Relief Teaching Ideas

Sharing ideas to help make relief teaching fun, enjoyable, and meaningful.

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Black Pepper Science Trick

Here’s another easy but impressive science lesson that’s been around for a long time. Easy to replicate both at home & in the classroom.

All you need is:
Black Pepper
Bowl or plate
Dish Detergent


– Pour water into a plate or bowl.
-Shake some pepper onto the water.

-Dip your finger into the pepper and water. Nothing happens.

– Dip a different finger in (secretly dip it into some dish detergent before doing the trick).
-Watch as the pepper rushes to the edges of the bowl.


When you add detergent to water the surface tension of the water is lowered. Water usually beads up (you can show this to students by dropping some water on a coin) but when the surface tension is lowered, the water wants to spread out. As the water spreads out/flattens in the bowl, the pepper that is floating on top of the water is carried to the outer edge of the bowl.

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Amazing Balancing Can


This science trick is so simple, but so much fun. It’s also easy for students to replicate at home.

-Two empty 375ml cans
-Approx 100ml of water

-Secretly pour about 100mls of water into one can.
-Have a student try to balance the other empty can tilted on its bottom rim. It is impossible.
-Then amaze them, by easily balancing your ‘magic’ can on its bottom rim (they don’t need to know it has water in it).

It works because the water adds weight to the bottom of the can, changing its centre of gravity and allowing it to balance in otherwise impossible ways.

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Colour Changing Milk

Was the classroom teacher unexpectedly away & unable to leave set work? Can you see that science is one lesson that is usually scheduled for the day?
This is an easy science experiment that I originally saw on the Steve Spangler website. It is suitable for all age levels – these photos were taken while I was doing this activity with my 2 year old!

Head down to the cafeteria or canteen & see if you can buy some milk. You should also be able to find suitable containers, food dye & a little dish soap from the neighbouring classroom teachers.

Colour Changing Milk

A shallow bowl, plastic plate or a tray (like a cookie baking tray)
Food colouring (at least 3 different colours)
Whole milk – low fat milk will not work for this experiment
Liquid dish washing soap

-Carefully pour the milk into the tray so that it just covers the bottom.
-Add about 6-8 drops of different coloured food colouring onto the milk in different spots.
-Add about 5 drops of the liquid soap onto the drops of food colouring and watch what happens. (You could also dip a cotton bud soaked in dish liquid.)

The main job of dish soap it to go after fat and break it down. Usually the fat is on dishes from the food we eat, but fat is also in whole milk. When you drop the liquid soap onto the tray, it tries to break down the fat in the milk. While it is doing that, it causes the colours to scatter and mix creating a colourful display.

– Does the shape of the tray affect the reaction? Give groups of students different shaped/sized containers to try it out.
– Is the result different when you drop the food colouring around the edge of the tray? In the middle?
– Are the results different with low fat milk? Flavoured milk?

Have students write up the experiment, illustrate & label the results.