Today’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone potions experiment is from my amazing friend Marci over at The Homeschool Scientist. I really wanted to add some fun science to this series, but when it comes to mixing potions I knew I would need a little help! Marci was happy to oblige and cooked up a fun potions experiment that will engage any Harry Potter fan!
When I was young (way before Harry Potter), I used to love to pretend to create magic potions. I would mix water and food coloring or vinegar and baking soda and watch the reactions. In my imagination, each one had a special power like making my bicycle fly or turning my brother into a frog.
Now, a whole new generation of kids have been inspired to create their own magic potions by the Harry Potter books and movies. Are your kids Harry Potter fans? Why not capitalize on their fascination with potions and use it to teach them a little chemistry?
pH Harry Potter Potion Background
The idea behind this experiment is to create a potion that changes color. The real magic potion at work here is the universal indicator solution. This solution is made up of several compounds that change color depending upon the pH value of its environment.
This color change is very evident and makes it easy to determine the pH value of a substance or solution. The universal indicator solution comes with a chart so you can see what pH levels each color represents.
The pH value is a measurement of how acid or base (alkaline) a substance is on a scale of 0-14. Values of 0-6 are considered acid and 8-14 are considered base with 7 being neutral. Pure water has a pH value of 7.
Substances at the very ends of the scale, 0-1 and 12-14, can be harmful to people and other materials. They can cause chemical reactions where dangerous gases are emitted or some may corrode or destroy materials.
Not all acids and bases are harmful. We encounter substances of varying pH levels all the time. Lemons and oranges are acidic. Soap is usually a base (alkaline).
The pH value of something is important in the way it reacts with other substances. For instance, plants can only grow in soils with certain pH levels and our bodies function best at a certain pH level. Some chemical reactions only occur at a particular pH level.
We will use this knowledge of acids and bases to create our potions and use our magic (science) to make them change color!
Making The pH Harry Potter Potion
Setting up your pH potion lab is simple. You just need a few supplies and safe solutions to get started.
- pH universal indicator solution (You can find this at pool supply stores and Amazon.com)
- test tubes or glass bowls
- pipette or eye dropper
Preparing The Potions
Set this potion lab up for your younger learners. Let them be surprised with the reactions. Older students might want to get involved in the set-up, especially if you are going to be using this as a pH lesson.
Gather 4 test tubes and a couple small beakers. Fill all the test tubes half full of water and pour vinegar into a small beaker. (Whenever I get the opportunity to use my lab glassware, I do it. If you do not have test tubes and beakers, just use small glass bowls or drinking glasses.) You might want to make a new label for the universal indicator solution bottle. I called ours “Elixir of Chromaticity”.
Now you are ready to start mixing!
pH Harry Potter Potion Experiment
First, add 5 drops of indicator solution, I mean “Elixir of Chromaticity”, to the first test tube. Note the reaction and the color change. You might need to shake the test tube slightly to mix the solutions.
If you are using this activity as a pH lesson, use the color chart that comes with the indicator solution to determine the pH of the liquid in the test tube.
Next, use a pipette or eyedropper to add one drop of vinegar from the small beaker to the test tube with the water and indicator solution. Do you see a color change? Mix the solutions together a bit if necessary. Add one drop at a time stirring or shaking between each drop to see the color change. You can use the color chart to determine the various pH levels the solution moves through.
For the next part of the potion lab, use the remaining 3 test tubes of water. Add 5 drops of indicator solution to each test tube and stir or shake to mix.
Leave the first test tube alone and move to the second. Add one drop of vinegar to the second test tube and mix the drop into the solution. Note the color change.
In the third test tube, add 5 or more drops of vinegar and mix. Note this change. You should now have a different color of liquids in each test tube.
What are the pH levels of each test tube? What caused the change? Let your kids experiment with other household liquids. What color do they change? What happens if you mix your test tube solutions together? Add indicator solution to the beaker of vinegar and see what happens.
Thanks to Marci for this fun experiment! I’d love to see what YOU come up with in your potions experiments!