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A Science Experiment You Can Host in Your Store

Appealing to the next generation of home improvement shoppers can be accomplished with more than a smartphone. Show kids and teens that your operation has the items they need for their next science experiment to capture their business now and give them a reason to return as adults.

At several HouseMart Ace Hardware locations in Hawaii, staff members host Science Saturdays, in-store events that feature science experiment demonstrations. Read more about how HouseMart Ace appeals to kids with science here.

A presentation that amazes kids at HouseMart Ace is the Pencils Through a Bag experiment, which is a lesson in the chemical makeup of polymers.

See below for a materials list—items you likely already have in your store—and step-by-step instructions to recreate the experiment in your store.

Pencils Through a Bag

These instructions are adapted from a post on the blog Science is for Kids. 

The Materials

  • Plastic zip-close bag, gallon or quart size
  • Several sharpened pencils
  • Pitcher filled with water
  • Bucket
  • Eye protection

The Process

  1. Set up a space in the store to present the experiment so there is room for several observers and an assistant to help you.
  2. Fill the bag halfway with water and zip it closed.
  3. Holding the bag over the empty bucket, push a pencil through the water-filled portion of the bag so it comes out both sides. Don’t push the pencil all the way through.
  4. Invite an assistant or two to push their own pencils through the bag until the bag has as many pencils as possible through it without it leaking. Offer volunteers goggles or other eye protection for Step 4 and Step 5.
  5. Hold the bag over the bucket again and ask a brave volunteer to remove a pencil. Tip: When the weather is warm, host this experiment outside and have one volunteer hold the bag over your head while another pulls out a pencil. Add a towel to your materials list!
  6. Explain why the water doesn’t leak out until the pencils are pulled out.
  7. Print out the materials list and instructions so kids can recreate the experiment with their families at home. Consider offering a discount to kids who purchase all the materials from the store that day.

The Science

“The baggie is made of polymers that stretch and separate just enough to allow the pencils to pass through. It reminds me of putting a pencil through a sweater. The strands of yarn are pushed aside but the weave of the sweater hugs the pencil. These polymers behave in the same way. The polymers are permanently separated, [which] is why the water will pour out if the pencils are pushed through.” —Sarah Winchell, Science is for Kids

For more ideas on experiments to recreate in your store, check out these resources.

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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