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Chemistry Holiday Hoopla!

Jen Black
Chemistry Product Manager

November/December 2015

Looking for ways to keep your students’ attention focused on chemistry class and not on the upcoming winter break? Delight your students with these holiday chemical demonstrations!


Conduct these activities in accordance with established laboratory safety practices, including appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, chemical splash goggles, and lab coats or aprons. Ensure that students understand and adhere to these practices. Know and follow all federal, state, and local regulations as well as school district guidelines for the disposal of laboratory wastes. Students should not eat, drink, or chew gum in the lab and should wash their hands before and after entering or leaving the lab.

Silvered Ornaments

Silver can be plated onto the interior surface of a glass vial via a redox reaction. Dextrose is oxidized to gluconic acid, and silver ions are reduced to metallic silver. This demo can be used in the classroom during discussions of redox reactions, Lewis acids and bases, organic structures, complexes, and stoichiometry.


Keep acetone away from heat, sparks, and flame. Keep ammonium nitrate away from clothing and other combustible materials. Sodium hydroxide causes skin and eye burns; avoid contact with skin, eyes, and clothing. The waste products from this activity can form explosive silver compounds. After the demonstration, mix the silver waste produced in this activity in a saturated sodium chloride solution to produce stable silver chloride. The mirrored silver vial made in this activity is for decorative purposes only and should not be used for food or drink.


  • Acetone
  • 0.5 M Silver Nitrate
  • 1.5 M Ammonium Nitrate (prepare fresh for each demo)
  • Dextrose
  • 3 M Sodium Hydroxide
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Disposable Pipets
  • Glass Vials, 2 dram
  • Beaker, 600 mL
  • Glass Stir Rod
  • Deionized Water
  • Tap Water


  1. Put on safety glasses and gloves.
  2. Combine about 100 mL of tap water and 40 g of sodium chloride in a 600-mL beaker. Stir to dissolve most of the salt. This beaker of saltwater serves as the waste container for all silver-containing waste.
  3. Prepare a 5% dextrose solution by adding 30 mL of deionized water to 1.5 g of dextrose. Prepare the ammonium nitrate.
  4. Using a pipet, transfer about 2 mL of acetone to the vial, and secure the lid. Shake the vial to distribute the acetone and cover the interior of the vial. Remove the lid, empty the vial into a waste container, and allow the lid and vial to air dry.
  5. Using a pipet, transfer 2.0 mL of silver nitrate to the vial.
  6. Using a pipet, transfer 2.0 mL of ammonium nitrate to the vial.
  7. Using a pipet, transfer 2.0 mL of dextrose solution to the vial.
  8. Using a pipet, transfer 2.0 mL of sodium hydroxide to the vial.
  9. Put the lid on the vial, and swirl the vial for about 2 minutes to distribute the solution over the entire interior surface of the vial. You should begin to see a silver coating form on the inside of the vial.
  10. After swirling for 2 minutes, remove the lid from the vial, and pour the vial’s contents into the waste beaker of saltwater. Important: To prevent formation of explosive silver compounds, it is important that the waste container contain a saturated sodium chloride solution. See step 4.
  11. Rinse the inside of the vial with tap water and pour the contents into the waste beaker. Allow the inside of the bottle to dry before sealing lid.
  12. The silver vials can easily be strung into holiday decorations using twine, wire, or string.

Holiday Traffic Light Reaction

This demonstration is a twist on the classic blue bottle reaction, and it can be used to review reaction rates. The indicator in this demonstration, indigo carmine, is yellow when fully reduced and green when fully oxidized. Indigo carmine also has an intermediate state between its reduced and oxidized states, during which it has a red color.


Use caution when swirling solutions with indigo carmine. This dye will stain skin and clothing. To prevent spills, place a solid rubber stopper in the flask and press downward with the palm of your hand while swirling the flask to add oxygen.


  • Erlenmeyer Flask, 500 mL
  • Sodium Hydroxide, 5.0 g
  • Glucose, 12.0 g
  • Deionized Water, 300 mL
  • Rubber Stopper
  • Indigo Carmine Indicator, 1%


  1. Place 5.0 g sodium hydroxide in the flask.
  2. Add 300 mL of deionized water and swirl until dissolved.
  3. Add 12.0 g glucose and swirl until dissolved.
  4. Add 25 drops of indigo carmine indicator and gently swirl to distribute evenly.
  5. Replace stopper and leave flask undisturbed. Solution will turn yellow.
  6. Swirl the stoppered flask gently; it should turn red.
  7. Swirl the stoppered flask vigorously; it should turn green.
  8. Stop swirling the flask and place it on a sheet of white paper to see the solution return to red/yellow.
  9. This demo may be repeated several times. Remove the stopper briefly if needed to introduce more oxygen into the flask.
  10. The amount of glucose can be varied in multiple flasks to demonstrate how concentration affects reaction rate.

Extension activities

Further explore fun chemistry activities with these kits.

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