Monday, February 11, 2013

Ocean in a Bottle: Science for Kids in the Kitchen

I am a professional chef however as a father of four children I am frequently reminded of how much energy can be put into feeding and entertaining my young ones. While researching and drawing from my own childhood memories to present new activities for their play I thought that it might be fun and useful to share these "recipes" with you. As a professional chef I have to admit that my toughest yet most loyal patrons are my family.

In my youth my sister and I would spend lengthy visits with my father and stepmother on the east coast. My stepmother, Lisa was rather unconventional when it came to toys and activities. More than anything I can remember her playtime projects and suggestions for curing boredom always sparked my imagination. To this day her creativity has left me with fond memories far exceeding the instant gratification of store bought popular toys (of which I had plenty).

One summer while on a regular stay on Fire Island, Lisa introduced me to the Ocean in a Bottle. What now might seem like a simple science project in a glass jar was such a treasured object that it followed me back to Manhattan where I admired it till the day I had to fly home to California. I had kept it sealed all  summer but apparently the thought of a 6 year old on a plane with a jar full of oil and blue water didn't settle well with the airline.

On that note be aware that this project could end up in a terrible mess somewhere in your home should the container be opened or damaged allowing the liquids to leak out or spill. So use your discretion in supervising the creating and play of the magical object.

Ocean in a Bottle

What you will need:
A glass bottle or jar with a VERY tight fitting lid. You can use a plastic bottle (like a used water bottle) if you like but the glass give a clearer view.
Vegetable oil
Tap water
Blue food coloring

To make your ocean:
Fill your container 1/2 way with tap water. Add blue food coloring a little at a time, stirring to incorporate until you get a desired color for your ocean water.
After you have made your blue water fill the rest of the container up with vegetable oil. While avoiding making a mess try and fill the container as full as possible reducing the amount of airspace that will be left after you seal up your container with the lid.
Place lid on your container and seal TIGHTLY. Clean off container of any food coloring and/or oil and dry. Now tilting and gently shaking your ocean in a bottle watch the tide and waves of your own ocean. try to avoid shaking roughly as this will distort the surface between the oil and water with little bubbles of partially incorporated oil & water. Otherwise it is your ocean to do with as you please.

For our ocean we used a glass quart jar with screw top lid (canning jar). You may use any size container you like- big or small. I also used mineral oil instead of the vegetable oil since I have plenty around for my oil stone. I have never tried mineral oil before but it gives a nice clear contrast to the blue water. Mineral oil is more expensive and not as commonly found in home kitchen pantries which is why vegetable oil is suggested.

Dedicated to my son Elliott Ocean Wiles Pearson.

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