We've all experienced the cooling sensation in the mouth after having eaten a mint, but have you ever wondered why that happens? Give this experiment a go and find out if mint actually cools things down, or if it's just an illusion!
A selection of mints (polos, mentos, toothpaste, or just ordinary mints), a few cups of room temperature water, and a thermometer.
1) Ask the kids to predict whether or not they think that adding mints into the water is going to cool it down, or if the temperature will remain the same.
2) Use your thermometer to measure the temperature of the waters, and then write these down on a piece of paper.
3) Drop several of each type of mint into each cup, and let them sit for between 5-10 minutes.
4) Re-take the temperature of water in each cup, and write these down.
5) Drop a further couple of mints into the cups and wait another 5 minutes. Test the water again and record any changes.
After having left the mints in the water for a short period of time, you should have found that the temperature did not decrease at all and that it pretty much stayed the same for the water in each of the cups. Discuss this result with the kids. Was it what they were expecting, or the total opposite?
If that's the case, then you may be wondering why mint causes a cooling sensation in our mouths when it doesn't actually have a physical effect. There's a very simple explanation for this. Menthol within the mint causes a reaction on your tongue and sends a message to your brain that tricks your sensory nerves into thinking that your tongue is cold, or that there is something cold in your mouth when in reality, it's just an illusion!
There are various different ways that you can further explore this science experiment before going over the results.
For one, you could try using hot water instead of room temp, and let the kids see if they'll get different results than the first test. Alternatively, you could leave the mints in for a longer period of time and see if the kids will predict that this has any effect.
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