their moisture frozen and will go back to their soft, fluffy state once the moisture has time to defrost. 

Ice Fishing

Have you ever wondered why salt is scattered on the roads to prevent ice? In this demonstration, our staff member will show you the changes that take place when salt is placed on ice. Will the ice get colder or warmer?

Though salt does not lower the temperature of ice, it lowers the freezing point (and melting point). When salt is around, ice cubes have to work harder to be solid. Eventually, when there is enough salt, the ice can’t work any harder and it begins to melt. That is why a lot of salt is thrown on the roads to prevent ice in below-freezing temperatures. 

Our staff will help our visitors go ice fishing by adding salt to the fish-shaped ice that is floating in water. Visitors will dip their “pole” into the water and see if they can catch the frigid fish on their line. Be careful! Too much salt will make the fish melt. Tthis is a chance to experiment with colligative properties.

Snow Sensory Bins

Snow can be hard to come by in Nashville, but a little science demonstration can fix that! Watch and feel as our staff transforms a gritty white powder into soft and pillowy snow. Ask us how you can safely do this experiment at home! 

The magical white powder we are experimenting with is called sodium polyacrylate (poly-ack-ra-lite). It is known in the industry as a super-absorbent polymer or SAP. Sodium polyacrylate can absorb 100 to 1000 times its mass in water which leads it to have broad applications in consumer products. This polymer is used in baby diapers, medical bandages, pet pads, and anti-flood equipment. Sodium polyacrylate absorbs water through a process called osmosis. Water swells the polymer network to keep the sodium concentration between the polymer and water. Once the polymer absorbs the water, it has the soft and fluffy texture of freshly fallen snow.

Sodium polyacrylate can be found on Amazon as “SnoWonder” or Flinn Scientific Inc as “PolySnow™”. Remember, this is a SAP (super-absorbent polymer). If any of the polymer goes down the sink, toilet, or other drain, it will absorb the surrounding water and clog the pipes. All sodium polyacrylate should be disposed of in the trash. 

Melting Ice Blocks 

Visitors will watch as our facilitator makes ice cubes melt before their very eyes. Is it magic…or science? 

We'll start with two identical-looking black squares. They look the same, but when you put a hand on one square and your other hand on the other square, they feel very different. That is because they are made of different materials. The aluminum square feels cold to the touch whereas the plastic square feels warmer. Which square will melt the ice faster? 

If you said the warmer square, you’re wrong. But, why? It all has to do with the conductivity of the materials. The aluminum square has one of the highest heat conductivities of common materials. When an ice cube is placed on the aluminum square, the square gives so much heat to the ice cube that it begins to melt immediately. The plastic square is a poor conductor of heat and therefore does not transfer very much heat to the ice cube, despite it feeling warmer to the touch. It will melt slowly according to the air temperature around it.


Rubens' Tube

Visitors will watch fire dance to the beat of sound waves pulsing through a tube as propane fuels this flaming demonstration. Our staff will take song requests from the visitors to see if your tune has what it takes to make the fire dance. The more bass, the more change in pressure throughout the tube. The less bass, the less movement in the flames. 

In the late 1800s, a physics professor named Heinrich Rubens was teaching his students about sound waves. He made a tube, filled it with flammable gas, lit the gas coming out the top on fire, and then played instruments through the end of the tube. This demonstrated the shape of sound waves to his students. It was later named Rubens’ Tube after him. 

Can you think of another time when you experienced changes in a medium due to sound waves?

Adventure Science Center is open:

Monday, Thursday, Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Join us this month for science fun for all ages!




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