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Science Behind - WHAT’S A PENNY MADE OF?

Do you know what that penny in your pocket is made of? In the early days, a penny was made of 100% pure copper. Over time, its composition was changed slightly to 95% copper, 5 % zinc and perhaps trace amounts of tin. At some point a penny was 88% copper and 12% nickel. However after 1982, the composition of the penny was changed significantly to 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. These copper-plated pennies are still being minted—and they are probably the pennies in your pocket today.

Recycling Copper
Enjoy the beautiful colors of copper with this copper cycle lab! Students will reclaim copper through a variety of chemical reactions.

Copper, Silver and Gold Analysis of Alloy 
Watch your students be chemists as they make their very own alloy in lab!

The Two-Cent Chemical Reaction
Watch this colorful demo as two pennies react in nitric acid. Observe a fantastic color spectrum from blue to pink.

Copper Mining
Engage in a real-world mining activity and build a complete environmental science lesson around it.

The Hollow Penny
Have fun studying the composition of pennies pre and post 1982. Challenge students to determine the difference between the pennies. This activity can also be used to teach activity series.

Water Drops on a Penny
Study the surface tension of water with this fun activity. Challenge students to see who can get the most drops on a penny!

Turning Copper Pennies into “Silver” and “Gold”!
Students will enjoy turning an ordinary penny into “silver” and then “gold”! Students can study alloys with this colorful activity.

If you have 10 minutes...

If you have an entire class period...

If you have more time…