Teaching Chemical Changes in the Elementary Classroom

Sodium Bicarbonate, Calcium Chloride and Phenol Red

Let’s go over the procedure first and then we will discuss what is happening.

1. In a quart baggie, place sodium bicarbonate(1 tsp) in one corner and calcium chloride(1 tsp) in the other.
2. Lay the bag on its side and place a small cup (medicine cup size – 1 oz) of phenol red in center of the bag. Be careful not allow the any on the chemicals to mix yet. Seal the bag
3. Gently pour the phenol red where it spills into each corner. Do not mix the two corners yet.
4. Have the students feel each corner and make observations. Continue the observations for a few minutes.
5. Pick the bag up and gently move the bage side to side, mixing the chemicals. What happens?


The side of the bag with calcium chloride becomes warm. The calcium chloride dissolves forming calcium and chloride ions. The release of heat (exothermic) is a result of the calcium chloride dissolving and not a chemical reaction.

When the sodium bicarbonate dissolves to form sodium, hydrogen and carbonate. It becomes cool (endothermic). The baking soda absorbs heat in order to dissolve. This is not a chemical change.

When the two sides are mixed, calcium carbonate is formed which is insoluble. Also formed are water and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide (gas) causes the bag to inflate. When the carbon dioxide dissolves in the liquid, carbonic acid is formed. This change in pH causes the phenol red to turn yellow. A chemical change has now occurred.

Remember to have the students use all lab safety measures. If the bag becomes over inflated, release some of the gas.

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