Summer Fun in the Dark


The heat is back. Actually, it never really left.

After melting in 100-degree temperatures last week, the first part of this week has been relatively “cool” with the mercury hovering around 90. However, that reprieve is definitely over. Yesterday and today the heat index topped the century mark and forecasters are calling for highs near 100 degrees yet again from now through next Wednesday.

Currently, our city has a burn ban and a watering ban in effect. Basically, unless you are going out to sit in a swimming pool, lake or pond, most clans are spending the summer chilling in air conditioned structures during the heat of the day. This, of course, is torture if you have young kids who are suffering from cabin fever.

Due to the torrid temperatures, I’ve been allowing my 7-year-old to play outside in the evenings rather than mid-day. Fortunately, there are a number of kid-friendly activities that have kept her entertained despite the lack of daylight. In addition to trying to bottle fireflies, my child is obsessed with creating sparks by smacking Wintergreen Lifesavers with a hammer.

Some of you parents may remember this experiment from your school days. It has to be really dark in order for the sparks to be seen and young children should be supervised so they don’t get hurt in the process. All you need is a small hammer, a pack of Wintergreen Lifesavers and a small Ziploc bag. To see sparks fly, simply place the candy in the bag, and then sit it on a solid surface. Next, have your child give the Lifesaver a good whack. Basically, when the sugar (an asymmetrical crystal) in the Lifesaver is crushed it emits a spark.

Turn the fun into a teachable moment by explaining the science behind the spark.
Essentially, the spark is made up of electrons moving through the air. When the electrons hit nitrogen molecules they give them some of their energy. However, nitrogen can’t keep all that shared energy, so it releases it as light. Hence, the spark.

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Summer Fun for Kids in the Great Outdoors

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.