Kitchen Science Experiments
How Does Your Mold Garden Grow?

by Sudipta Barhan-Quallen

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen's Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow?

Book review by Sherri Trudgian

Ages 9-12

A "Mad Scientist" children's book

Got a sense of adventure? Want to discover new worlds? According to Sudipta Barhan-Quallen your child doesn’t have to be a pirate risking life and limb on the high seas or an astronaut traveling light years into outer space to experience the thrill of discovery.

There are plenty of opportunities for that spirit of exploration to be played out in your very own kitchen. You may be a meticulous housekeeper mom but don’t be surprised when you find that your family’s space is inhabited by thousands of miniscule creatures!

Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow? is part of the Mad Scientist series. Although the title is reminiscent of Mother Goose’s nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, quite contrary …”, these experiments will capture the imagination of any inquisitive child.

Who knew that you could mummify a fish with baking soda, strip an egg naked in a vinegar bath, blow up a balloon with yeast and a soda bottle, transform a lemon into a battery, grow a marshmallow in a microwave, or make your own ice cream with items found in your kitchen.

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen has the ability to make the complex simple. Each of her eighteen kitchen science experiments has very clear instructions, safety tips, fun colorful illustrations and an explanation section entitled What’s Going On. She also describes the process for making petri dishes at home in lieu of purchasing the more expensive varieties found in stores.

Chapters one through three focus on cell properties. Here budding young scientists are introduced to the bacteria and fungus growing on their food, in their mouth and between their toes. They learn about both the good and bad properties of bacteria, the ones that make you sick and the ones that can heal.

Did you know that garlic has anti-bacterial properties? Next time you scrape your knee try slipping a slice of garlic under your band aid. You may lose a few friends but will heal quickly.

Using a microscope your kitchen scientist can observe the process of osmosis on an onion cell and learn how to record the effects of time and temperature on milk microbes.

cropped images from the cover

In chapter four we learn that acids and bases are defined by their number of protons and electrons. Foods that have a high acidic content (pH content less than seven) are sour like lemons while bases whose pH factor is higher have a bitter taste.

Our mad scientist discovers that bleach can crumble bones, orange juice prevents oxidation on apple slices and a flash bulb can be lit up with a simple lemon battery. (Safety tip number one - while testing current strength with tongue, tip will tingle?).

Kudos for Sudipta Barhan-Quallen’s explanation of how one electrode’s loss of an electron and a second electrode’s gain of “said” electron through a conductor creates a current.

I was personally surprised to learn that half egg shells could hold up a plate full of nails. My apology goes out to Mr.Norris. I guess I didn’t appreciate your physics class.

Although there are a few corny phrases i.e. “architecturally speaking eggs are eggscellent”, this collection of experiments isn’t nerdy.

Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow? is only the beginning, a starting point for your scientist. It makes the complex simple opening up the young mind to the possibility of future experimentation. The age recommendation for this book is nine to twelve. It could be used by a younger child with parental help.

My personal mad scientist Isaac (9) has been conducting experiments for several years. (Last fall he dissected a moose head and kept the brain in the freezer for several months.)

I highly recommend Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow? for all future scientists but with this caveat: after the death of your child’s pet hamster, don’t be too surprised to find that your baking soda is missing and “Hammy’s” mummified remains show up in a drawer several weeks later!

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