Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pennies For............

The educator in me roars to the forefront when my grandchildren visit and I do my lesson plans to have activities for them, hoping we can spend some memorable time together. Thanks to a very bright lady's web site, I found an activity involving pennies.

We collect spare change in a plastic container in my kitchen, so I separated the pennies into two groups--the shiny pennies, and the dark pennies. I put them into different dishes and my granddaughter who is nine has a great curiosity about stuff so I asked her how they were different. She quickly saw that some were shiny, and some were dark. Then I asked her why they were different but she didn't know. So I asked her if we could make them the same. She thought that the dark pennies could be made shiny also.

I asked her how to make the dark pennies shiny and she said we should wash them in soap and water which we did, but it didn't change the pennies. I asked her if there might be other ways to change the pennies. Since her mom cleans things with vinegar, she suggested vinegar. We tried vinegar and nothing happened. She suggested that we separate them into two different dishes and try different things on them and keep in mind what worked and what didn't. According to my "lesson plan," salt should be added to the vinegar and I asked her if that might work. She thought that would be a great idea so we added salt to one container and let it soak several minutes. We had not measured quantities in either dish. We let them soak and some pennies became brighter, and some did not.

When I asked her why, the whole family got involved. My hubby was a metallurgist in grad school, and told her about the metallic content of pennies. My son was a chemist in grad school and looked online which showed us how that the metallic content changed with different dates of production so she started looking at the dates of all the pennies. He told her about the oxidation process and why the Statue of Liberty is green. Her mom was a business major, so she told her how much it costs to produce a penny and how it isn't worth what it costs to make it. Her younger brother played with the shiny pennies and counted them to be part of the event.

They had to go home before we finished the whole project, and she asked me to leave the pennies separated into groups so we can analyze the experiment and draw some conclusions. We will also go into some web sites that suggest other methods like Tabasco sauce, lemon, or coke for making pennies shiny and the chemistry gets really interesting when combined with a nail.

I had already printed some sheets listing the Scientific Method for elementary school children so when she returns, we will go through the process and she can see what we did and how to present the results. I did not want to introduce the paper in the beginning, I just wanted to get her involved in the process and analyze it later. She was very good at suggesting variables and we will recap those details later. She will be learning a new vocabulary based on a simple activity. She had a really exciting experience, and I loved how the whole family got involved. I enjoy working on these projects with her because she is so excited to explore new experiences. I like to make learning fun for her and kitchen chemistry is cool.


  1. That is a really fun way to teach kids. I wish YOU could have been my grandmother!

    1. I enjoy being a grandmother and it makes me happy to give the children the experience of grandparents. I never knew my grandmothers since they passed either before my birth or when I was too small to know them. I think I missed many good experiences because I had no grandparents, no sisters, no daughters.However, I am fortunate to have the family that I have and no one has everything.

  2. That was a great project for her. Maybe she will discuss it at school, too. It will be fun for her classmates.

  3. Your granddaughter is so lucky to have such an excellent educator for a grandmother. You are teaching her a thorough, careful scientific method. What a fabulous lesson that was!

  4. Sounds like an educational and fun project to do together! I learned things, too! Thank you. Also, I was looking at the photo and remembering when someone on Facebook posted a project she did with her husband... glueing pennies to their old kitchen counter and glazing the entire top smooth. It came out very nice, and what a conversation piece!

  5. Thanks for the post with all the info. We also have a penny jar at our place and this will be a great and fun way to teach our grandson, who at 8 years old is very curious.

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  7. this must have been such fun for you both! these are the moments your granddaughter will remember - good for you for giving her so much time and attention. i am a former teacher too and worked with money with my grandgirl a few months back - but we did math and estimation. it's here if you want to read about it!