Sunday, September 12, 2010

Screaming Balloon Ghosts for Halloween - Science Sunday Experiment

Meet Sally and Sam, our new resident ghosts. Sam and Sally are friendly ghosts but they do make some noise. Not Boo! More like a screaming WHIRRRRRRRRRRR WHIRRRRRRRRRR WHIRRRRRRRRRR! I blame Steve Spangler for the ghost invasion. The ghosts came into our lives after we tried his Screaming Balloons Experiment. And they've been haunting the house ever since.

Our balloon experiment started out innocently enough. It's actually pretty simple, involves sound and motion and helps teach the following scientific principles:

Centripetal force and Vibration

A latex balloon (we used Blue, Helium Quality, 12" size)
1/4" hex nut

(for full directions, see the Steve Spangler Website or reference page 137 in his new book, Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes)

Place the hex nut into the mouth of the uninflated balloon and shake it down until it rests on the bottom of the balloon.

Blow up the balloon until it is a little over 1/2 way inflated. Take great care so that you don't suck the hex nut back out accidentally. Tie the balloon and examine the hex nut inside. Make the hex nut swirl around inside by moving the balloon in a swirling circular motion. Listen to the balloon scream.

Pulled in a circular motion due to centripetal force, the hex nut swirls around inside the balloon and, in doing so, the flat edges of the hex nut vibrate against the side of the balloon causing a screaming sound.

Our thoughts:
Instantaneously a hit. My daughter simply had no idea that the hex nut would make the screaming noise. Her initial thought was that it would just roll and thump around. Both kids were extremely excited that they could make their balloons "sing." That's right, even my two-year-old could make the balloon scream all by himself just by shaking the balloon up and down (under my watchful supervision - wouldn't want this choking hazard near him without an adult nearby). I first saw this experiment in the new science book Steve Spangler sent me to review, called Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes. I admit I was rather curious as to just how loud a sound these "screaming balloons" could emit. It's actually a fairly tolerable whirring noise and not the super loud, ear-drum damaging screeching I was expecting. As suggested in the book, we also tried putting a marble inside the balloon -- no ridges, no vibrating screams. We haven't tried placing more than one hex nut inside or a larger size balloon yet but think those variations would be fun to try. You can watch video demonstrations on the Steve Spangler Website.

Now, here's where our little experiment took a Halloween themed direction, entirely my own idea I might add. The kids were enjoying playing with the balloons so much I thought it would be fun to turn them into screaming ghosts. We had all the supplies on hand to create our ghosts.

Extra materials needed to make screaming ghost:
White colored garbage bag (we used Glad tall kitchen 13 gallon bags)
Clear tape
Black Permanent Marker

Place the balloon in the white garbage bag and position it in one of the top corners of the bag with the balloon tie facing down toward the opening of the bag.

Gather the bag over the balloon with one hand and wrap clear tape at the gather (same location as the balloon tie) to cinch the bag shut over the balloon.

Draw a screaming face onto the head of the ghost with a black permanent marker.

Let the haunting begin. My kids played with their friendly ghosts for an entire evening. They named them, dressed them up in clothes (at one point one of the ghosts wore a cat-ears headband), and even made them glow in the dark with a flashlight. Good for the imagination and a perfect educational craft for Halloween.

As you can tell, I'm a big fan of Steve Spangler Science and a happy customer. I've personally purchased a few items from his website, tried his experiments at home with the kids and we've watched several of his YouTube videos. I'll post my review of his new book, Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes later this evening or early in the week. I recently received a copy of the book for review purposes.

If you enjoyed this post you can find more Science Sunday experiments involving kids at or even join in the weekly meme. Science is Fun!


Christy Killoran said...

Very cool. I remember someone else doing this a while ago, but I love your addition of the ghost details.

April said...

Its the first time I have seen this experiment and it does seem really cool! Coming thru from Sci. sun.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

We did the Spangler balloon thing too, a while back - and posted a video of our own. I like the idea of putting them in the bags - we're not huge ghost fans (although yours are very cute), but then, when the balloon pops, you've got some protection :) Very nice adaptation of the activity!

Phyllis said...

That is so cool. I love the mix of a fun/crafty idea with the science behind it. Love it!

Debbie said...

I am holding off on doing this after Leah at Almost Homeschoolers had the video up from when she did it. Selena panicked thinking Leah's little girl had the balloon stuck to her hand. I do love your ghosts though!

Lynn said...

That sounds like a great book, and I love how you turned it into a fun diversion later too.

Ryan said...

This looks really cool. I'm home today with two sick boys. I think we'll give this a try!

Susan Wells said...

What a fun twist to a classic experiment. Love this and will have to try it with my kids this Halloween.