Meanwhile, the second chapter is "How the Elements Combine." Proust first figured out that chemicals combine by mass in definite proportions. Dalton realized that some chemicals combine in several but definite proportions, a fact that fit in well with his proposition of matter being made up of atoms. Next Gay-Lussac showed that gases combined in the same proportions by volume, leading to his law stating that equal volumes of gases have equal numbers of atoms (Avogadro figured out how many.)
This was all well and good, but I was not sure how much they got from this chapter. I did not have the materials the book listed to carry out electrolysis. I did an Internet search and found that some people used pencils with both ends sharpened, making holders from Styrofoam trays or cardboard, all powered with a 9V battery. (See here and here.) I wanted to capture the gas as was done in the book so we could test them, so this is what I did:
I filled a measuring cup with water and added a teaspoon of salt. I attached a piece of aluminum foil to one end of two wires with alligator clips. I filled the test tubes with water and placed them over the foil pieces, using the top of the test tube rack to hold them upright. Finally I connected the other end of the wires to each terminal of a 9V battery. As you can see at the top of the test tubes gas began to collect.
My boys knew water was H2O, and that meant 2 molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen. I explained that electrolysis was "splitting" water with electricity. I posed the question, "How do you know which gas is collecting in which tube?" We went through the chapter again. Proust and Dalton both worked with mass while our experiment was based on volume. We discussed more about Gay-Lussac's law and asked how definite proportions relate to the creation of water with H and O. The wheels started turning and they then knew for certain that the tube with more gas had to be the hydrogen.
I do suggest a lantern battery for this, though, because the 9V ran out when only a fourth of the hydrogen tube was filled. But I am actually a bit glad. I pulled it out of the water, let the water fall into the measuring cup, lit a match and put it into the mouth of the tube. The loud whistle and pop was impressive enough to prove that indeed it was hydrogen.