Get Hooked On... Vitamin C Experiments!
by Debra Ross
A Review of the Vitamin C Testing Kit from Home Science Tools
A great way to get kids age 6-16 involved up-close-and-personal in their own nutrition education
We're always trying to get our kids to eat well, and there are thousands of gimmicks on the internet for tricking them into doing so. I, however, have found that the best way to get kids invested in their own body is the knowledge they need to connect what they eat to the way their body works.
Why is vitamin C? Why should kids care?
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential component of human nutrition and immune system health. It is required in the synthesis of collagen, and acts as an anti-oxidant. If it is severely lacking, it causes scurvy, which manifests itself as spots on the skin, fatigue, bleeding gums, and, eventually, death. (The true cause of scurvy wasn't proved until 1932!)
Vitamin C is found in largest quantities in a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruit, as well as rose hips and liver. Sailors who lacked fresh fruit and vegetables used to be at the highest risk for scurvy as a result of subsisting on dried meat and grains for long sea voyages.
Does YOUR child get enough vitamin C? Here is a link to a recommended dosage chart by age.
Vitamin C Test Experiment Kit from Home Science Tools
To get your child interested in vitamin C as well as the scientific method, try finding out which common foods and juices have high or low levels of vitamin C. We used the Vitamin C Test Experiment Kit from Home Science Tools, which costs $19.95. The supplies include 6 large glass test tubes, a test tube rack (very handy for storage), disposable pipets, a glass graduated cylinder, and the testing chemicals Indophenol (a vitamin C indicator) and lab-grade ascorbic acid.
The instructions in the pamphlet were clear and simple enough for 12-year-olds and up to conduct the experiment completely on their own. However, with parental assistance, this kit provides terrific opportunities for 6-year-olds and older to learn about vitamin C and understand the scientific method. Also, it comes with sturdy equipment that will last for years, including chemical solutions (though you may want to get more pipettes at some point).
This Vitamin C Test Experiment Kit offers two basic kinds of experiments: Testing for the presence of vitamin C, and testing for relative amounts of vitamin C in different foods. There is also an experiment with fresh apples to show how vitamin C can keep them from becoming brown. (Of course, you have to supply your own apples and other foods to test.) The pamphlet also gives you a number of ideas for varying the experiments and taking them further, although the three outlined here are the main types of experiments offered.
My 10- and 12-year-old daughters and I tested to see if we could figure out which juices had more vitamin C than others. It turns out we had to increase the amount of test solution in the tubes in order to get a more sensitive reading... so be aware of if you're doing the same investigation. It turns out that to our surprise, we did NOT find that fresh-squeezed orange juice had more vitamin C than Tropicana. They had about the same amount. I love when we get unexpected results like that; kids retain the information better when they can report the shocking results to their dad when get gets home.
Vitamin C Test Experiment Kit from Home Science Tools is $19.95, and can be ordered from Home Science Tools using this link. As a homeschooling parent who has used Home Science Tools many times in the past, I have found their customer service to be of superior quality. And, once you order from them, you get on their mailing list. Browsing through their catalog a few times per year is a joy, and makes you happy that there is so much to investigate in our world.
© 2012, Debra Ross
Debra Ross is publisher of KidsOutAndAbout.com and the homeschooling mother of 10- and 12-year-old daughters.