Hands-on, interactive experiments are a great way to get young children interested in science. Using a can of soda and several 1-inch iron nails, have your students test the popular notion that the soda beverage Coca-Cola will dissolve a nail in four days due to its phosphoric acid, which is said to have a pH of 2.8.
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For this experiment, you will need a can of Coca-Cola or a similar cola beverage, a glass of unfiltered tap water, two 1-inch iron nails and two small, glass jars with tight-fitting lids. Alongside this, gather a notebook and pen to record your observations over the course of the experiment, as well as a measuring cup to measure the soda and water.
Before you begin, devise a hypothesis, which is a prediction as to what the final outcome of your experiment will be. Write this down in your scientific log. Establish whether you think the cola will dissolve the iron nail entirely, or to what degree you believe the iron nail will be altered in terms of rust, colour and texture.
Conducting the Experiment
Add 7.39ml of water to the first jar. Add the same amount of Coca Cola or your chosen substitute cola product to the second jar. Place a 1-inch iron nail in each jar. Screw the lids on the jars; do not seal them too tightly, as this prevents gas from escaping. Once a day, for the next four days, remove the iron nails from the jars and record how the colour and texture of the iron nails have changed, as well as any rust that has developed. If desired, photograph the nails daily as well, as these can be added to your final project. After four days, determine whether your initial hypothesis was correct; how does the iron nail that was submerged in cola compare to the iron nail that was submerged in tap water?
Older children may want to investigate the impact of different varieties of soda, such as cola, grape soda and ginger ale, on the colour, texture and rust of iron nails. Another option is to use different brands of the same product, such as cola. You can also conduct this experiment with different flavours of the same beverage, such as Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke and Diet Coke.
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