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Science Outreach Activity, Naukuchiatal, India | Yellow Scope blog

Acid or Base? (Aml or Kshar?):
An Outreach Activity in Naukuchiatal, India

by Yellow Scope Science Education Consultant, Meghna Pant

Working with Yellow Scope and volunteering as a science educator at Oregon National Primate Research Center has nurtured my passion for promoting science education. I have also come to realize that organizing hands-on activities to stimulate learning does not always require fancy lab equipment.

Living so far away from India, the home I grew up in, I also aspire to give back when I can. Thus, armed with scientific knowledge and few basic supplies, I decided to initiate some sort of outreach activity during my vacation in India this year.

When Kelly and Marcie heard about my plans, they generously donated a Yellow Scope Acids, Bases and pH kit along with extra supplies to support my cause. What unfurled was an enriching, as well as a humbling experience, for me. Read on to learn more about my outreach story.

Naukuchiatal, India | Yellow Scope blog


Science Where Science is Needed

Nestled in the mountains of the Kumaun region of Uttarakhand, India is a small village called Naukuchiatal. Its namesake lake is a prominent tourist attraction. Clean mountain air, lush green surroundings and pleasant summers make this a coveted place to escape to in an otherwise hot and humid Indian summer.

I am thankful for the day my parents decided to settle down in this village after retirement! Understandably, the factors that contribute to the beauty of this place – its isolation - also limit the educational and employment opportunities.

If families have the money, there are plenty of excellent residential and day schools scattered throughout the region. However, most families cannot afford these private schools. They rely on the affordable government schools, which are doing their best to educate the students, but would do even better with extra funding or other resources.

The educator in me decided to explore running a pilot science program at one of these government schools – Rajkiya Inter College, Naukuchiatal, for grades six to twelve.

Naukuchiatal | Yellow Scope blog


Support and Language Barriers

I knew I needed the support of the teachers if I wanted my small outreach activity and future projects to materialize. My father, a retired professor of electrical engineering, arranged for me to meet with the school principal and teachers.

I floated my idea of incorporating hands-on science activities in the classroom and proposed a set of acid-base chemistry experiments. They were very interested and we decided that the middle school students would benefit the most from this activity. The date and time were fixed and I came away from the meeting feeling encouraged and happy!

The preparation and execution of this outreach activity was more challenging than I initially thought – even with my PhD experience and writing curriculum for Yellow Scope. The language of instruction in this school was Hindi, which is  the official language of India. Even though I grew up in North India and speak Hindi at home, I have never studied science in Hindi.

In school, I studied science in English, and while this helped me easily transition to grad school in USA, it’s a little embarrassing when I view it from a cultural perspective. I had to look up what Acids and Bases are called in Hindi. Acid = “Aml (um-la)” and Base = “Kshar. These two words have now possibly become two of my favorite words in Hindi.

Questions and Excitement

Around 50 unsuspecting children waited for me in the practical lab. They had no idea why they had been called away from their normal classes, but I am sure they were happy about it. There were almost equal numbers of boys and girls in the class. While the teachers explained to the students why I was there, I prepared the samples to test for aml and kshar.

Science Outreach Activity, India |Yellow Scope blog

Before starting the experiment, I did a quick background knowledge check. “Do you know what Aml is?” Few answered, “It taste sour”! “What about kshar?” “It tastes bitter!” “But, how can you tell them apart without tasting?” No answer. “Well, I will show you how you can tell them apart using color changes!”

Science Outreach Activity, India | Yellow Scope blogInterest, amusement and curiosity - I saw it all on their faces. These students had never before done any hands-on science experiments!

I demonstrated how lemon juice turns pinkish-red when you add red cabbage powder solution to it. They were amazed to see that the white laundry detergent turned greenish-blue on reaction with red cabbage solution.

However, I think the thing that piqued their curiosity the most was the red cabbage itself! They took my word for it that cabbages in the United States can be red in color; in India they are only green!

I had foreseen this problem (not being able to buy red cabbages in India for future experiments) and prepared another pH indicator from a kind of black bean, locally known as “bhatt”. This indicator turned pinkish red when mixed with acids and brownish-green when mixed with bases.

The Kids' First Science Experiment

We divided the students in groups of five and set them up with a 6-well plate and a dropper pipette. The wells of the plate contained vinegar, lemon juice, laundry detergent and window cleaner. I went around with the pH indicators (red cabbage juice and bhatt juice) and asked every student to add indicator to one of the wells using the dropper pipette. Then I asked them to tell me what they had aml or kshar -  acid or base?

Black Bean pH indicator | Yellow Scope blog

By the end of the activity, the whole room was filled with the words aml and kshar. Even when the students cleaned their plates and left, the words stayed with me. I hope the students will think of them too whenever they see laundry detergent or eat bhatt.

Overall, this outreach activity was a great learning experience for everyone - students, teachers and me. I now have a better understanding of the scientific background of these students and the resources available to them. I have also been meeting with higher education professionals to discuss steps that can be taken to further promote science education in this region. I am excited about the future!

I am grateful that I was able to share my first outreach experience in India with you all. Who knows if this was the first of many?!


I am grateful to the principal and teachers of Rajkiya Inter College, Naukuchiatal, for allowing me to conduct this activity with their students. I would also like to thank my parents who helped me put my outreach plans into action. And a big shout out to Kelly and Marcie at Yellow Scope for donating supplies that made this activity possible!

 Meghna Pant, PhD
Yellow Scope Science Education Consultant


Thanks for your votes - all 1221 of them!

Thanks to your support, Yellow Scope has been selected as a FedEx Small Business Finalists for 2017. Thank you Yellow Scope community and thank you FedEx! Check out this video we made with their great team!

What's next?

FedEx will choose 10 winners from the 100 finalists. Winners will receive a combination of grant money (up to $25,000 for Grand Prize winners) and FedEx Office print and business services. FedEx started this grant program four years ago to help small businesses grow. We hope to be among the amazing pool of FedEx small business winners. Click here to watch our video application to learn more about how the FedEx grant will help us grow our business and connect more girls to science.

Our gift to you!

As a thank you to our Yellow Scope community for your votes, we're offering 10% off any order from our online store through Sunday April 23, 2017. Use code FEDEXFINALIST. 

At Yellow Scope, we're committed to empowering girls and closing the gender gap in science!

Thank you for supporting us in our mission,
Marcie, Kelly and the Yellow Scope Team




Thanks for your votes - all 7121 of them!

Thanks to your support, Yellow Scope has been named a 2017 American Small Business Champion by SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, with the support of Sam’s Club.

Together you voted for us more 7000 (!) times - confirming what we already knew - our Yellow Scope community is the best! 

SCORE SCORE is rewarding us with a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, specialized training, publicity, and business mentoring. See the full list of the 102 American Small Business Champions here!
We are now in the running to win one of three additional $25,000 grand prizes! This summer, a judging panel of small business experts will select three Grand Champions from the group of 102 Small Business Champions to be announced September 14 at the SCORE Awards Gala. (Fingers crossed!)

You can help us get closer to this goal by sharing our good news on social media using the #bizchampion hashtag.
Yellow Scope shop itemsIn celebration of our Championship win, we're offering 10% off any order from our online store  through Monday April 3, 2017. Use code BIZCHAMPION. 

At Yellow Scope, we're committed to empowering girls and closing the gender gap in science!

Thank you,
Marcie, Kelly and the Yellow Scope Team


The Science of Hugs

February 14, 2017



hug candy valentineIt’s Valentine’s Day! A day all about appreciating the ones we love, which can include giving gifts, having special meals, and spending time together. But none of those would mean as much without a big ol' hug!

Hugs from loved ones and friends make us feel good - we feel more connected and supported. But the benefits don’t stop there.

Science tells us that hugs can actually make us healthier.


For example, hugs make us less stressed. Now, we think of stress as a bad thing, but evolutionarily it’s really quite ingenious. The hormones released during stress help us to be at our peak in fight or flight situations, like running from a lion (back in the old days). Our heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, muscles get energized, and you even think more clearly.

lion causes stressMost of us aren't trying to escape from lions nowadays. Today stress is more likely to be the day to day worries we carry around with us.

Neurologist Robert Sapolsky says, "For 99 percent of the beasts on this planet, stress is about three minutes of screaming in terror after which it’s either over with or you’re over with.  And we turn it on for 30-year mortgages.”

The effects of having our bodies bathed in stress hormones long term are devastating. Along with increased heart rates and prolonged high blood pressure, other nonessential systems get turned off, like your digestion, growth, and notably, your immune system.

When your body is always in high gear, the risks go up for diabetes, digestion issues, heart problems, and susceptibility to illness.


girls hugThe challenge is to find ways to turn off those stress signals and give our bodies a break. Valentine’s Day is a chance to try out one of the best ways – hugging.

Turns out hugs reduce stress both directly, and psychologically. The benefit of hugs may seem obvious on an emotional level, but let's take a look at the science too:

  • Hugs involve putting pressure on the skin, which contains receptors called Pacinian corpuscles. These little bio triggers send signals to a nerve bundle in the brain called the vagus nerve. A hug tells the vagus nerve to slow down the heart, which then decreases blood pressure.

  • Hugging makes us feel part of a supportive social network. According to the World Health Organization, feeling part of a community is a major determinant of health. A recent study shows evidence that hugging conveys social support, which is directly linked to healthier immune systems, and better antibody responses to vaccines. Hugs can literally help to ward off the common cold!

  • Hugging decreases the stress hormone cortisol, calming us down.

    girl hugs dog
  • Hugging triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes feelings of trust, bonding and loyalty. Known affectionately as the ‘cuddle hormone’, this little chemical is the foundation for human connection.
So there you have it:  hugging is good for your health! And for you pet lovers out there, hugging and contact with your pet counts, so take time for cuddles from your dog and cat too!


pH GirlIt's an acid, it's a base ... it's pH Girl!
Faster than a chemical reaction,
Able to turn cabbage into a scientific tool...
Meet Isabel, otherwise known as pH Girl!


When curiosity strikes, Isabel dons her goggles and cape, and in a flash transforms into ... pH Girl!

pH girl's hydrangeasFueled by the power of Hydrogen, pH Girl is always on the lookout for acids and bases. Whether she's planting hydrangeas in the garden, polishing her safety goggles, or baking cupcakes, she can tell you the pH of everyday items faster than you can say "pipette"!



pH girl Did you know that pH stands for the power of Hydrogen?
Hydrogen is an element, one of the building blocks of everything in the universe. Scientists use a piece of equipment called a pH meter to measure the amount of hydrogen ions (H+) in a liquid. This tells them whether the liquid is an acid or a base. Strong acids have lots of H+ ions, weak acids have less, and bases have even less.


If you don't have a pH meter, you can approximate pH using chemical indicators. Red cabbage is a natural acid-base indicator. Pigment chemicals in red cabbage change color when they mix with acids and bases. Red cabbage juice turns red or pink when mixed with acids, and blue or greens when mixed with bases. Pretty cool, right?

pH kitTo do some fun acid-base experiments at home, check out our new Acids, Bases & pH Kit. With pH Girl as their lab partner, girls will have fun uncovering the mysteries of acids and bases all around them! The detailed and creative lab notebook outlines 19+ new and exciting chemistry experiments - with plenty of supplies and ideas for girls to design their own.

So grab your test tubes and get ready to explore your world!

Yellow Scope experiment


Last week, Yellow Scope got to test out some ideas for their much anticipated next kit! And what better focus group than a local Girl Scout troop? Thirteen girls from Portland Oregon had a blast with Marcie and Kelly’s newest idea: testing acids and bases.

Girl Scout excited about scienceGirl Scout excited about scienceMarcie and Kelly could barely get through their introduction before the girls eagerly interjected to share their own experiences at science fairs or home experiments.

One had tested the pH of different soil types provided by her landscaper mother; another worked with dry ice.

When Kelly mentioned her love of high school dissection, the groans of disgust were overpowered by shrieks of excitement: "That sounds so fun!"

“We won’t be doing any dissecting today”
“AWWW!” rang the crowd.

Marcie and Kelly told the girls our culture thinks that science is for boys - how silly is that?  “We want to change that message and show the world that girls are just as capable.” So let’s do this thang.


Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentMarcie asked the girls what they associated with the word ‘chemical’?

“Non-organic food,” said one. A true Portland response. A general negative association was agreed upon. But Marcie and Kelly had chemicals’ back, and explained that we are all made of chemicals, in fact, everything on Earth is made of chemicals!  

Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentNow, what about the word ‘acid’?

“Eating things...”
“Citrus, like fruit.”
“I got citrus in my eyes once, it really hurt!”
“Stomach acid?”

Pretty on point really. Marcie and Kelly then talked a bit about the opposite, bases, then the fun began. And what is more fun than making things change color?


Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentTurns out the liquid from a boiled red cabbage is a great indicator of acids and bases. A chemical in the cabbage called anthocyanin turns different colors when mixed with acids versus bases. The girls cut their own slivers of the underrated vegetable - the tedious boiling was skipped, cooking show style - and they were given the end product of the cabbage 'juice'.

The girls moved to the experiment tables and all got to add the cabbage juice to various liquids, like window cleaner and detergent. First though, like good scientists, they made hypotheses and wrote down their predictions.

Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentSoon paint palettes were filling with liquid testing, and the girls got some good lessons about contamination. Woops. It’s okay, all was salvageable.


After supporting or disproving their hypotheses on which liquids would be acids or bases, they tested where the liquids fell on the pH scale.

pH test papers were passed around in a flurry of nail polished fingers and color matching sheets.

Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentIt was a bit of a chemistry chaos convention there for a while, as the excitement over color changing and pH diagnosing sparked debate and further experimentation.  

They learned some new vocabulary like anthocyanin, chemical, acid/base, pH scale, and pipette.

There were surprising colors, smells, and results...

Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experiment


Afterward, celebratory science cupcakes (made by troop member Piper!) and vegetables in the shape of a human skeleton were distributed among the future scientists, but the talk of science and environmental interest didn’t stop. I kid you not, I heard one group discussing signs of pollution and endangered species.

Girl Scout excited about science

So keep an eye out on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or this site for news on the release of this awesome new chemistry kit!

I do think I can at least offer this word of advice before you bestow your girls with the next kit: stock up on red cabbage (and by stock up we mean buy one red cabbage, which is ‘stocking up’ in the cabbage world.)

(photos by Chelsea Schuyler,
shown by permission from parents)


We want girls to have all the opportunities that the world presents. Opportunity is one of the reasons we are passionate about keeping girls interested in STEM. It’s probably common knowledge that jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) often pay well, and that many STEM fields are growing. But did you know that the average wage for all STEM occupations is $85,570, nearly double the average for all occupations ($47,230)? AND, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, only five out of the 100 STEM jobs have wages below the average for all occupations.

Here is a list of the highest paying STEM jobs from the U.S. Department of Labor


A lead character in an animated movie that's a girl? Hollywood science that is relatively accurate? It sounds like INSIDE OUT might possibly be the must-see movie this summer. Historically, to be a female lead in a mainstream American animated movie, the unspoken rule has been that you had to wear a crown. Now “Inside Out,” Pixar’s new release, will introduce the studio’s first non-royal female lead. Riley is a regular kid whose emotions (embodied by Amy Poehler -- OMG Amy Poehler! -- Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Phyllis Smith) are thrown into tumult when her family moves to a new city, and she begins to grow up. This is big news considering the dearth of female characters in the studio’s output: one lead in 14 movies, before this one. However, we were a little disappointed that none of the movie posters feature Riley. It seems that Pixar was not ready to feature a non-royal female lead in their marketing materials. Hmmmmmm.

We are definitely excited about the science that will be in the movie. According to NPR, the filmmakers get a lot of scientific details right. Inside Riley's head, you see memories get locked in during sleep, experiences transformed into abstractions, and guards protecting the subconscious.

Opening June 19th. #InsideOut #AmyPoehler #OMGAmyPoehler #Bechdel #GDIGIM


Bill Nye Encourages Young Science Gals and Guys at National Science Competition

Bill Nye the Science Guy expressed his thoughts at the Toshiba USA /National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision on the need for gender inclusion in STEM, saying, “Half the humans are girls and women, so we want half the engineers and scientists to be girls and women.” We love you, Bill Nye.

Read full article at the Amy Poehler's Smart Girls page here: 


At the end of 2014, we ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise capital to get Yellow Scope up and running. And we're happy to report that we were successful! We surpassed our goal of $25,000 by over 30%. Thanks to all of our amazing Kickstarter supporters for backing us at the very start. We've just finished fulfilling our Kickstarter orders in the past month. And now we are open for business here on our website. We're posting content from our Kickstarter page here in case you missed it. There's lots of good information about our mission and our product. Thanks for checking it out.


Change the message. Change her world.

"Science is not for girls." That's the wrong message for our girls to hear. We know that inside every girl is a scientist, but over time, girls pick up on societal cues that tell them that science is not for them - it's for boys. This message is reinforced in the toy aisle, where chemistry and physics kits are marketed to boys and pseudoscience "spa" kits are marketed to girls.

Girls lose confidence. And miss opportunities.

In 4th grade, most girls say they like science. But by 8th grade this number drops dramatically as girls lose confidence in their ability to do science. This trend continues beyond school. Although women make up 48% of the total workforce, they make up only 24% of science jobs.

Science is for girls. 

At Yellow Scope, we want to build girls' confidence in science before they fall off the curve. Research shows that girls learn best when they can approach projects in a creative and open-ended way. That's why we designed our kits to engage both the scientific and creative minds of girls. The experiments are rigorous, and there is plenty of room for girls to draw their observations and doodle their ideas in their very own lab notebook.

STEM and the leaky pipeline.

STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. There has been a lot of talk about the gender imbalance in STEM and the "leaky pipeline" - a term used to describe the loss of girls and women at every step along the path to STEM careers. We want to fix the leak early, while girls are still confident and enthusiastic about science.

Science Kit Cover
Science Kit Cover

Our kit:

  • is targeted for girls 8 - 12 years old, when interest in science is most vulnerable
  • aligns with Next Generation Science Standards
  • includes supplies for dozens of experiments

Key concepts:

  • Molecules and molecular motion
  • Chemical reactions
  • Temperature in chemistry

Included in the kit:

  • Lab notebook (which is really a lot more than just a lab notebook...) It's a sketch pad - reference guide - doodle book - and lab safety & instruction manual. In a nutshell, it's a place to learn, experiment, wonder, design, and create. And it's really cool. (See photos below.)
  • Safety goggles
  • 3 Beakers
  • Thermometer
  • Timer
  • Stirring rod
  • Candle
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Red, yellow, and blue colored dye
  • Red, yellow, and blue citric acid/sodium bicarbonate tablets
  • Mini pencil with eraser and logo
  • Chalk cloth/lab mat (phthalate-free)
  • Chalk
  • Collectible chemistry badge
Earn Your Collectible Chemistry Badge. Future kits (Biology badge, anyone?) will come with different badges that girls can pin on their backpacks or lab coats.
Earn Your Collectible Chemistry Badge. Future kits (Biology badge, anyone?) will come with different badges that girls can pin on their backpacks or lab coats.
Lab Notebook Cover
Lab Notebook Cover
Lab Notebook Excerpts
Lab Notebook Excerpts

Real science girls doing real science:

Lab Mat Included in Kit (Phew!)
Lab Mat Included in Kit (Phew!)

What's Currently on the Market?

We dare you to Google "science kits for girls" images. Go ahead, open another window and do it. We did this the other night, and here's what came up: 

Screenshot of Google search for "Science Kits for Girls" Images - Can you see us in the bottom right corner?
Screenshot of Google search for "Science Kits for Girls" Images - Can you see us in the bottom right corner?

There are a couple of good kits that come up in the search -- including Roominate, which is a really great toy (go Alice and Bettina!) And we're really excited that our kit showed up. However, take a look at the overwhelming majority of the science kits that are targeted specifically at girls. This is what the toy aisle offers our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, and friends. The world may tell girls that they can be anything and do anything. But the real message is that they should focus on their appearances, and that rigorous science is not for them.

Reward Details:

Artwork for our limited edition buttons
Artwork for our limited edition buttons
The lab coat embroidered with our yellow microscope
The lab coat embroidered with our yellow microscope
These are the three science girls (and their lab rat friend) that you can help name in the NAME THE SCIENCE GIRL reward
These are the three science girls (and their lab rat friend) that you can help name in the NAME THE SCIENCE GIRL reward

Reasons to support us on Kickstarter today:

  • You will be the first to own the Foundation Chemistry kit. Our product is unique; there are no products currently on the market like this. 
  • You will send the message that girls can do anything - especially real science. 
  • You will help get real science into the hands of your daughter/niece/granddaughter/friend. 
  • You will help fix the leaky pipeline, so girls in STEM will become women in STEM. 
  • Kickstarter perks! Need we say more? 
  • We ask for your pledge so that we can get volume discounts, finish up the graphic design for the lab notebook, and cover start-up printing costs.
  • If this really takes off, your pledges will help start us on the path of a whole line of science kits for girls. After our Foundation Chemistry Kit, we plan to develop a series of kits in different subject areas - Physics, Biology, Earth Science, Coding, and more. For each subject area, we will create several kits on different topics, and at different price points. As a backer, you will receive exclusive updates on our new products.
  • If you believe in our mission, and you want to change her world, please share this on Facebook using the convenient button just below our video at the top. 
  • And please tweet this to the world. (Handy hashtags are #girlsinSTEM #womeninSTEM #STEM #MakerEd #LikeAGirl and maybe you could throw in #GirlPower)
  • Thank you for considering our project!

Yellow Scope in the News:

Founders Marcie and Kelly in the Portland Tribune

A Special Shout Out to:

  • Portland Development Commission for the Startup PDX Challenge Grant
  • MercyCorps Northwest for their support of small businesses by offering great business classes and resources
  • Debbie Sterling for blazing the trail in the girls' toy aisle
  • Alex Marler for her amazing design work
  • Themios Carabas, Jon & Brendan Hays, and Paige West for getting our website up and running
  • Lindsay Nelson and Theme Dragon for creating our animated video
  • Bill Horton for his business acumen
  • Laurie Price for her support and advice for our mission-driven startup
  • Michael Schmitt for his photography and cinematography
  • Amy Hamden, party-planner extraordinaire at Parker+Paige Events, for her creative brilliance 
  • Jeff Lovinger for his legal advice and for writing up our many Yellow Scope contracts
  • A pre-emptive thank you to Chip McCollum for delivering some of the Lablandia Chemistry Kits by bike

Additional thanks to other special contributors:

Alameda Science Team, Kirsten Allen, Jef Atwood, Adeline Backer, Marnie Backer, Diana Bianco, Veronica Bianco, Christine Boyd, Matt Compton, Maximum Compton, McKenzie Compton, Kristina Day, Amy Donohue, Lena Dutta, Manju Dutta, Pat Farley, Dave Fierek, Diane Fleck, Jennifer Heilbronner, Mike Heilbronner, Kathy King, RJ Kirkland, Ann Kollrack, Billy Lau, Alice Lovinger, Audrey Lovinger, Darcy Lovinger, Sharon Lovinger, Adam McCollum, Hannah McCollum, Michaela McCollum, Alison Mollet, Dave Mollet, Katie Morrison, Katie O'Dell, Reed Odette, Erica Perez, Donnette Sands, Kurt Sands, Greg Shaw, Leah Starr, and Trupp HR.

*** Sorry, no shipping outside of the U.S. and Canada at this time. Kits will be delivered by March 2015. *** 

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