Monday, December 21, 2009


Our group at the library had a terrific time getting exceptionally messy while exploring Liquids. Each parent/child pair were given three mystery liquids, a dropper, and wax paper. We took a drop of each liquid and put it on the wax paper to see what it would do. One liquid made a high dome, one was flat, and one spread out only a little. Then came the magic. We put each of the three liquids in a jar together. They magically separated in to three layers yo can see above.

We then tried dropping things in to the liquids to see what would happen. We tried buttons, glitter, and cork. The cork floated at the top, the buttons dropped so they floated on the bottom layer and the glitter seems to float on top of each of the three layers!

Our mystery liquids were: water with a bit of red food coloring, corn syrup, and vegetable oil.

Then we got really messy by making something called Goop or Oobleck depending on your recipe. I call it a non-Newtonian fluid. This substance is neither a liquid or a solid but takes on characteristics of both. Liquids will conform to the shape of the container they are in and solids stay in their own shape. Here's the secret recipe: 1 box of corn starch and 1.5 cups of water.

We all touched the corn starch and some water before mixing. When we first put the water in, the corn starch was HARD to stir. The slower you stirred the easier it was. Once it was all mixed, we played in it. If you slap or squeeze the mixture, it will act like a solid. If you move slowly with it, it acts like a liquid.

These area great experiments that you can do with your whole family. If you want to play with liquids even more, here are some other ideas to inspire you.

Science words: hard, smooth, slimy, slippery, density

What liquid is this? Try putting sugar water, plain water and white vinegar into small jars or bottles that can be capped. Can you look at the liquids and tell what they are? If you shake them, are they different? If you open them, can you tell what they are? What senses did you use?

Compare and contrast different juice. Pour orange juice, tomato or V8 juice, and apple juice into clear glasses. What do you notice about them? How are they different. If you close your eyes, can you use your sense of touch to figure out which juice is which?

Solid versus liquid. What would happen if you put an ice cube in a container? Does it take the shape of the container or stay as a cube? What happens if you let it melt – does it take the shape of the container now?

Play with volume. Grab some containers and head to the tub. How many of the smallest containers of water does it take to fill the largest container? If you pour the water out of a container, does it have a shape? Are bubbles liquid? Do they act like water?


(Note: there are dozens of books with the title: Solid, liquid and gas. Most are pretty good and available at the library.)
Solid, liquid or gas? By Sally Hewett
Solids, liquids, and gases by Carol Lindeen
Solids, liquids, and gases by John Farden
Liquids by Jim Mezzanote

1 comment:

  1. I love the photograph of your jar showing the different layers of liquids -- it's a great way to show their differences in density. When I worked for a state environmental agency, we used to use a display like that to explain groundwater contamination. Gasoline, like the vegetable oil, floats on top of an aquifer. But chloronated hydrocarbons sink to the bottom of a water table, similar to the corn syrup. (But not quite the same, since corn syrup CAN mix with the water and doesn't separate out completely.)