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Teaching Density with Lava Lamps
I love science experiments! It doesn’t matter what area of science – physical, life, or earth – we are working on, I try to find a way to get something concrete into the students’ hands!
We talk a little about density when we begin our physical science unit focusing on matter. I had seen many awesome science experiments about density- such as stacking different liquids of different densities on top of one another in a cup with different colors. That’s all good, but I wanted something different. Sometimes it can be frustrating as a teacher when you hear the grumblings of your students, “We did this last year” or “I’ve already done this.” I guess I’m just always on a quest brainstorming how can I illustrate the same point – differently!
This year we created homemade (fake but so darn cute!) lava lamps to illustrate density. I am a huge Dr. Pepper drinker (I really need to stop but I’m sure they put something in it that makes me crave it!) so I started collecting empty bottles (it was all for science!). I tore off those labels (there goes my 10 cent refund…) and cleaned them out. Then I gathered baby oil, club soda (though vegetable oil and water works just fine), food coloring (red for Valentine’s Day), some glitter (because EVERY elementary teacher just loves glitter), and Alka Seltzer.
We filled a bottle with about 2 cups of baby oil, then about 1 cup of club soda. Then we placed a few drops of food coloring in it (to see the “lava” better) and some glitter for fun (optional). We discussed the density of oil hanging out on top of the water before we entered the fizzing action of Alka Seltzer. After taking our Alka-Seltzer and breaking it into a few pieces, we quickly dropped one piece in and observed. Then we discussed what happened and why.
I have for you this entire fun activity all ready to go in a nice little tabbed booklet (because they are cute too!) for FREE! This free booklet is perfect for a science center or whole group activity, and because time is always so short in the elementary classroom, I have even integrated reading and writing activities into this science activity!
Students explore the vocabulary of density, read a written piece about lava lamps and its relationship to density (at TWO different reading levels to differentiate it) and answer text questions, journal to a thought provoking question, and more!
You can totally download it and get started tomorrow (after you run to the store or raid the school science closet)! Click here (or on the picture below) to download it!
May your density science experiment bubble with excitement!