Observe and record chemical changes in this microscale practical with a magical twist. How can you tell that a chemical reaction has taken place?

This resource accompanies the Education in Chemistry article You’re a Wizard, child which includes more ideas for incorporating witchcraft and wizardry in your chemistry classroom.

In this microscale practical the reactions all take place on a single sheet of A4 paper. Some of the colour changes may be easier to see on coloured paper. The table on the final page of the resource can be laminated or placed inside a clear plastic wallet. Learners will add a few drops or a single piece of each reactant to the corresponding circles. Alternatively, you could use spotting tiles.

The reactant names have all been changed to fantasy ingredients. This allows learners to concentrate on the observation and recording of chemical changes without the distraction of chemical names. Labels for dropping bottles, petri dishes or other containers can be downloaded here.

Make sure you speak to your technician before decanting reactants into alternative containers. They will be able to advise you on the most suitable materials for storing each reactant and any hazard symbols you should display alongside the fantasy names. You will also need to provide your technician with a list of the chemical names and fantasy names for safe disposal following the lesson.

Extension

If you have learners who need an extra challenge you could ask them to identify the chemical reactants by giving them clues based on the changes they have observed.

Disposal

Care needs to be taken when disposing of lead nitrate solution. This is placed in the end column of the table so that it can be soaked up with a paper towel before cleaning the rest of the sheet.

Instructions for technicians

The following table gives the fantasy name, chemical name and concentration for each of the reactants.

Fantasy nameElixir of lifePhoenix tearsSnake venomVampire bloodPoison (TOXIC)Dragon whiskersUnicorn hornSpider eggsMonster serum

Chemical name

Distilled water

Copper sulfate(aq)

Sulfuric acid

Silver nitrate(aq)

Lead nitrate

Copper wire (2cm)

Calcium carbonate (small chips)

Iron filings

Potassium iodide(aq)

Concentration

 

0.1M

0.4M

0.1M

0.01M

 

 

 

0.2M

When decanting reactants into containers with fantasy labels they should always also display the correct hazard symbols. If you are using lead nitrate always use the lowest concentration. The drops should be mopped up with a paper towel for correct disposal after the lesson.

Expected results

Observations may differ depending on the concentration of solutions and the purity of solids used. Some of these reactions may not occur at room temperature or the concentrations used.

11–14 year olds are not necessarily expected to be able to identify where a precipitate has formed and may simply refer to a chemical reaction as being a ‘colour change’. Depending on the learning objectives and ability of the class, learners may simply be required to put a tick or a cross in their results table to show if a chemical reaction has occurred.

 Elixir of life(water)Phoenix tears(copper sulfate)Snake venom(sulfuric acid)Vampire blood(silver nitrate)Poison (TOXIC)(lead nitrate)

Dragon whiskers

(copper wire)

No change

No change

No change

New solid formed

(grey solid formed on brown wire)

No change

Unicorn horn

(calcium carbonate)

No change

No change

Bubbles formed

No visible change

No visible change

Spider eggs

(iron filings)

No change

Colour change (solution changes from blue to green, solid changes from black to brown)

Bubbles formed

New solid formed

(grey solid formed on black powder)

No change

Monster serum

(potassium iodide)

No change

Colour change (solution changes from blue/clear to reddish brown)

Colour change (solution changes from clear to slight orange tinge)

Colour change

(white precipitate formed)

Colour change

(yellow precipitate formed)

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