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The Truth Experiment

Jennifer Hooks

Use these 8 science activities to plug into kids' curiosity about the way things work-and connect them to God.

With the controversy of evolution versus creationism, we Christians sometimes shun science completely -- as though its very existence threatens our faith. So we give science the short end of the stick when it comes to teaching kids about God. By doing that, we miss out on the cool things we can do with simple science. Science has some of the most creative, visual, and impactful ways to involve kids in God's truth.

Helping kids bridge the gap between concrete experience and abstract thinking can be tough. Through the following eight experiences, though, you can lead kids to discovery -- real discovery -- about who they are and what God's plans are for them.

So don your lab coats and protective eyewear. Welcome to the amazing world of science -- God style!

Find out what happens when you puncture a bag filled with water.

Materials: You'll need a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, a pitcher of water, and four sharpened pencils. You may want to give each child a resealable bag to try the experiment at home.

Theme: God's grace
Scripture: Romans 8:28
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: Five minutes
Activity Time: 15 minutes

You'll need an extra set of hands to assist with this experiment. Fill the resealable bag with water and seal it.

Hold up the bag and a pencil. Ask, "What happens if you poke a pencil through a bag of water like this? Will the water pour out? Why or why not?"

Say, "Let's see what happens. I'm going to stick this pencil right through the bag. I hope you don't get wet!"

Hold the bag right over kids' heads. Stick the pencil through one side of the bag and out the other, and leave it in place. The pencil will act as a plug so water won't leak through.

Say, "What do you think will happen if I keep sticking in pencils? Let's try it with the rest of the pencils to see if it always works."

Poke the rest of the pencils through the bag in the same manner, leaving them in place. The bag won't leak.

Ask, "Can you explain why the bag isn't leaking?"

Say, "The pencils work like a plug to stop the water from pouring out."

"Sometimes bad things happen in our lives. Kind of like these sharp pencils, they seem to poke right through us and hurt us."

Read aloud the Scripture. Say, "God doesn't cause bad things, but he uses even bad things for our good. Like the bag uses the sharp pencils to block the holes so they don't leak, God takes the bad things in our lives, the things that hurt us, and uses them to help us be stronger."

Tell about a time when God used a bad thing in your life for good.

Say, "Just like it's hard to understand why the bag didn't leak, it's hard to understand how God can possibly bring good out of some of the bad things that happen to us. Sometimes we don't understand it for a long time to come, but we can trust that God loves us and is taking care of us."
-Laurie Edwards
Lebanon, New Hampshire

This is a messy activity that works best on calm, sunny days.

Materials: Water, Joy dishwashing liquid, clear corn syrup, measuring cups, bowls, straws, string, scissors.

Theme: Human nature
Scripture: Job 8:11-21
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: 10 minutes
(at least 24 hours before the activity)
Activity Time: 30 minutes

Mix 6 cups of water, 2 cups of Joy dishwashing liquid, and 2/3 cup clear corn syrup in a large bowl a minimum of one day before the activity. (The longer the solution stands, the stronger the bubbles will be.)

Have kids each cut a piece of string, varying in length from 1 to 3 feet. Give kids one straw each to cut in half. Have them thread their string through both halves of the straw. Tie the ends of the string together.

Have kids submerge their string and straws in the solution. Then have them carefully lift and open their string using the straws as handles. They can wave their arms in the air to make big bubbles. The key is to form the bubbles with gentle motions. They can even try blowing on the bubbles to make a bubble inside a bubble.

Once kids have made several bubbles, ask, "What was most difficult about making bubbles? Was it easier after you'd made a few? Explain. What made the bubbles pop? Did they turn out bigger or smaller than you thought? What else did you notice about the way they looked?"

Read aloud the Scripture. Ask, "How are people in these verses like or unlike the bubbles? What did you notice about what your bubbles did once they floated away from you? Have you ever been like a bubble and floated away from God? Explain. The bubbles would've survived longer if they'd remained in the solution. How does God help us in the same way that the solution would've helped the bubbles? How can we make sure we're not floating away from Jesus this week?"

Making butter is a lot like friendship.

Materials: ½ liter-capacity plastic jar with a secure lid, heavy table cream, measuring cup, salt, crackers, plastic knife.

Theme: Friendship
Scripture: Proverbs 30:33
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: Five minutes
Activity Time: 30 minutes

Pour 1 cup of heavy table cream and ¼ teaspoon of salt into the plastic jar. Then secure the lid at the beginning of class.

Say, "We're going to pass this jar around the class today. Each of you will take a turn shaking the jar for a few minutes, then pass it to your neighbor. We'll do this throughout the class, even when we're doing other activities. Once you've got the jar, it's your responsibility to shake it until it's time to pass it on."

Pass the jar to the first child. Allow kids to shake the jar for a few minutes each. Ensure that every child gets to shake it.
The cream will eventually clump, and will finally become butter. Eventually you'll have a glob floating in leftover liquid.
Check the jar every 10 minutes to see how the experiment is progressing.
Once the cream has turned into butter, ask, "Why do you think we spent all that time and work shaking this jar? What do you think happened to the cream and salt inside the jar?"

Let kids taste the butter on a cracker. Say, "When you shook the cream, protein and fat molecules stuck together. The more you shook, the larger the blobs of fat and protein became. We ended up with butter!"

Read aloud the Scripture.

Ask, "How is what happened to the cream and salt like or unlike friendship? What do you think 'twisting the nose produces blood' means? What are qualities of a good friendship?"

Say, "We're like the cream in the tub. God wants us to bond with our friends, share our friendship, and spread his love to all we come in contact with. Can you think of ways we can be better friends to one another?"

Discover the impact of sin and forgiveness.

Materials: Two toothpicks, one plastic straw, and a large plastic cup for each child. You'll also need access to water and bars of soap.

Theme: Sin separates us from God
Scripture: Isaiah 59:1-3
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: Five minutes
Activity Time: 15 minutes

Have kids fill their cups three-quarters full with water. Give each child two toothpicks and have children carefully place them on top of the water in parallel formation (not touching each other). One toothpick represents God and the other the child. Have kids stick one end of a straw into a bar of soap to make a soap "plug."

Read aloud the Scripture. Say, "When I say 'go,' I want you to touch the soapy end of the straw to the water between the two toothpicks."

The toothpicks will separate as soon as the tip touches the water.

Say, "How is the soapy tip of the straw like sin? How does sin affect our relationship with God?"

Say, "When we sin, we have a responsibility to repent-or go the other way-and ask for God's forgiveness. When we repent of our sins, what happens to our relationship with God?"

Here's an "egg" citing demonstration of conquering the impossible.

Materials: One peeled, hard-boiled egg; a glass jar with a mouth just smaller than the egg so the egg can't pass through it; three 1X3-inch paper strips; matches.

Theme: Faith
Scripture: Matthew 17:14-20
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Activity Time: 10 minutes

Alert: This activity uses fire, so have an adult demonstrate the experiment.

Set the egg on the mouth of the jar. Ask kids to figure out how to get the egg inside the jar, even though it won't fit through the mouth. Ask everyone to brainstorm ways they might be able to get the egg inside the jar without harming it.

Try a couple of their suggestions. When they've given up, say, "How many of you believe it's possible to get this whole egg inside the jar? Even though this seems like an impossible problem, I have a solution."

Crumple three paper strips and drop them inside the glass jar. Then light a match and drop it inside the jar. Once the strips catch fire, immediately place the egg on the mouth of the jar. When the flames extinguish, the egg will slip inside the jar.

Say, "How do you explain that? What do you think caused the egg to drop into the jar? Did you think it was impossible to get the egg inside the jar without ruining it? Why or why not?"

Read aloud the Scripture. Say, "How is this experiment like or unlike what Jesus said about the faith the size of a mustard seed? Have you ever seen something happen that you thought was impossible? Explain. What did you think after you saw the egg inside the jar? What does this show us about our ideas about what's possible and what's not?"

God is closer than you think.

Materials: Package of individually-wrapped Wint-O-Green LifeSavers candies.

Theme: God is everywhere
Scripture: John 8:12
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: Five minutes, plus time to buy candies
Activity Time: 10 minutes

You'll need a very dark room. Pass out one LifeSavers candy to each child, and tell children to save the candy.

Say, "God is all around us. He knows our every thought, and he's always with us."

Read aloud the Scripture, then ask kids to discuss ways they know God is with them. Ask them for examples -- a recent prayer that was answered or a time they turned to God for comfort or help.

Say, "Sometimes, even though we know God is with us, it's easy to think of him as far away. When things seem bad or lonely, we might forget that God is with us. Here's one way to help us remember that God is always with us."

Form pairs. Have partners face each other. Then turn off the lights and make sure the room is as dark as possible.
Have each child open the LifeSavers candy. On the count of three, have one partner bite down on the candy with his or her front teeth. Tell the other partner to watch for a large blue spark from his or her partner's mouth. Then switch roles.

Say, "When you bit down on the candy and broke it, it made a reaction kind of like lightning. The sugar molecules were stressed as you bit down. The pressure of your bite created an electric charge-the spark that you saw. God is like the charge in the candy. He's always there, but sometimes we forget about his presence. But when the dark, stressful times come, God responds with a big spark of his love."

This experiment is stinky, so it's best performed outdoors.

Materials: Tea bags, whole fresh cranberries, distilled water, teapot, stovetop, white vinegar, clear household ammonia, four clear containers.

Theme: Redemption
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Activity Time: 15 minutes

Alert: This experiment must be performed by an adult. Dispose of the liquid by pouring it down the drain immediately after the experiment is over.

Before class, brew strong tea with distilled water. Remove the tea bags and discard them. Boil 1 cup of cranberries in distilled water. Strain the cranberries, saving the leftover water. Pour the tea into a container and the water from the cranberries into a different container, filling each about one-third.

Pour vinegar into a third container and ammonia into the fourth container, filling both. They'll look just alike, so be sure you know which is which.

To begin the discussion, ask kids to give examples of sin. After several examples have been given, say, "It's true -- humans are sinful, and we do things that aren't pleasing to God. But Jesus gave his life to wash away our sins."

Hold up the containers with tea and cranberry solutions in them. Say, "These containers of liquid represent our sin. Now imagine that this liquid (vinegar) is Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. What do you think will happen when I add it to our sin?"

Add vinegar to the tea and then to the cranberry solution. Their colors will lighten considerably. Ask kids to explain what happened.

Then say, "What do you think happens when we keep sinning and never ask for God's forgiveness? Let's see." Add ammonia until the solutions become very dark.

Say, "Still, no matter how bad we think our sins are, we can always ask for God's forgiveness. So, let's try to reverse what's happening."

Add more vinegar, and the liquid lightens. You can alternate darkening and lightening this solution as long as you have space in the containers.

Say, "What's happening to the solutions is called a reversible reaction-that means that the color can be changed back and forth. An example of an irreversible reaction is cooking a scrambled egg. After the egg is cooked, you can't make the egg raw again. How is Jesus' death for our sins like the reversible reaction we saw today?"

Let kids witness God's transforming power in our lives.

Materials: Clear container for each child (at least 6 inches deep), sugar, water, a saucepan, food coloring, straws, cotton string, paperclips, fine-tipped markers, tape, access to a stovetop.

Theme: God's impact on our lives
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:18
Age Level: 6 to 12
Prep Time: 15 minutes the day before the activity
Activity Time: 30 minutes, plus several days for crystals to grow

The day before class, bring 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar to a boil for every four children in your class. Once the solution boils, add sugar until it thickens to a syrup. Remove from heat and allow the solution to cool on its own overnight.
The next day, distribute the solution into the clear containers. Fill the bottom of each container with the sugar solution to a depth of 1 inch.

Give each child a container, a straw, a paperclip, and a 10-inch length of string. Let each child add one drop of the food coloring of his or her choice.

Have kids each tie one end of the string around the middle of their straws. Then attach a paperclip to the bottom of their strings. For best results, have them moisten the strings with water and rub sugar along the string. Then have them lower the paperclip end of the strings into their sugar solutions and rest the straws on the mouths of their containers. Have them tape their straws in place, then write their names on their containers.

Read aloud the Scripture. Say, "God's influence on our lives is very powerful. It changes the way we see ourselves, and the way others see us. This solution is made of two things you use every day -- sugar and water. Right now, it looks pretty plain. Take your container home and put it in a safe place in your kitchen. Each morning when you get up, check to see what changes are happening."

Within a week, kids should see dramatic changes. Sugar crystals will grow. The longer kids let the crystals grow, the larger they'll get. They can eat the crystals as long as the containers are kept in a clean, dry area.

Jennifer Hooks is the managing editor for Children's Ministry Magazine.

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