Baking a cake is a great way to do science without even knowing it. When you bake a cake, the ingredients go through a chemical change. A chemical change occurs when the molecules that compose two or more substances are rearranged to form a new substance! When you start baking, you have a mixture of ingredients. The flour, egg, sugar, etc. combine together to form a batter. After you make your batter, you bake it in an oven and out pops a cake! The batter has been transformed. But how do we know a chemical change occurred? Well, chemical changes usually include a change in smell – the baked cake definitely smells different than the raw batter. Other indications are that chemical changes usually give off or take in heat. The cake needed the heat from the oven in order to transform. Chemical changes might also be indicated by gases being released – this is what causes the cake to be light and fluffy, instead of thick batter. But most importantly, we know a chemical change occurs when the new substance, ie. our cake cannot be separated into its original components – sugar, eggs, flour etc. Do you want to observe another chemical change at home? Follow the instructions below.

Materials: Paper Towel, Vinegar, Penny, Plate

Directions: Pour a small amount of vinegar onto a plate or shallow dish. Use the paper towel to soak up the vinegar. Put the penny in the vinegar soaked towel. Be patient and observe. What do you think will happen? This experiment works best when you wait a full day for the reaction to occur. Make a prediction and then check back in 24 hours and see if you were right!

What happens: As we learned, one way to know that a chemical change occurred is observing whether or not there was a color change. In this case, the penny turned green! This happens because the copper in the penny reacts with the oxygen in the air to form copper oxide. The vinegar helps with the process.

Want more? Research It! How does lighting a match create a chemical change? Email ECHO at info@echovermont.org to let us know what you find and have a chance at being featured in next week’s edition of the Burlington Free Press and our Facebook Page! We look forward to learning about your research.

Previous ECHO Science Spotlight:: Try this fun experiment about friction!

Carlie Wright is the education programs coordinator at ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. The center, which works to engage families in the joy of scientific discovery, partnered with the Burlington Free Press to publish this feature.

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