Be Curious! / Kitchen Science / Science

How to Make a Polymer

Starting off the New Year with bang, or rather, a fizz, for my next badge work, I’m in the kitchen making polymers. What is a polymer? I didn’t know either, so I looked it up. A polymer is a chain of molecules. We find them in everyday life, perhaps in the form of a rubbery ball or gooey substance.

Plastics are also polymers, so ironically, this task coincides with some personal interest for me. I’m about to sidetrack for a moment, so bear with me. It’s an environmental lesson we can tack onto the polymer trail.

Yesterday, January 2, was the start of the national “No Impact Project,” a week-long “carbon cleanse” brought to us by Colin Beaver (a.k.a. No Impact Man), and it’s an invitation to anyone to take a good look at how they can reduce their carbon footprint in the world–and live a happier life, to boot.

Sign me up.

Actually, I did sign up, because the principles behind No Impact Week are a stunning and beautiful parallel to many of the tasks in several scout badges.

Look for an update on the week’s findings to come. To kick us off for the new year, however, let’s look at a subject closely related to No Impact Week: PLASTICS.

And now, back to polymers.

If I do a 360 turn from where I sit right now, I’m not sure I could recognize or count all of items around this office made of plastic. Plastics are polymers, and polymers are large groups of molecules that form either really long chains or really complex structures. Not surprisingly, a polymer’s properties (flexibility, stiffness, buoyancy), are based on the types of molecules within.


Two tasks for the “Making it Matter” badge asks scouts to create their own polymers and observe the differences when ingredients are modified just a bit. The video for this task is broken up into two parts, both of which I did one morning last week. In Part I, we make the different polymers; in Part II, we look more closely at the properties of each polymer variation.

It should come as no surprise: kitchen science is crazy fun! And as I embark on my own No Impact Week experiment, this findings from this experiment begged the question: when did plastic go so wrong… and are there any “no impact” plastics out there?

Kitchen Science: Fun with Polymers! (part 1)

Kitchen Science: Fun with Polymers! (part 2)

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4 thoughts on “How to Make a Polymer

  1. Pingback: Pottery & Sculpting: File Under “Needs Work” | The Big Scout Project

  2. This was pretty cool and I love your thoroughness!

    Reminds me of a GS experiment I did with the girls years back. (From whatever book was used in the late 90’s) It was called “Goop” and was to show how something could be both a solid and a liquid. I don’t remember the exact ingredients, (I think corn starch, maybe salt and of course water). When it was all mixed up, you could pick it up, (solid) pull it apart like silly putty, (solid) but if you just let it rest in your hand for a few seconds, you could then pour it from your palm, back into the bowl, just like a liquid. It was truly fascinating!

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