A Good Science Book for Kids: 11 Experiments that Failed by Jenny Offill

11 Experiments that Failed

Here is a great science book and activity that gets kids of all ages involved. Do it now, or file it in the back of your mind for a good summer activity.

11 Experiments that Failed11 Experiments That Failed (published Schwartz & Wade September 27, 2011) takes old fashioned kitchen experimenting to a whole new level—one that is frightening close to home for many of us with curious kids. If your child has ever wanted to create an “experiment” with the contents of your pantry, then they will love this new book by Jenny Offill.

About the Book:
11 Experiments That Failed
is about a creative girl who follows the scientific method (Question, Hypothesis, Materials, Procedure, Outcome, Conclusion) to satisfy her curiosity for such questions as “Do dogs like glitter?” and “Can perfume make stinky cheese smell better?”. With darling illustrations and hilarious experiments, the main character approaches her projects with earnest and tenacity, yet her determination to discover is never naughty. She reminds us a bit of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona with home science kit.

One of our favorite parts of this book is kids get introduced to the scientific method in a humorous way. The book is illustrated—delightfully by Nancy Carpenter—on the kind of graph paper you would use in middle school science. That element, combined with the repetition of the steps in the scientific method, allows kids to become familiar with the steps a scientist goes through. It is a good early introduction to the process of thinking that starts to happen in 4th grade science and will carry them through their high school science fair project. Kids age 4-10 liked this book, particularly when it was paired with the activity. For the record, even our 12 year olds found it entertaining, but we wouldn’t have bought it for that age group.

*Note, we first got the Kindle version of the book, but had to buy the hard copy to use it with a class. The detail in the illustrations did not show up as well on the electronic version. For this book, we like hard copy best.


What We Do With the Book:
We paired this book with a creative experiment of our own called “Moving Milk.” The objective of this activity was to get them to think in analytical steps and to use “predictions” and “cause and effect” higher order thinking skills. In class, we had them write it out so we could work on individual grammar, spelling and other skills our students needed, but you could simply talk it through with your kid if you want.

Our Experiment: Moving Milk

We learned this from Household Hacker’s Scientific Tuesday and Crafts by Amanda who first published this on her blog. Both are great resources to watch the experiment in action before you do it at home. Check out the YouTube video abov. In a nutshell, you put milk in a paper plate. Add a few globs of food coloring. Finally, add a few small drops of dishwashing soap. The chemicals in the soap break down the fat in the milk and the food coloring spreads and blends in delightful shapes on the plate.

11 Experiments Moving Milk
11 Experiments That Failed Our Experiment

Using this to Develop Writing Skills
If you want to do the writing with your kids, this is how we did it. The written portion is best for kids who are comfortable writing a few sentences and older kids.

  1. Read the book, pointing out the scientific method. Ask them to predict the conclusions once they have heard the hypothesis.
  2. Tell them they are going to their own experiment with Milk, Food Coloring and Soap.
  3. On their paper, have them write the Question: What happens when you put milk, food coloring and soap on a paper plate?
  4. Ask them to write their Hypothesis or prediction of what will happen.
  5. Have them write out What You Need and list the ingredients.
  6. Have them write: What to Do on their paper, and walk them through each step, having them write it as you do the experiment as shown in the video.
  7. Then have them write the write what actually happened, their Conclusion.
  8. Check their paper for spelling and grammar and point out the corrections. Teach them how to spell the words correctly if they missed any, or if you find a few words or sounds consistently misspelled, use this as an opportunity to teach a new sound or chunk of words.
  9. Let them experiment with different designs, shapes, amount of coloring and soap.