Monday, November 24, 2008

Magic of Harry Potter Science

This past Friday, Norman Bird Sanctuary celebrated our first Family Nature Night of the fall: The Nature and Science of Harry Potter. As families arrived, each young wizard choose a wand (or I should say the wand choose the wizard) to decorate with milkweed “unicorn hair”, red-tail hawk feathers, and of course, a little sparkle. Each wand’s wood came from a tree found here at NBS. We used apple wood, maple, even evergreen branches from our yews (a dark wizard’s favorite).

Our first class was Care of Magical Creatures. Families met some of our education animals, like our resident rats, a bearded dragon, and a snake. The group discussed the distinctions between the two different classes of animals, as well as some differences between pets and wild animals. Finally, we brought out our majestic Red-Tail Hawk. Though not a phoenix, our hawk rose from the ashes in her own way. She survived after being found with a broken wing and damaged eye. While she is considered a non-releasable animal, the staff at NBS works hard to make sure she stays as wild as possible.

Next we ventured into the Forbidden Forest for a night hike. The class preformed nighttime experiments that including exploring the chemistry of tribo-luminescence, testing our night vision, even making each other heads magically disappear (another mystifying effect of human night vision).We returned to our classroom for a quick Potions class. At the end, each witch and wizard (and their parents) warmed up with some butterbeer and pumpkin cookies.

You can experience potions class at home with this recipe for slime:
Materials: water, white glue (like Elmer's™), borax, food coloring (unless you want uncolored white slime)
1. Mix 1 teaspoon borax in 1 cup of water. Stir until the borax is dissolved.
2. In a separate container, mix 1/2 cup white glue with 1/2 cup water. Add food coloring, if desired.
3. After you have dissolved the borax and diluted the glue stir one slime solution into the other. Your slime will begin to polymerize immediately.
4. The slime will become hard to stir after you mix the borax and glue solutions. Try to mix it up as much as you can, then remove it from the bowl and finish mixing it by hand. It's okay if there is some colored water remaining in the bowl.
5. The slime will start out highly flexible. You can stretch it and watch it flow. As you work it more, the slime will become stiffer and more like putty. Then you can shape it and mold it, though it will lose its shape over time. Don't eat your slime and don't leave it on surfaces that could be stained by the food coloring.
6. Store your slime in a sealed Ziploc bag, preferably in the refrigerator

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