Science on a Stick – Support

November 13, 2017 - Author:

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This document is designed to provide additional information, explanations and ideas to explore in connection with the MSU Extension Science on a Stick activities. For information on obtaining the MSU Extension Science on a Stick, email

  1.  Are You Right or Left Handed? Our brains are divided into two sides called the left and right hemispheres. Often when we take part in an activity, one side of the brain is more active than the other. There is also some correlation between the side we use in our brain and the side we use on our body. This preference to use one side of the body over the other is known as sidedness, laterality or left/right dominance. 

    Try this: For more ways to test sidedness, read the Scientific American article “Side-Dominant Science: Are You Left- or Right-Sided?” (February 7, 2013).
  2. Sizing It Up! The human eye can focus on an item when the distance is far enough that all the light passing through the lens of the eye can be bent to hit the same place on the retina. When we are too close to an item, it becomes blurry, because our eyes cannot bend all the light. The pinhole blocks all the light except that traveling straight through the hole, so we can see clearly through it no matter how close to an item we get. Because items are clearer, it also seems to act like a magnifier.

    Try this: Put a pinhole through a piece of foil and look at an item. Now place a drop of water over the pinhole and look at the item again. What happens to the object? Does adding water change how it looks?
  3. Which Eye Is Dominant? Does it matter which hand you throw a ball with? The answer is yes. When doing any hand-eye activity, your brain compiles numerous pieces of information. Your brain uses the information from your eyes to build the image of the world you see; however, your eyes each receive slightly different information in the form of light rays. Most people tend to have a dominant eye. When both eyes are open, more information from the dominant eye is used to build the image in the brain.

    When you closed your left or right eye, you should have found that the object jumps outside the circle. If the object seemed to move when you closed your left eye, then you have left-eye dominance. If the object moved more when your right eye was closed, then your right eye is the dominant one. When you look at an object with both eyes open, your brain is getting more information from your dominant eye. This is why the object appeared to move when you closed your dominant eye. If the object did not move when you closed your right or left eye, you are part of the population without eye dominance.

    Try this: Find additional eye dominance tests in the article “Dominant Eye Test: How to Find Your Dominant Eye” by Gary Heiting in
  4. Chill! Our bodies are constantly monitoring and working to maintain homeostasis, which is the balance within our internal environment. Body temperature is one example of homeostasis. Our bodies have the ability to maintain an internal temperature of around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When it is hot or when we are physically active, our bodies heat up then produce sweat to cool down. The sweat reduces body heat through evaporative cooling. As the water vapor on your skin evaporates. it removes some of the energy in the form of heat from your body. 

    Try this: After waving the fan across your wet skin, blot your hand dry and feel the temperature of that skin. It will be cooler to the touch! Watch a video from the Khan Academy explaining the physical process of how sweat cools our bodies.
  5. Read in Color. Our brains have been taught throughout our lives to connect words with information. Say the word “horse” and the image of a horse flashes through your brain. As we become competent readers and language users, the processes connected to reading and language require less thought and become more automatic. Reading the color words in a different color requires us to focus our attention on this processing of information, one that for many has become more automatic. This task is called the Stroop task and the difficulty we have in completing it is called the Stroop effect after the researcher that discovered this effect in the 1930s, J. Ridley Stroop. What do you think would happen if the task is carried out by someone who does not know any English? 

    Try this: Explore other Stroop tests. Find a complete lesson on the Stroop effect from PsyToolkit and Professor Gijsbert Stoet. Find additional Stroop experiments in Neuroscience for Kids by E. H. Chudler. Read information about how the Stroop effect is being used in research in “Using the Stroop Effect to Test Our Capacity to Direct Attention” by R. DeYoung, University of Michigan (February 9, 2016).
  6. Here’s a Twist! Gravity has an impact on everything within the earth’s atmosphere, but for everyday objects, the Coriolis force is usually small compared to other forces; its effects generally become observable only over large distances and long periods, such as in hurricanes, ocean currents and long airplane flights. Why do you think the thread spins? Is it the Coriolis effect? Is it the spin of the thread? Coriolis effect or Coriolis force happens when due to the earth’s rotation, moving objects are deflected to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. 

    Try this: Will the thread spin differently depending on the type of thread? (Try a variety of strings, yarns and threads.) Is it wind currents in the room? How could you test your ideas? Can you isolate the one effect from another? Can you get the fan to spin in the opposite direction? We’d love to hear what you discover. Share your experiments and conclusions with us along with photos at
  7. Challenge Your Reflexes. Actually, this activity tests your reaction time. Reflexes are automatic responses to stimuli such as when you touch a hot surface and jerk away before your brain recognizes the surface was hot. Reaction time is the amount of time that passes between a stimulus and the intentional motor response, such as catching a falling object as quickly as possible. You can improve reaction times with practice but you cannot improve reflexes since they are automatic responses. 

    Try this: Explore some online reaction time tests: “Reaction Time Test” from Math Is Fun by R. Pierce (February 4, 2016). “Reaction Time” from Human Benchmark. 
  8. Where’s Your Blind Spot? The blind spot is where your optic nerve is located. It is the one spot in each eye without photoreceptors. Without photoreceptors, no information is captured by your eye. However, without the optic nerve, information does not travel to your brain. Both are required for you to see. 

    Try this: Explore “Optical Illusions: How They Work and What They Reveal About the Brain” by K. Cherry in Verywell (April 1, 2016). Learn more about your blind spots in “Seeing More Than Your Eye Does” from Serendip Studio.
  9. Balancing Act. In this activity, you find the one point where the mass of the fan is concentrated. This is called the center of gravity. When supported at the center of gravity, any object can be balanced or remain in equilibrium. 

    Try this: Explore more activities in “Center Of Gravity” by C. Woodford in Explainthatstuff! (2009/2016).
  10. Our Amazing Brain. Even though our brains can read information when only the first and last letters are correct, that does not mean spelling doesn’t matter. Your brain needs information and repeated exposure to words spelled correctly to be able to automatically fill in the missing information. It also relies on the context of the words around it to help make sense of what you are reading. For more information about how your brain interprets information, read “Breaking the Code: Why Yuor Barin Can Raed Tihs” by N. Wolchover in LiveScience (February 9, 2012). 

    Try this: Check out “6 Fun Ways to Sharpen Your Memory” by N. Wolchover in LiveScience (January 5, 2012).

This information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned.

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