From: DAVID Katz <DAKATZ45**At_Symbol_Here**MSN.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] C&EN: Thoughts on Kate the Chemist's "The Big Book of Experiments"?
Date: Tue, 6 Oct 2020 17:36:37 +0000
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**Princeton.EDU>
Message-ID: BL0PR05MB53465FC39F15C3C93B64C0E8C50D0**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <54f11122ff7f4dc8a2b3570815697698**At_Symbol_Here**>

Hi Mary Beth,
I agree that color change experiments with litmus paper and red cabbage juice can exciting for students.  I used to give my students litmus paper with instructions to test household substances as an assignment.  Red cabbage paper is even better as the students get a range of colors with varying pH.
The students can make their own red cabbage paper by mixing shredded cabbage with an alcohol-water mixture in a blender and then dipping coffee filters or paper towels into the solution.  No heating is needed.  Normally, I have the students make a color chart with buffer solutions and test a variety of household substances in the lab.  They take additional pieces of the red cabbage paper home to test other substances as an assignment.  The procedure is on my web site at   A second file, with Teacher notes, has photographs of the student results.
  David A. Katz             
  Chemist, Educator, Expert Demonstrator, Science Communicator, and  Consultant
  Programs and workshops for teachers, schools, museums, and the public
  5003 Canby Dr. * Wilmington, DE 19808-1102 *  USA
  voice/fax: (302) 509-3282 * email: dakatz45**At_Symbol_Here**
           Visit my web site:
----- Original Message -----
From: Mary Beth Mulcahy
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**Princeton.EDU
Sent: Tuesday, October 6, 2020 7:50 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] C&EN: Thoughts on Kate the Chemist's "The Big Book of Experiments"?


Your comments about concerning chemistry being about creating uncontrolled releases of energy made me think about my recent experiences homeschooling to 10 years olds. A couple of weeks ago, they told me my chemistry lesson "sucked." Ouch, soap/hard water precipitates did not thrill them. They then asked if they could do some fire experiments. 

So, I walked into the acids and bases lessons feeling a little sheepish and not knowing what to think. I handed them litmus paper and a bunch of household items and told them to explore. The color-changing paper fascinated them. Then we pulled out the pH indicators for our fish tank and the rainbow of colors got them very excited. I topped it off with purple cabbage juice indicator and you would have thought I was the coolest teacher in the world. So, I have anecdote proof that fire isn't necessary :)

Jyllian, I don't know if this is helpful to you, but for anyone else out there looking for homeschooling science kits, I have really enjoyed the  simplicity and completeness of this one . The experiments are simple enough for supervised 10 year olds to do and the fact that everything is included has stopped my last minute need to run to the store for random things. 

Mary Beth

On Sat, Oct 3, 2020 at 1:43 PM Stuart, Ralph <Ralph.Stuart**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:
> Has anyone looked at the book and, if so, do you have any safety concerns? I'd expect that the publisher would have vetted it, but I also know that Kate goes for big drama in television appearances.

Thanks for asking an important question. We have been struggling with this question on the Committee on Chemical Safety for a while. In the process, we have identified a variety of perspectives from which it can be addressed:

- Are we concerned about foreseeable safety concerns arising during the demonstrations as described in the book (this is likely to be the extent of the vetting by the publisher);

- Is the concern that children freelancing based on ideas in the book that have serious accidents (examples of these types of incidents are easy to find on Youtube);

- or is it with reinforcing the idea that chemistry is about creating uncontrolled releases of energy and matter as the author demonstrates in the video you referenced?

My concern with the last category is that the "exocharmic" nature of these demonstrations is that most of planning and safety precautions that allow these demonstrations to be performed without incident are hidden from the audience. The comments on Amazon about the book suggest that this concern also arises for some of the people who bought this book (e.g. the comments that dry ice and other non-household chemicals are necessary for many of the demonstrations).

So I guess to answer your question, I expect to always find safety concerns with a collection of chemical procedures that suggest that they are for "all ages and interest levels". The recent ACS Chemical Health & Safety editorial "Let's Disagree about Safety" at

describes the problems this approach to chemistry education can present.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO

Environmental Safety Manager

Keene State College

603 358-2859



For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here**

Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas

--- For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here** Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas

Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.