Fun with Science

July 7, 2010

Recent studies reveal that U.S. students are trailing behind other developed countries in science literacy. U.S. students ranked 21st out of 30 in science literacy among developed countries in the latest comparison study by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) In addition, approximately one-third of teens indicate that they are discouraged from pursuing a career in science fields because they do not know anyone who works in these fields or understand what people in these fields do, according to the Lemelsen-MIT Invention Index.

To inspire the next generation of scientists, biology teacher Ruth Gleicher of Niles West High School in Skokie is participating in a program called Science WoRx that connects classrooms with scientists from Astellas Pharma to support teachers in their mission. Astellas is a pharmaceutical company located in suburban Deerfield. Science WoRx also offers teachers nationwide an online resource portal -- -- where science educators can find valuable information on human health and medicine and access resources, including lesson plans and classroom instruction resources. Digitally savvy teachers may join the Science WoRx online communities including Twitter and Facebook to connect with peers, exchange insights and learn about the latest science breakthroughs. The program is supported by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and iBIO Institute, the education arm of Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBIO).

Ruth believes parents can also play a big role in instilling a passion for science in their children. She's sharing a few experiments from Astellas Pharma scientist Robert Kernstock that parents can do with children this summer to get them excited about science. More information is available at

Teachers in the Chicago area can log on to the website to request a personal classroom visit with an Astellas scientist.


Testing the pH of your breath

Ever watch someone check the "levels" of a pool? They are checking whether or not the pool water is an acid or a base. Almost everything is an acid or a base, even the carbon dioxide that we breathe out is an acid. Create a pH indicator using a red cabbage. Blend and strain cabbage juice into a purplish liquid; it will turn clear when the you blow bubbles into the liquid. Test household products and see the rainbow of colors that ensues! Other natural pH indicators include blueberries, red and black grapes, grape juice and beets.


  • Red cabbage leaves
  • Blender
  • Pitcher of about 16 oz of red cabbage that has already been blended/strained
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Ammonia
  • Strainer
  • Two straws
  • 7 clear 8 - 16 oz glasses


1. Blend and strain red cabbage to make at least 16 oz of blended/strained red cabbage (use about 3-4 cabbage leaves and 1 quart of filtered water)

2. Line up the glasses across the table, with two set apart from the other 5

3. Put the straws into two empty glasses.

4. Pour liquid from pitcher into all the glasses (about 2 ounces per glass)

5. Blow into straw to turn cabbage liquid from red/purple to clear (color may not change right away -- move onto ammonia and vinegar while you wait)

6. Refer to the middle glass in the row of five glasses; note that it will be the standard for comparison

7. Add 5 drops of household ammonia (base) to the second glass, and 10-20 drops to the first

8. To the fourth glass, add 5 drops of white vinegar (acid), and to the fifth, add 10-20 drops

9. The result should be a beautiful variation in shades ranging from green to aqua to blue to violet to red

10. Now turn back to the glasses with straws to observe the color change, and compare to the ammonia and vinegar glasses to determine its approximate pH

Extracting DNA from a Strawberry

Description You can use shampoo, salt and rubbing alcohol to extract DNA from strawberries. This yields a lot of DNA which is easily visible. Materials

  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Bottle of shampoo
  • Glass or small bowl
  • Cheesecloth
  • Funnel
  • Tall drinking glass
  • 3 strawberries (green tops removed)
  • Re-sealable plastic sandwich bags
  • Test tube or small glass jar (e.g., spice jar)
  • Bamboo skewer (find them at the grocery store)



1. Chill the rubbing alcohol in the freezer. (You'll need it later.)

2. Mix the salt, water, and Dawn detergent in a glass or small bowl. Set the mixture aside. This is your extraction liquid.

3. Line the funnel with the cheesecloth, and put the funnel's tube into the glass.

4. Put the strawberries in the plastic bag and push out all the extra air. Seal it tightly.


1. With your fingers, squeeze and smash the strawberry mixture for 2 minutes.

2. Add 3 tablespoons of the extraction liquid you made in Step 2 to the strawberries in the bag. Push out all the extra air and reseal the bag.

3. Squeeze the strawberry mixture with your fingers for 1 minute.

4. Pour the strawberry mixture from the bag into the funnel. Let it drip into the glass until there is no liquid left in the funnel.

5. Throw away the cheesecloth and the strawberry pulp inside. Pour the contents of the glass into the test tube or small glass jar so it is 1/4 full.

6. Tilt the test tube or jar and very slowly pour the cold rubbing alcohol down the side. The alcohol should form a layer on top of the strawberry liquid. (Don't let the alcohol and strawberry liquid mix. The DNA collects between the two layers!)

7. Dip the bamboo skewer into the test tube where the alcohol and strawberry layers meet. Pull up the skewer. The whitish, stringy stuff is DNA containing strawberry genes!

Your body's electrical charge


Demonstration of salt water "sparking" a light bulb and the importance of salt to "spark" the electrolytes our bodies need to function. If there is not enough salt in our body fluids, the electrical charge of our bodies will be weak and the electrical functions won't "spark." Materials

  • Coated hook up wire
  • Battery
  • Water
  • Salt container


1. Set up an electrical circuit, connecting the light bulb to the glass container of water to the battery

2. Have container of salt nearby

3. Show the light does not light up with plain water

4. Add the salt and the light bulb lights


Science Teacher Attrition Remains an Issue
About one in six of the country's mathematics and science teachers leave or move to a new job each year—a rate higher than other subjects and professions. These attrition rates mean that students in science and math classrooms are more likely to be taught by teachers with less experience.

Students Are Hungry to Learn
Experts indicate that even though American teens are embracing the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with increasingly positive attitudes, many lack the necessary encouragement from mentors and role models in these fields.

Mentors & Role Models Needed
Despite interest and feelings of preparedness, approximately one-third of teens indicated that they may be discouraged from pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics because they do not know anyone who works in these fields (31percent) or understand what people in these fields do (28 percent).

U.S. Students Lag Behind
In the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) comparison report, American students ranked 21st out of 30 in science literacy among students from developed countries.


Astellas Pharma US, Inc. recognizes there is currently an unmet need among science teachers and their students for greater support in and beyond the classroom.

To help address this need and ensure science education remains a priority, Astellas established Science WoRx, an online resource network for science teachers that offers access to in-classroom scientist presentations. Science WoRx focuses on understanding science's role in human health and medicine, and is designed to inspire the next generation of scientists and support science teachers' needs both in and outside the classroom.

Program Elements:

  • Science Pro: a hands-on education and mentoring program with Astellas scientists who are made available to the local community to engage with students and teachers in the classroom by conducting presentations and/or experiments pertaining to human health and medicine.
  • an online portal designed to provide science teachers with access to valuable resources and information on human health and medicine. Here science teachers can:
    1. Request a Science Pro to come to the classroom and speak about their careers.
    2. Join Science WoRx on Facebook,, where science teachers come together to network with peers, access tools and resources, and exchange ideas to advance their own careers.
    3. Follow the program via @ScienceWoRx, a Twitter feed that communicates major breakthroughs in science, details about upcoming events, program activities and successes, etc.
    4. View The Whiteboard, a page dedicated to providing teachers with lesson plans and classroom instruction resources.
    5. Access tools and resources provided by program supporters.*
    6. Read a Teacher Spotlight, and hear what their peers have to say.

*Established by Astellas Pharma US, Inc., Science WoRx is supported by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and iBIO Institute, the education arm of Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBIO).

For more information, visit or Or, join the Science WoRx community on Facebook at and on Twitter (@ScienceWoRx).

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