Let’s Be Scientists!

Children will learn about scientists as community helpers and conduct an experiment.

Lesson Objective

Children will learn about scientists and conduct an experiment using vinegar and baking soda.


What You'll Need

  • Vinegar – approximately ¼ cup per child
  • Baking soda – approximately 2 Tablespoons per child
  • Small plastic cups – 2 for each child
  • Plastic spoons – 1 for each child
  • Pipettes – 1 for each child
  • Tall, clear, narrow container like a flower vase
  • Chart paper and marker

What To Do

  1. Begin with a conversation about scientists. They are very curious people. They have many questions and do experiments to find answers to their questions. 
  2. Show the children the baking soda and vinegar in their original containers. Have you ever seen these before?  Where have you seen these items? What do they smell like? What do they feel like? (Refer to the questions in the Guiding Student Inquiry section.)
  3. Let’s make a list of our questions. We can do experiments to find the answers to some of our questions.
  4. How can we get a small amount of baking soda into our cups?
  5. Give each child a small cup, plastic spoon, and pipette.
  6. Allow the children to add one spoonful of baking soda to their cups, then add one squeeze of vinegar from the pipette.
  7. As the children observe the reaction, pay close attention to their responses. Use their responses to guide your support of their observations and learning. Use the questions provided in the Guiding Student Inquiry section.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Have you ever met a scientist?
  • Scientists invented many of the things that we use every day. Do you see anything in the classroom that you think a scientist might have invented?
  • Where do you think scientists work? 
  • What kind of equipment do you think a scientist uses?
  • How can we add a small amount of vinegar to our baking soda?
  • What do you think will happen when we mix the baking soda and vinegar?
  • What happened when you did that?
  • What does the mixture smell like?
  • What do you think would happen if we did it again and added more vinegar?
  • What do you think would happen if we did it again and added more baking soda?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Children can repeat this experiment several times. Ask them if they think the experiment would work if we added food coloring to the vinegar. What if we tried different powders? What if we warmed up the vinegar first? What if we cooled it down first? Encourage the children to generate their hypotheses and give them the opportunity to test them.
  • Another related experiment to try: pour some vinegar into an empty plastic soda bottle and place some baking soda into a deflated balloon. Fit the balloon snugly over the mouth of the bottle and slowly tilt it up so that the baking soda falls into the bottle. What happens to the balloon?
  • Add empty plastic vinegar bottles and empty baking soda boxes to the science/discovery center or the dramatic play area. Include white button down shirts to use as lab coats, goggles (swim goggles are fine), turkey basters, a variety of containers, magnifying glasses, scale, etc.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to combine the ingredients and observe the reaction? 
  • Did children understand that combining the vinegar with baking soda created the reaction?
  • Did children generate at least one question or one hypothesis during the exploration?


Did You Know?

Scientists are very curious people. They have many questions and they do experiments to find the answers to their questions. They ask questions using words such as why, where, and how. Scientists also hypothesize (have ideas about things and then do experiments to see if they are correct) and make predictions (use their experience and knowledge to guess what might happen when trying something). Scientists work in a variety of businesses and career fields. Scientists are involved in making things like medicine, food, paint, toys, and personal care products like soap and make-up.

Baking soda, a common household product, has the chemical name sodium bicarbonate. Vinegar, another common household product, is a combination of water and acetic acid. Both items contain chemicals and when you combine them, there is a chemical reaction. When the vinegar and baking soda are mixed together in this experiment, a new chemical, called carbonic acid is made. As soon as it is formed, the carbonic acid begins to decompose (break down into simpler parts) and become a gas (carbon dioxide). The carbon dioxide gas then creates bubbles.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • scientist – a scientist is a person who studies nature and does experiments with things to learn about how the world works.
  • fizz – sound of bubbles escaping from a liquid; sound that soda makes when you open a bottle.
  • gas – scientists group things as solids, liquids, and gases. Gases often have some air in them and move around quickly when they are heated up.
  • combine – when you put two or more things together and mix or blend them, you are combining them.
  • mix – to put different things together so that the parts become one.
  • reaction – a reaction is the response to something that has been done. If you push a ball and it rolls, the rolling is a reaction.

Lesson Tips

  • For maximum “eruption” (and maximum mess), try the experiment again using the tall, narrow container.
  • When the larger eruption is complete, help the children compare and contrast the smaller eruptions they created and the larger one you did as a group. How were they different and why?
  • Some children may be sensitive to the odor of vinegar, invite them to smell it, but do not insist that they smell or touch it.
  • The reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda is very exciting, but harmless. Some children might need reassurance that it is safe.
  • You may want to cover the table with a plastic covering or newspaper for easier clean-up.


  • What is a Scientist? By Barbara Lehn
  • What is Science? By Rebecca Kai Dotlich
  • Meet Einstein by Mariela Kleiner

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS