Science at Home with Bayer
For more than 150 years, Bayer has used science and imagination to advance health and nutrition. Science doesn’t just happen in labs – science is all around us and powers everything we do!
As many of us adjust to distance learning models or school closures as a result of the global spread of COVID-19, we would like to share some fun science education content you can use at home. Science at Home with Bayer will feature a bi-weekly themed package of articles, videos, activities, and experiments you and your kids can do together or depending on their age, on their own. Your child may not be able to attend school right now, but their curiosity and love for science can continue at home. We are in this together!
The Ecosystem in Your Backyard
Regardless of which part of the world you live in, the geographic area around your home has unique ecosystems that you can study and learn from…even your own backyard!
An ecosystem includes all the living (biotic) components in a given area, as well as the nonliving (abiotic) components of the environment such as the climate and landscape, working together to form a “circle of life” – a complete system in which each member of the community has its own role to play.
The Importance of Protecting Ecosystems
All species depend on each other for survival. A change in one part of the food chain can have effects on the rest of the living components within that ecosystem. Consider how the different components of your backyard ecosystem are interconnected:
- Dead plants and animals, along with animal waste, are consumed and broken down by insects and the billions of microorganisms that live in the soil, generating more soil habitat and fertilizer (plant nutrients).
- Plants grow in the soil and are fed by the fertilizer.
- Plants are a food source for animals (including insects) and humans, and they produce oxygen, which animals and humans need to breathe. Conversely, animals and humans exhale carbon dioxide, which plants need to grow.
- Insects, especially bees, provide pollination for plants, spreading the seeds and aiding in reproduction.
- Insects are another food source for some animals, which are a food source for larger animals, which are a food source for humans.
Activity: Backyard Scavenger Hunt
Let’s go on a scavenger hunt! How many of the living and nonliving components on this list can you find in your backyard (or nearby) ecosystem?
Activtiy: Ecosystem in a Bottle
To learn more about how different parts of an ecosystem work together, and how a change to just one part of that ecosystem can affect the others, try creating your own Ecosystem in a Bottle!
Soil, the Beginning of Everything
Did you know there is a difference between dirt and soil? Dirt is soil that is out of place, like on your clothes or under your fingernails or tracked onto your mom’s clean rug (the dog did it, right)? Soil, on the other hand, is alive. It is one of the most complex biological materials on the planet, covering the land like layers of skin.
Soil is the foundation for life as we know it. Strong, rich soil gives life to the entire food chain. Healthy soil leads to successful harvests for farmers, which are essential to providing us all with enough food to eat. That’s why Bayer scientists are constantly trying to understand and learn from it, along with other researchers from around the world. Some of the interesting facts that scientists have learned about soil:
- It takes about 1,000 years to build roughly one inch of topsoil.
- Soil hosts a quarter of our planet’s biodiversity. Billions upon billions of earthworms, nematodes, insects, fungi, bacteria, and other invertebrates call it home.
- Just one handful of soil can contain tens of thousands of different organisms.
Learn more in the infographic below from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, as part of the Global Soil Partnership initiative.
These earth-dwelling microbes use the organic material found in soil as food. They work together to break down complex materials — like dead plants and animals — into minerals and nutrients that support healthy growth for the rest of the ecosystem. Essentially, underground organisms aren’t just evidence of healthy soil. They are healthy soil. They create it.
Get Your Hands Dirty!
Each year on December 5, the Global Soil Partnership and other ecosystem protectors recognize “World Soil Day,” to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems by protecting soil biodiversity. Even kids can help spread the message! In the meantime, continue to build your soil knowledge by digging into this booklet of soil-related STEM activities you can try at home.
Kid Talk: Meet a Sustainability Expert
Another excellent way to learn about how to maintain healthy ecosystems is by talking to an expert. Within Bayer’s Crop Science division, sustainability experts work to protect biodiversity on our ForwardFarms. These are independent farms across Europe, Latin America and North America that have partnered with Bayer to showcase sustainable agricultural practices. Other farmers, organizations and even school groups can visit each ForwardFarm to see how the crops there coexist with the natural surroundings, and (for farmers) to learn how to implement those practices on their own farms.
Join 12-year-old Kellen Hayes as he learns about the diverse ecosystem on Hof ten Bosch farm near Brussels, Belgium, which includes crops such as potatoes, pears, and sugar beets, along with animals like bees and kestrel owls. Bayer Sustainability Operations Manager Marc Sneyders joined Kellen from the farm for this Kid Talk interview.
Take the Virtual Farm Tour
Do you wish that you could visit Hof ten Bosch farm for yourself? Good news…we have the next best option! Click here to take a 360° virtual tour of Bayer’s ForwardFarm in Belgium.
Learn with a Scientist: Build Your Own Bird's Nest
Have you ever tried to build a real bird’s nest? It looks so easy…but there’s only one way to find out! In this episode of Learn with a Scientist, Bayer scientist Ruth Wagner and her three “junior scientist” colleagues demonstrate how to create a bird habitat using only natural materials from your own backyard.
Are you ready to give it a try? Here are the instructions for creating your own bird habitat.
Pollinators and Plants
As you can see in the virtual tour of Hof ten Bosch farm, pollinators are very important to farmers…but they should be equally important to all of us! Pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, bats, and other small mammals are responsible for bringing humans one out of every three bites of food.
While wind and water carry some pollen, animals help to pollinate nearly 90 percent of flowering plant species, some of which are food crops. This means they help the plants reproduce by carrying pollen from one flower to the next, making it possible for them to develop new seeds, and thus, more flowers and food. In fact, as you can see in the chart below, some of your favorite foods might not be here at all if it weren’t for the pollinators within the ecosystem.
Of course, the relationship between plants and pollinators is what we call “mutually beneficial.” That means, both sides get something good out of it. The plants provide food for the pollinators, who visit the flowers to drink nectar or feed off of pollen.
They're Called Busy Bees for a Reason
You’ve probably heard the expression “busy bee” – and it makes sense when you learn about how much work bees actually do. Nearly one-third of our fruits, nuts and vegetables benefit from pollination by bees. Honey bees can visit up to 5,000 flowers in a single day and are responsible for much of the food supply around the world. Over half of the managed bees (greater than 1.5 million colonies) in the United States are imported to California each year to work the almond orchards. Once the job is complete, the bees crisscross back across the nation to enhance the production of over 90 other crops, including apples, cherries, melons, berries, and pumpkins.
Read and Learn
Did you know there are over 20,000 bee species worldwide? Click below to read more fascinating facts about bees.
Visit the page below to learn more about five significant non-bee pollinator groups, including a few that you might not have guessed.
Prescription for Fun: Try Vitamin Bee
B vitamins can be found in citrus fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables; consuming these types of foods to get enough vitamin B is part of a prescription for maintaining good health. On the other hand, if you need a prescription for having fun while learning more about food, bees and plants, we recommend trying Vitamin Bee!
For kids who are too young for activity books, here’s a great alternative for teaching them about the importance of bees in the ecosystem: a picture book that parents or older siblings can read with them.
How to Help Pollinators
Without enough plants, pollinators would be in trouble; without enough pollinators, plants would be trouble. In either situation, people would be in trouble too! When it comes to ensuring a strong food supply, protecting crops and ensuring pollinator safety is not an ‘either-or’ option; they need to go hand in hand. Protecting pollinators helps to protect the entire ecosystem.
So what are some ways that you can help pollinators in your own backyard? Provide access to blooming plants, which provide important opportunities for forage (finding food) and habitat (a place to live). Pollinators require access to flowers for food sources from early spring to late fall. Each pollinator will have different preferences for flower color and shape, so variety is important. Ask your parents if you can plant one plant in a flower pot and have a few favorites in your garden. It all adds up and makes a huge difference. Visit Feedabee.com for more information.
Backyard Basil-Based Recipe
Another way you can help pollinators is by planting an herb garden. Herbs are plants that are used to add flavoring to food, and bees are attracted to some of the same plants that people find delicious – like chives, mint and basil. One yummy recipe you can make with fresh basil leaves is pesto, an Italian sauce that you can put on pasta, bread, or just about anything else you’d like! Here’s how to make it.
The next time you’re hanging out in your backyard or walking at a nearby park, just remember how important it is for people to protect every part of nature. Biodiversity isn’t just a goal; it’s an asset to our planet. All parts of an ecosystem—animals, plants, microbes, and humans—are interconnected. In order for our planet thrive, we need to continue to innovate and develop more efficient ways to get the resources humans need to survive, while maintaining healthy ecosystems and the many organisms that inhabit them.
Even during times of social distancing, kids can always find ways to have summer fun at home by playing sports and exercising outdoors! Whether you’re playing a backyard game of badminton, swimming, jumping rope, or practicing skills for team sports like basketball, cricket, or football (also known as soccer in the U.S.), there’s one thing that all these activities have in common: science!
On one hand, the science of physics can help us understand how it’s possible to throw a baseball that curves just when the batter takes a swing or toss a boomerang that returns to the same spot. On the other hand, health science helps us understand how to prevent getting injured while playing sports, and long-term, how regular exercise can help us prevent illness and live longer, healthier lives. Let’s learn a bit about both types of science!
The Science of Goalkeeping
In soccer, the goalkeeper or goalie, is a team’s last defense in preventing the opposition from scoring. Unlike their fellow teammates, a goalkeeper is the only player in soccer who can use his hands during play. It takes years of training to develop the strength, balance and coordination needed to be a good goalie, as well as an understanding of physics, of course! Whether kicking, throwing, rolling, punching, diving or catching, a goalkeeper, without thinking, automatically uses scientific concepts like acceleration, angles and momentum, to effectively move, trap and release the ball back into play.
Learn with an Athlete: The Science of Goalkeeping
Junior athlete Bruno Schmitt takes us to BayArena in Leverkusen to meet goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky. With the help of Bayer 04 Leverkusen Goalkeeper Coach David Thiel, we learn how goalkeepers use science and physics to effectively defend the net.
Sports and Physics
Believe it or not, our ability to explain the physics of sports stems from something that happened during another pandemic more than 300 years ago. From 1665-1666, an infectious disease called the bubonic plague swept through London, killing nearly a quarter of the population. Universities were shut down and students were sent home to practice social distancing, including a young scientist named Isaac Newton. It was during this time of isolation that Newton, inspired by seeing an apple fall from a tree, began formulating the Law of Universal Gravitation.
By defining the force that is gravity, Newton was later able to develop the three “Laws of Motion” that apply to almost everything in this universe, explaining the relationship between force and motion. Read more about Newton’s Laws of Motion below, or watch the video to see Bayer kids demonstrating these concepts through common sports and activities.
Learning about Science through Sports:
Newton’s Laws of Motion
Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by another force. That means if a soccer ball is not moving, it will not start moving by itself. The first law also says that with no outside forces a moving object will not stop. This means if you kick a ball it will fly forever unless a force acts upon it! When you kick a ball here on earth (as opposed to outer space), forces start to act on it immediately – air resistance slows it down and gravity pulls the ball down to the ground. The ball could also be stopped in the air by the force of a goalkeeper knocking it away – or, if you’re lucky, by the back of the goal net.
Newton’s second law of motion explains that the net force acting on an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration. That means the greater the mass, the greater the force needed to move the object. When your leg muscles apply force to the pedals of your bicycle, you move forward. But if your bicycle was also pulling a heavy cart, you would have to apply more force to keep moving at the same speed. It also means that objects will move farther and faster when more force is applied. A baseball hit with a swinging bat will accelerate more than a baseball that is bunted.
Newton’s third law of motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you kick a soccer ball, you will feel the force of the kick back into your leg. When you jump, your legs apply a force to the ground and the ground applies an equal and opposite force that propels you into the air.
Activity: Heart-Healthy Hopscotch
Did you know that jumping is also good exercise for your heart and other muscles? Hopscotch is one fun jumping activity you can do at home. All you need is two people, some flat pavement, a pebble or other small object to use as the game piece, and sidewalk chalk. If you don’t have any chalk at home, check out the instructions for recycling eggshells to make your own!
Using chalk on pavement, draw a game board with ten separate numbered squares big enough to stand in. Most hopscotch boards include some single squares and some side-by-side squares.
Player one tosses the game piece into square number one, then hops through the board, skipping that square. In single squares, the player hops with one foot, and in side-by-side squares, the player lands with one foot in each square.
After hopping on square ten, the player turns around and hops back through the board and collects the game piece, while still skipping the number one square.
Player one passes the game piece to player two, who repeats the process.
On each subsequent turn, the players will toss the game piece onto higher numbers. After completing square ten, the game is over. Or you can call it “round one” and play again!
Activity: How to Make Eggshell Chalk
The Science of Pole Vaulting
Did you know that Bayer has been committed to the promotion of sport since 1904 and is not only a life sciences company, but is also one of Germany’s biggest sports sponsors? There are 22 "Bayer" sports clubs, including the Bayer 04 Leverkusen professional soccer team, with approximately 44,000 members. There is also an athletics club (similar to a U.S. “track and field” team) that competes in a variety of running, jumping and throwing events, such as pole vault.
Pole vaulting is a track and field event in which an athlete uses a long flexible pole to catapult their body over a very high bar (disclaimer: this skill requires years of training, so don’t try this by yourself at home). The physics of pole vaulting involve all the laws of motion, as well as the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, and instead changes from one form to another.
Learn with an Athlete
To explain more about the work, energy, and biomechanics involved in pole vaulting, we are pleased to share a new Science at Home segment: Learn with an Athlete! Junior athlete Lotte Torbohm takes us inside the Bayer training facility in Leverkusen to see pole vaulting up-close. In this video, you’ll learn from two TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen athletes, their coach, and a biomechanist about what it takes to accomplish this remarkable feat of physics!
Sports and Health
So far we’ve learned about the “how” of sports: through an understanding of physics, athletes can learn how to apply the right amounts of energy, force and motion to optimize their sports performance. Now let’s focus on the “why” of sports. Did you know that there is a very good reason to play sports and get lots of physical exercise – besides the fact that it’s fun?
Keeping our bodies active is one of the most effective things we can do to stay healthy. Regular exercise can increase your daily energy level, improve your mood, and even help you sleep better at night. Even more importantly, regular exercise can help reduce the chances of experiencing certain health conditions and diseases, such as heart disease.
Watch and Learn: How the Heart Muscle Works
You probably know that exercise can make your arm and leg muscles stronger, but did you know that your heart is also a muscle that you need to keep strong, so that it can pump blood to the rest of your body? The video explains more about how the human heart works.
Kid Talk: Meet a Physician
To learn even more about the connection between sports and heart health, 12-year-old Kellen Hayes talks to Dr. Rosa Coppolecchia in this week’s edition of “Meet a Scientist.” Dr. Rosa is a physician who focuses on helping people prevent heart disease and stroke. She works hand-in-hand with research scientists in Bayer’s Cardiology Consumer Health division.
Activity: How the Heart Pumps Blood
Did you know that a human heart beats around 100,000 times, circulating roughly 2,000 gallons of blood, all in one day? In this short video, Bayer mom Amy Stephens and her son Owen demonstrate a hands-on STEM activity that can help kids learn more about how the heart pumps blood and why it’s so important to keep our heart muscle strong and healthy!
You Try It!
Now it’s your turn! Here’s how to create the same model that Amy and Owen used to learn about how the heart pumps blood.
The Science Behind Safe Exercise
By learning about health science, we can understand how to maximize our physical strength and stamina, and how to prevent injuries while exercising or playing sports. For example, science tells us that before any physical activity, we should gently prepare the body by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation.
Watch and Do: Warm-Up Exercises and Stretches
By doing warm-up exercises, you increase blood flow to the muscles, which literally warms and loosens them up. After that, stretching prepares your muscles and joints for more activity and prevents injuries. Here are some warm-up exercises and stretches you can do at home.
Recipe: Energy Balls
The other important ingredient of a healthy, active lifestyle, and especially for preparing your body to play sports, is a nutritious diet. Remember the law of physics that says that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only converted from one form to another? When we eat, our bodies convert the chemical energy stored in food into the kinetic energy of our movement. Playing sports requires a lot of kinetic energy, which means we need to fuel ourselves with lots of high-quality chemical energy in the form of healthy food. These energy balls are a fun and easy way to create some tasty energy so you can play at your best!
As you can see, getting active and participating in sports is not only about having fun, it is an important part of staying healthy. Understanding more about the science at work both outside and inside our bodies during any physical activities can help us adjust movements to optimize our performance, prevent injuries, keep our hearts healthy, and bring out the smarter athlete in all of us!
Scientists estimate that there may be up to 30 million species of insects, while only around one million species have been identified so far. And yes, in case you’re not sure, insects are animals. In the scientific classification system for living organisms, the kingdom “Animalia” includes insects, mammals and even humans! A scientist who studies insects is called an entomologist. If you love collecting and learning about bugs, you should know that you could have a job that pays you to do this when you grow up!
To share the story of one child who did just that, Dr. Krishna Bayyareddy (pictured above) developed his love for bugs while growing up on a farm in India. Krishna’s family raised silkworms and a diversity of crops including cotton, corn, and various fruits and vegetables. He loved to see the magnificent cocoons spun by the silkworms, which are used to create silk fabric. But Krishna also saw how the cocoons and crops could be damaged by other bugs and moths, and watched as his family did everything they could to keep those pests away from their farm. Krishna’s teachers saw his interest in bugs and encouraged him to become an entomologist. He received his Ph.D. in Entomology in the U.S. at the University of Georgia. Today, he is currently helping to develop a new insecticide to control bad bugs that destroy various fruit and vegetable crops, while at the same time helping good bugs.
Kid Talk: Meet a Scientist
To learn more about Krishna’s work as an entomologist, 11-year-old Kellen Hayes talks to him and his six-year-old daughter, Krithi, in this week’s “Meet a Scientist” interview. As you’ll see, Krishna isn’t the only one in the family who can teach us some interesting facts about insects!
What Makes a Bug a Bug?
Most people use the word “bug" to describe almost any tiny flying or crawling creature. For simplicity, we’ll use this broader definition when talking about “good bugs” and “bad bugs” here. But if you continue to study bugs in school, you’ll also learn how they fit into the scientific classification system. Here are a few key differences:
- Insects belong to a group classified as “arthropods,” which means ''jointed legs.”
- All adult insects have six legs, an exoskeleton (a protective hard outer shell), and a three-segmented body (head, thorax, and abdomen). They also have a pair of antennae and compound eyes.
- In the scientific classification system, bugs are a specific group of insects that have a straw-shaped mouth with piercing and sucking mouth parts, and forewings that are hardened at the base.
- Spiders, ticks, and scorpions aren’t actually insects at all, but belong to a different class of arthropods called arachnids. Their defining traits include eight legs and a two-part body.
Good Bugs and Bad Bugs
The most common backyard bugs for many people are ants, flies, bees, mosquitoes, cockroaches, beetles, moths, and spiders. You might think of some of these bugs as bad, while others you view as good. You might also be surprised to learn that other people have different views about the same bugs, depending on how they interact with them. For example, you might think of honey bees as scary because you know they can sting you, while other people think of honey bees as very good because they are essential for pollinating plants and food crops people depend on. (And let’s not forget, they also make delicious honey!)
Watch and Learn:
Home gardeners and professional growers keep a watchful eye for many kinds of bugs. Some eat their plants, others help their plants to grow, and some even provide the plant with protection. One such insect is the ladybug.
To help us understand more about what makes bugs good or bad in certain situations, we can learn from our Bayer Hawaii team. Hawaii is a U.S. state made up of 8 major islands in the Pacific Ocean. It has a warm, tropical climate that makes it an ideal location for farmers to grow crops throughout the year, and also an ideal home for many bugs. In this interview, learn more about how farmers in Hawaii grow habitats that attract good bugs which, in turn, help control the bad bags!
As shown in the video, the Bayer Hawaii team has created a coloring book filled with interesting facts and beautiful drawings as a fun way to teach children about the importance of good bugs and their contributions to agriculture. Although the book is about Hawaii’s backyard bugs, you might be surprised to find that some of the same bugs live in your own backyard! As you read and color the pages, you can also answer these questions:
- Which of these bugs have you seen near your home?
- Which bug(s) have you have never heard of before?
- Which bug do you think is the most beautiful?
- If you could have a bug as a pet, which one would you pick?
Download the Hawaii coloring book here.
More About Good Bugs
To recap, some bugs play an important role in making sure we have enough food to eat by pollinating crops or eating insects that damage crops. Other bugs help control insects that transmit human diseases. And there’s one other thing beneficial bugs eat that is extremely helpful for all of us: POOP! Yes, bugs act as the world’s sanitation system, eating dead plants, dead animals and animal waste. Can you imagine what it be like if these things didn’t eventually “disappear,” but instead piled up forever? There wouldn’t be much room left on the planet for us! Thankfully, there are many insects that feed on these resources and break them down into nutrients that help plants grow, making them an essential component of our ecosystem. Poop-eating insects, like dung beetles, are doing us all a big favor!
We talked about how important pollinator insects are – but what exactly is pollination and how does it happen? Learn more about how honey bees pollinate plants with this fun activity!
Would your family like to see more pollinators in your yard? One way to invite some bees to “move in” is to build them a house. Here’s how to do it!
More About Bad Bugs
When bugs cause problems for people or the environment, we call them “pests.” We’ve already learned a bit about pests that cause damage to farmers’ crops. There are approximately 600 insect species classified as destructive agricultural pests; if left unchecked, they could destroy more than half of global crop harvests in any given year. But some years, outbreaks of a single insect pest can wipe out an area’s entire food crop.
For example, large swarms of locusts are currently devastating crops in parts of Africa, which you may have seen news stories about. A “small” swarm of 40 to 80 million locusts can consume as much food as 35,000 people in a day; the largest swam in February consumed nearly 400,000 tons of food every 24 hours, which is equivalent to what 84 million people eat each day. This makes these locusts very “bad bugs,” who are a serious threat to the food security and health of the people who live in the region.
Some bugs cause harm to people and the planet indirectly by killing other insects. Varroa destructor mites are one of the greatest threats to the western honey bee. Untreated they can wipe out a bee colony within one to three years. This video shows you these tiny parasites are causing big problems.
The "Baddest" Bug of All
There is one tiny insect that all experts agree people should worry about – a bug so bad that it ranks as the deadliest animal in the world. What may be even scarier is that you’ve probably seen some in your own backyard. It’s the mosquito!
Mosquitoes carry devastating vector-borne diseases, which occur from infections following bites from blood-sucking insects. These diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever, are responsible for killing more than 700,000 people each year. Half our world’s population is at risk for malaria, which is also a preventable disease. Bayer and other leading agricultural companies have committed to eradicating malaria by 2040. Controlling the insects and other organisms spreading these disease (vectors) is the most effective way to eradicate malaria and other vector-borne diseases.
Watch and Learn:
Learn more about why mosquito control programs are important and how mosquito abatement professionals do their job in this fun, brief video.
Another career option for someone interested in bugs is protecting people from bad bugs as a professional pest manager. As the little boy in this video explains, there are many ways that professional pest management improves our world.
Watch and Do:
Did you know that there are some simple actions that you and your family can take to protect yourselves from mosquitoes? Watch this short video to find out how, and then download the checklist you can take on a “Mosquito Habitat Hunt” to make sure you’re not inviting these unwanted pests into your yard and home.
Recipe: Backyard Bug Lookalike Snacks
Last but not least, did you know that bugs are a popular food source for people in some parts of the world? There are more than 1,400 edible species of insects, and those who enjoy eating them say some species are very tasty!
While we’re not sharing any “real bug” recipes here, these fun snacks — one made to resemble backyard bugs and the other (in honor of bees!) made with honey — are the perfect companion to this week’s lesson! Plus, they’re both delicious and nutritious!
The bottom line is that insects are everywhere – on land, in the air, and in the sea. That makes them impossible to avoid – even inside our homes. This is why it’s important to have scientists who identify and study each bug’s function in the ecosystem. Thanks to the work of entomologists, we understand what we can do to protect the bugs that do the most good and have the option of using safe products that help protect us from bugs that cause the most harm.
No matter where you live, you’ve probably heard expressions like “magic is in the air,” “love is in the air,” or even “spring is in the air.” People use these phrases to describe how they are feeling, even though we know that love isn’t literally floating in the air. On the other hand, if you say, “Science is in the air,” that’s really true!
As we learned in “Why Chemistry Matters,” air is matter (like everything else in the universe) and is made up of chemical gases like nitrogen and oxygen. People need to breathe in oxygen to live, so air is essential for human survival! But, as important as that job is, that’s not the only way that “air science” plays a role in our daily lives. Before we skydive into some of the other ways, let’s work our way up from some ground-level knowledge.
Air Is Matter? Prove It!
Matter is anything that takes up space and has mass, but this may seem confusing because air is usually invisible. How can we know that air has mass if we can’t see it? Join a Bayer scientist and mom, Dr. Kimberly Hodge-Bell, as she and her two “junior scientist” daughters try some simple experiments at home to find the answer.
Chemistry matters because it’s branch of science that deals with the properties, composition and structure of matter.
What is matter, you ask?Everything! Matter is defined as anything that has mass and takes up space (which means, it has volume), whether it’s a solid, liquid or gas. A chemical is any substance made up of matter (again: everything). To help connect the dots, this means that your toys are made of chemicals. So is the water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and even the air we breathe. Our pets are made of chemicals. WE are made of chemicals.
Sometimes people think the word “chemical” means something that’s bad and scary. But are any of those things bad or scary? No. Learning more about chemicals helps us to gain a better understanding of ourselves and everything in the world around us.
The Basic Building Blocks of Matter
There is a LOT to know about chemistry – certainly much more than we can cover in one week – but let’s learn a little about the basics.
Atoms are the smallest unique particles of matter. They are so tiny that billions of atoms bunched together would still be smaller than a single grain of sand!
Elements are chemical substances that are made from one type of atom. An element cannot be broken down into any other substance. Everything in the universe, both living and non-living, is made from these basic building blocks combined in countless different ways.
Read and Learn (Interactive):
Want to know more about the 118 known elements? You can learn more about each one, including information about how it’s used, with this interactive periodic table from Making Science Make Sense®.
Putting It All Together: Molecules, Compunds and Mixtures
If you think of atoms as individual toy building bricks, and elements as the 118 different types of bricks one could choose from, matter (or chemicals) would be the structures you could build with them.
In chemistry, atomic structures are built in different ways:
Molecules are formed when two or more atoms are joined by chemical bonds. They can be the same element or different elements. For example, oxygen (O2) is a molecule composed of two oxygen atoms bonded together.
Mixtures are made by simply mixing together elements, molecules, and compounds. They are not chemically joined and their individual properties remain the same. For example, this is the case when you blend different ingredients to create a cupcake or muffin batter.
Compounds are types of molecules that form when atoms of different elements are joined by chemical bonds. The new substance looks different from the starting materials and has different properties. When one oxygen (O) atom chemically bonds to two hydrogen (H) atoms to form a water molecule (H2O), it qualifies as both a compound and a molecule. In the example of muffin batter, when cooked at the proper temperature, the heat causes the ingredients to react to one another and change their physical properties – turning the batter mixture into a delicious dessert “compound.”
A mixture can be separated back into its original components using a number of different methods. A compound can only be separated by chemical reactions. Therefore, it is much harder to separate a compound than a mixture.
Learn More about Mixtures:
Some mixtures can be easily separated, like picking vegetables off your pizza. But what happens if you mix together objects in different states of matter? Find out in this experiment!
Learn More about Chemical Reactions:
Chemical reactions happen when two or more substances combine to form a new substance. Some telltale signs that a chemical reaction has occurred include color changes, temperature changes, or gas production. Do you think you’ve ever seen one before? Actually, we are surrounded by chemical reactions every single day, but we may not recognize them as such. Some examples include:
Cleaning (chemical reactions are what makes soaps and detergents work)
Combustion (a car engine uses a chemical reaction to push its pistons)
Digestion (your body uses chemical reactions to break down your food into energy)
Batteries producing electricity (similarly, uses chemical reactions to create energy)
It’s not magic…it’s chemistry! Find out what happens when the acid in grape juice reacts with baking soda. You can use this trick to send your friends “secret” messages until you can reconnect in person!
A very different chemical reaction happens when you combine baking soda with vinegar. In fact, it can help you power a model boat.
Some molecules just refuse to get together. Find out why polar molecules and non-polar molecules will never combine.
What Do Chemists Do?
Now that you know more about chemistry, what do you think a chemist does? Hint: chemists are not cartoon scientists brewing mysterious liquid “potions” in a lab. Instead, they are people who specialize in understanding the properties of the tiniest particles of matter. Using that information, chemists look for ways to develop new products that can improve our lives, from baby formula to building supplies, and from vaccines to vitamins, and so much more! In Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division, for example, chemists work to develop medications that can be used effectively to treat or prevent certain types of diseases.
It takes an average of ten to twelve years to develop a new drug. That means scientists have been working on some medicines for longer than you have been alive! What takes so long? To provide a quick overview, here is what you need to find a cure for a disease in eight steps.
Kid Talk: Meet a Scientist
In years past, nearly all research used to identify and test molecules for new medications was done in the lab. Today, computers and chemistry work hand-in-hand. In this week’s “Meet a Scientist” interview, 11-year-old Kellen Hayes talks to an expert in both types of research. Dr. Alexander Hillisch, Head of Computational Molecular Design for Bayer Pharmaceuticals, leads a team of researchers working to help people suffering from cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease or stroke. Learn more about this cool job, and how scientists like Dr. Hillisch are thinking about ways they can help in the global fight against the coronavirus.
Finally... Two Kid-Friendly Recipes (and Chemical Reactions)
Cooking wouldn’t be possible without chemical reactions! To learn more, let’s head into the kitchen lab to watch the different reactions involved with cooking a pizza, and then mixing up a delicious desert.
Pizza dough is a basic mix of flour, salt, yeast and warm water. When you combine them together, it causes a chemical reaction that makes the dough rise into a perfect crust.
Root beer floats are not just a tasty treat, but are a really fun way to learn about the reaction between a liquid and a solid that released a gas.
Although you may not have thought about it before, hopefully now you will recognize some of the chemical reactions that are always happening around you. Remember: “chemical” isn’t a dirty word! Everything is made of matter, and therefore, everything is made of chemicals. By studying how chemicals work and interact, scientists have been able to develop all the products we use in our daily lives, and future scientists (maybe you!) will shape the innovations still to come.
Some mixtures can be easily separated, like picking vegetables off your pizza. But what happens if you mix together objects in different states of matter? Find out in this experiment!
When you mix cornstarch with water, it creates a “goop” with some very unique properties - acting almost like a solid, and then like a liquid. It might look like a new compound, but the grains of starch are not dissolved and there is no chemical reaction taking place. The proof: if you let the mixture sit long enough after you’re done playing with it, the cornstarch will eventually settle to the bottom of the bowl.
Does a black marker pen really only contain the color black? If not, can you separate colors from water-soluble felt-tip pens? Try it and see!
April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which serves as an annual reminder that we only have one planet, and we have to take good care of it! The science of protecting planet Earth revolves around developing new innovations that help people live more sustainably – which means, doing what we can to protect the earth’s atmosphere and natural resources.
For example, your family probably recycles some of your household trash made from materials like plastic, glass and metal – right? That’s science! Recycling wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the scientists and engineers who figured out how to sort these materials, melt them down, and then re-mold them into new products. You might also be familiar with Earth-friendly innovations like energy-saving light bulbs or electric cars with zero tailpipe emissions…both brought to you by Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Behind every innovative product are people who come up with the ideas and figure out how to make them work. So science isn’t just something that happens in a lab…it powers every innovation that makes the planet a better place!
Why Is It so Important That We Take Good Care of Our Planet?
It can be hard to understand what it means when people say our planet has “limited resources” – especially when we are so small and the Earth seems so very big! While there is a lot of water in the Earth’s oceans, there is only a limited amount of fresh water that humans and animals can actually use. There are vast amounts of land, but only a tiny fraction of it can be farmed to grow the food and fiber we need. Here’s a simple activity that can help make these huge concepts easier to understand.
What Is the Biggest Challenge?
In recent years, scientific research has also helped people understand that the biggest threat to the future of our planet is climate change. You may have heard about climate change, but don’t worry if you’re not exactly sure what it means – it’s a concept that even adults have a hard time understanding. Here’s a short video that helps explain.
Give it a Minute: Climate Change
How Are Farmers Helping?
There’s no way the world could slow down climate change without the cooperation of farmers, large and small, who collectively play a major role in managing the planet’s most precious resources. Through the videos below, we can visit family farms in different parts of the world to learn how technology is helping them be more sustainable.
A Day in the Life of a Sustainable Farmer in the Netherlands (Runs 5:29)
Learn more about innovative and sustainable farming practices at Het Groene Hart farm in the Netherlands.
Sustainable Agriculture Practices at Harborview Farms – ForwardFarming (Runs 2:39)
Farmer Trey Hill shares sustainable agriculture techniques used at Harborview Farms in Maryland, USA.
How Can We Help?
No one can stop climate change alone. And there isn’t just one solution. There are many, many different solutions that individuals, governments, companies and other organizations all over the world are working on. When you add these efforts together, they make a much bigger impact. Every little bit helps! Here are a few simple ways we can all contribute toward protecting our planet, even at home:
- Reducing food waste
- Reducing water usage
- Protecting soil health
Keep scrolling down to learn more about each of these areas with a brief video and some fun activities.
REDUCING FOOD WASTE
Kid Talk: Meet a Scientist
To help kids everywhere understand more about the work different types of scientists do, 11-year-old student Kellen Hayes is stepping in to ask the questions. This week, Kellen talks with Dr. John Purcell to find out how he is using science to help protect the planet at work, and also in his own backyard!
Dr. John Purcell
Type of Scientist: Molecular Biologist (focused on Vegetables R&D)
Job: Head of Vegetables Research & Development, Crop Science at Bayer
REDUCING WATER USAGE
Water is one of the world’s most valuable resources, but it is becoming increasingly scarce. Farmers and scientists are counteracting this issue by applying methods to use water more efficiently in agriculture.
Bayer Maui Water Conservation
PROTECTING SOIL HEALTH
Healthy soil is essential for our food security: 95% of our food comes from the earth. It is also the planet’s largest natural water filter, helping supply the world with clean water. Soil even helps regulate the climate – storing more carbon than all the world’s forests put together. Here’s a look at some of the ways farmers are protecting soil health.
Bayer Maui Soil Conservation
How can you protect soil health at home? Spreading composted scraps on your garden or lawn is a great way to build healthy soil and keep food waste out of the trash can.
There are so many reasons why soil is important! This activity will help you understand some of them as you build a soil profile model and a yummy snack at the same time!
And to celebrate the Earth’s bounty…another kid-friendly recipe!
This activity will help you understand the process plants use to bring water up the roots and stems to the rest of the plant.
Another way we could reduce water is to find ways to reuse it. Find out how you can use charcoal to filter water?
Did you know that every seed for every food crop has a history filled with science? Since the beginning of civilization, farmers have been selecting and improving crops using the science of plant breeding: crossing two plants to produce offspring that, ideally, share the best characteristics of the two parent plants. Virtually every plant we grow for food today is the result of many generations of breeding. For example, about 5,000 years ago, watermelons were only two inches in diameter and had a bitter taste. That’s very different from the large, sweet-tasting fruit that many of us enjoy today!
In the same way, yummy vegetables such as corn, carrots and broccoli haven’t always just “existed” as we know them now. They each descended from wild plants thanks to careful breeding by farmers over thousands of years. In fact, as you can see in this illustration, broccoli descended from the same wild mustard plant as cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and even cabbage.
Today, science helps plant breeders develop crops that can thrive in challenging environments, or that can grow more food using fewer resources. But plant breeding isn’t the only science involved in growing food! Scientists who specialize in soil health, weeds, insects, plant diseases, and chemistry are just some of the others who play an important role in helping farmers grow enough for our world. In addition, technology enables image scans that help farmers evaluate crop health and diagnose disease before it threatens harvests. Engineering allows variable rate irrigation to precisely water crops, using fewer natural resources. Mathematical models provide data to help predict the weather. Together, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) drive innovation, helping farmers to be more precise and effective. That’s good for you, and good for the planet too!
Kid Talk: Meet a Scientist
Right now, just as kids all over the world are learning from home, many of our Bayer scientists are working at home. So…we thought this would be a great time to bring them together! To help kids everywhere understand more about the work different types of scientists do, 11-year-old student Kellen Hayes is stepping in to ask the questions his generation might want to know.
“Farm-to-table” is not just a trend – it’s a social movement.
Farm-to-table spawned consumer interest in where food comes from and how it is produced. Consumers have higher expectations about the quality, nutritional value and taste of their food. Consumers are now self-defining as “foodies” – but what does that mean and what is Bayer doing about it? Time to test your Food IQ.
Read and Learn
People have been eating carrots for over 5,000 years – but where did they come from? You and your child can take a deeper dive into the history and growing cycle – from planting to harvest – of carrots and other fruits and vegetables. Discover how plants “make their own food” through photosynthesis. Older kids (and adults too) can learn about genetic inheritance and take an introductory look into advanced plant breeding techniques like biotechnology and gene editing.
- Beaker Life – Journey of a Bite: Carrots
- Beaker Life – Journey of a Bite (full list)
- Beaker Life – Homework Helper: Photosynthesis
- Beaker Life – Homework Helper: Genetic Inheritance
- Evolution of Food: The Importance of Plant Breeding
- Beaker Life – What is Biotech?
- Beaker Life – What is Gene Editing?
Watch and Learn
Understanding Plant Breeding (Runs 2:20)
Andrew Burchett, Bayer’s Global Vegetable Industry Affairs Lead, uses peppers from his garden to explain plant breeding, and how it benefits everyone.
The Science of Sensory - Flavor (Runs 1:40)
“Better tasting produce translates to less waste.” Have you ever heard of a consumer sensory scientist?
Meet “Dr. Yummy” and see he how uses data to help plant breeders uncover the mystery of flavor… because when food tastes better, less of it is wasted!
Give it a Minute: GMOs (Runs 1:26)
What are GMOs? Why do some farmers choose to grow GMOs? Give it a minute to find out.
Marker Lab by Marker (Runs 1:43)
When you have a thousand plants that all look the same, how can you tell which ones have the right characteristics to help farmers grow enough while using less? Learn how plant breeders use technology to make their research more efficient.
The Drought Team (Runs 2:20)
Too much or too little water can adversely impact crop production. See how this group works collaboratively to create solutions for the most complex problems.
Hands-on STEM Activities for Kids
And for Dessert... A Kid-friendly Recipe!
A science lab can be anywhere, including your very own kitchen! Everybody loves ice cream. Here’s a fun, tasty recipe you and your kids can do together to learn about molecules.
Cotton can germinate your seed, but does it provide a sufficient environment to grow your plant? Have your child test and document the growing conditions of soil versus cotton and discover the answer for yourselves.
What effects do fertilizer and other nutrients have on your plant? Grow four different pots of radishes and document your findings throughout the growing cycle.
Did you know that every living thing is made up of DNA? Plant breeders use genetic information from a plant’s DNA to help breed stronger plants. But what does DNA look like? With common kitchen items, you can extract the DNA from a strawberry to see what DNA looks like outside of the nucleus.
Staying healthy is especially top of mind these days. In honor of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Day on April 7, we have focused our first week’s content on the science behind our health:
3 Readings for All Ages
Life sciences studies living things and includes biology, botany, zoology, biochemistry, microbiology and physiology. Understanding how our own bodies work helps us make better lifestyle choices. Read the Mystery of the Groovy Googles with your youngster to unravel the mystery of seemingly ordinary things. Older kids (and parents too!) can learn about the 12 major body systems. Healthy living also requires us to get moving. Getting your “groove on” is not only fun but has many benefits – read about the science of dance.
- The Mystery of the Groovy Googles – An Adventure in Life Science (PDF, 13,4 MB)
- Beaker Life – Homework Helper: Body Systems
- BeakerLife – Science of Dance
Check out These Science Video Tutorials for Kids
In many parts of the world, it is the start of allergy season. We hear about the importance of sneezing into the inside of your elbow ( “the sneeze pocket” ) for mitigating the spread of germs a lot these days, but do you know what happens when you sneeze? Watch and learn what causes allergies and learn all about sneezes.
Get Started with This Stem Activity for Kids
Did you know that the carbohydrates we eat are absorbed by our bloodstream? Does the type of carbohydrate you eat determine how quickly it is absorbed? Well we have a way you can find out: this week’s activity recreates that journey of the bloodstream using items you likely already have in your kitchen pantry.
We hope you find these resources a way to engage your kids and inspire their curiosity about science and innovation. Visit us next week to learn about the science of growing food!
Step by Step Experiment: Journey through the Bloodstream