Brownie Science

That’s not the science of making chocolate Brownies, but science with my Brownies. This happened now nearly three weeks ago, which shows how busy I’ve been. It worked really well, even with a few last minute changes. We had gone up to 26 Brownies the week before, cue me panicking because I really wanted them to work in smaller groups than their sixes, even more once two were now sevens… I needn’t have worried though as we only actually had 20 of them turn up.

We had 20 miniature forensic scientists, in teams of 5 named after famous scientists (Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin), and they rotated around three investigation. In order to discover which leader had stolen the kitchen keys (incidentally we still haven’t found them) they had create edible DNA for each leader, produce chromatograms, and  test 6 substances with red cabbage indicator.

There was a leader attached to each investigation, and we had two lots of chromatograms going at once. The DNA and indicators took about 15 minutes each, and the chromatography about 7 or 8 minutes, so if you can have all groups doing the same activity at once I would.  The Brownies did get really into it but with the difference in timings I could have done with having an extra activity that could have gone with the chromatography.

For anyone who’d like to try it out with their Brownies (or any other group for that matter, although I think probably Guides/Scouts are a bit old because they’ll have done it all at school by then) I’ve put links to the sheets I used for the Brownies. They include basic instructions and a record sheet.

The Science Bit!

Chromatography is a technique used to separate dyes (amongst other things). The ink in pens will be made up of a number of different coloured dyes, unless they are primary colours in which case it will be just one colour. Black and brown tend to give the best results as they are made up of the most colours. By placing water (a solvent) on top of a splodge (to use the technical term) of ink it dissolves the different dyes (the solutes). Some dyes will dissolve better in the water and so will travel further through the paper. I recommend using coffee filter paper, although you can get away with blotting paper if you’re desperate!

An indicator is a substance that will change colour depending on how acidic or alkali the substance being tested is. Red cabbage is surprisingly good at this. When you boil red cabbage in water it turns the water purple, if boiled  in orange juice it would turn the orange juice bright pink… Rather than boiling everything with cabbage it is far easier just to boil it with water and add the cabbage water to whatever you want to test. I did it by chopping up the cabbage, and adding boiling water and cabbage to drinks bottles. Quick, easy and saves staining pans purple! There’s a list of colours on the document.

DNA, it’s what makes us, us. Everyone’s, bar identical twins, DNA is individual to themselves. So ideally do this last because it soon becomes blindingly obvious ‘whodunnit’ unless you have identical twins amongst your suspects! DNA contains four bases (adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine), which pair up. Cytosine and guanine always pair up, and thymine and adenine pair up. You need to make up an example of the DNA found at the scene of the crime beforehand so they have something to compare it to. Unfortunately the key didn’t download properly…

We used gummy bears and cocktail sticks to make our DNA. Each base is allocated a colour of gummy bear. I made up a key of four sets of gummy bear colours per leader, which the Brownies then used to make them up in actual gummy bears. The key should have two columns of four, so the gummy bear colours match, like:

Cytosine      Guanine

Guanine       Cytosine

Adenine       Thymine

Guanine      Cytosine

Then attach the pairs with cocktail sticks through their tummies, and then heads to feet with the ones above and below. To make it into a double helix, take the top horizontal stick and the bottom horizontal stick and twist!

The final link is for the Brownie record sheet. Get them to observe colour changes for the indicators, the others are just yes or no as to whether it matches the sample. You could get them to stick the chromatograms on.

If anyone does try this, let me know how you get on, and if you’ve any questions, ask away!

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It’s been a long time…

After my frantic posting during Science Week I’ve had a bit of a break as I haven’t done an awful lot on my Queen’s Guide since! Mainly I’ve been catching up with school work I fell behind on that week…

So today’s post isn’t actually about MY Queen’s Guide or even MY Brownies but about all the rubbish articles that have been written recently. I held my tongue over the Daily Mail (what do you expect), even the Telegraph, as then there was the Guardian article from David Mitchell, which succeeding in lowering my blood pressure. However then I saw the article from my much loved Lucy Mangan in Stylist, which finally pushed me over the edge!

I’m not about to start ranting and raving, as that just isn’t me, and actually I think it’s fairly counter productive. Instead I want to tell the world about how great Guiding really is. So my Queen’s Guide blog is being hijacked once again for me to ramble on for a bit. Today I’m going to tell you a story…

Are you’re sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

10 years, 6 months and 25 days ago a scared, shy seven year old went along to her very first Brownie meeting. Today she is a Leader in Training at a different Brownie pack. How on Earth did that happen?

I have to admit I’m not entirely sure! Maybe the growing confidence began when I was made sixer and I realised that not everyone thought I was as uselessly shy as I thought. Maybe it was moving up to Guides and having to fight my corner in a patrol of much older girls who were close friends. Maybe it was achieving my Baden Powell Award and seeing just what I could do if I put my mind to it.

To me the pivotal moment was county camp in 2007 where I made the decision to join Rangers. I approached the leader myself. I accepted the challenge I had been shying away from for so long. It was my decision and I wasn’t being pushed into it. That marks it out as different as for once no-one was suggesting an idea for me or giving me a gentle shove in the right direction.

Those suggestions and shoves were just what I needed as a little Brownie and slightly bigger Guide, but I was allowed to come to the realisation myself that I was ready for a bigger challenge. I was given all the support I needed to gain in confidence and then I was given the opportunities to use it.

Rangers provided the chance to pick and chose what challenges I wanted to face and when. Duke of Edinburgh, Chief Guide’s, Commonwealth, and Queen’s Guide Awards have all challenged and stretched me into seeing what I can do. The biggest was undoubtedly becoming a Young Leader because ultimately I was still massively lacking in confidence. I did it though. I put myself in a situation where I was hugely uncomfortable week after week until it became the most natural thing in the world. Today I wouldn’t think twice about jumping up in front of people and organising them.

I’ve been given the world by Guiding; it only seems fair that I give it back.

I promised to do my best; I keep my promises.

As a Brownie I said I would do a good turn everyday; I still am.

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Day Five

The grand finale…

It was a little quieter today mainly because I was fairly exhausted after a very busy week so couldn’t quite manage to get the energy to really go all out to advertise. Equally it was our assembly so we were very limited by time having only half an hour to set up, run the activities and tidy away. We had 7 or 8 people come up and build towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows which was good fun although really quite difficult as we had very thin spaghetti so it just kept snapping!

Once again thanks for everyone’s help who was involved, but particularly Merlin, Flora, Luke, Rafaella and Riyaz who did everything they said they would and then more.

We’re having our evaluation on Monday so I’ll be posting more about what went well and what we would change if we were to do it again at some point next week. If you haven’t voted on my poll of what word best describes science scroll down about 6 posts.

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Day Four

‘I’m squashing up my baby bumblebee, won’t my mummy be so proud of me…’

Well actually I’m not and that wasn’t Nikki Gamman’s message this afternoon but camp fire songs can be related to everything! It was a really interesting talk that a small but select audience enjoyed. I have to admit never having thought much about bees before as ecology is not my preferred area of biology… There was a nice bit of genetics  with differences between populations of the bee species they are reintroducing, in May/June of this year, in Sweden, New Zealand and England. Equally interesting was the huge numbers of different types of bees and their different adaptations. Normally when you talk about adaptation in school you’re just thinking on the scale of polar bears are white so they are camouflaged!

So it’s probably not a good idea to go squashing up baby bumblebees as there’s not an awful lot of them!

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Day Three

Today was sweetie chromatography and edible DNA mark two. The shopkeeper on the way to the bus must really think I’m so greedy. In the name of science this week I have bought:

  1. 3 packets of gummy bears
  2. 1 packet of smarties
  3. 1 packet of skittles
  4. 1 packet of m’n’m’s
  5. 1 packet of cookies
  6. 1 newspaper
  7. 1 bouncy ball
  8. 1 pint of milk
  9. 2 packets of marshmallows
  10. 1 packet of spaghetti
  11. 1 packet of midget gems
  12. 1 packet of malteasers
  13. 1 packet of strawberry laces

The conclusion that can be drawn from this week is clearly that science is best when food is involved! 

Today was very successful again – Flora and Merlin did a fabulous job gathering people together. Everyone got really involved and seem to have actually enjoyed themselves which was the aim of this exercise really.

Tomorrow we have a talk after school from Dr Nikki Gammans about bumblebees ( ). Strangely this time no one has asked if she’s bringing any of her subject along – the meerkat man generated a lot more of that type of response!

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Day Two

If anything I think today was even more successful. We didn’t necessarily get many more people but they got more involved.

We made edible DNA from gummy bears and cocktail sticks which went down well. They looked really good and managed to get a really long strand that was probably about 50cm long. We also had a Stroop test out that was quite entertaining!

It was very simple but quite effective I think. People seemed to enjoy themselves and hopefully learnt something from it as well. It felt a lot more controllable which was good. The whole thing had a better structure to it, perhaps because the activities were more interesting?

Once again thanks for everyone’s help today, it was much appreciated! Tomorrow sweetie chromatography, and spaghetti and marshmallow towers (everything must be related to food).

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Day One

A moderate success I think. We had quite a few visitors today. I will admit that they primarily came for the cake but never mind they still came! The activity wasn’t amazing but I do struggle to feel much enthusiasm for physics myself so that probably explains to some extent why I couldn’t come up with anything more inspiring.

Break time was probably more successful as no-one had to make the effort to come to us! It was a bit too short really as I only got out of lesson 2 10 minutes into break so we were only left with 10 minutes to do activities. It proved quite good publicity as about two thirds of people we spoke to at break came up at lunch.

Thanks for everyone’s help today (special thanks to Elliot’s Mum for providing cakes when she didn’t get to appreciate them!).

Bring on day two!

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