Child-Led STEAM Density Investigation

If you are looking for a science experiment with a detailed list of ingredients, measurements and methods…. This is not it. This child-led STEAM density investigation was completely thought up by my 8-year-old. Sure, there are a million different versions of the density experiment out there on the internet, we’ve even done a few different types ourselves (mostly oil & water only), but my daughter developed the ingredient list, decided how to use the ingredients and extended the activity with only adult supervision, not intervention. (We did step in when she dripped the red food coloring…)

Child-Led STEAM Density Investigation. A child directed version of the old classic. I love the wonder in their eyes as they investigate density!

Materials she chose for the STEAM Density Investigation:

Two Glasses

Water

Corn Syrup

Molasses

Oil

Liquid Food Coloring

Jaida took a look through the kitchen cupboards for different types of liquids. If you are not doing this in a home setting, you could provide a variety of liquids and let the children choose which ones to use.

She decided on water, corn syrup, molasses and oil. We’d never experimented with molasses and corn syrup before, so she had no previous knowledge of those liquids to build on.

She has done previous investigations with oil and water, so she knew they wouldn’t combine, but hadn’t done them in a layered setting before.

She selected two food colors. Because she had two cups, of course.

Child-Led STEAM Density Investigation. A child directed version of the old classic. I love the wonder in their eyes as they investigate density!

In the first glass we added the liquids in the following order: water, corn syrup, oil, food coloring, then molasses.

Child-Led STEAM Density Investigation. A child directed version of the old classic. I love the wonder in their eyes as they investigate density!

Adding the molasses was so cool to watch as it created a stream right down the center of the liquids and then pooled into bubbles on top of the corn syrup.

Child-Led STEAM Density Investigation. A child directed version of the old classic. I love the wonder in their eyes as they investigate density!

In the second glass, she did water, molasses, oil, food coloring and then the corn syrup. It was interesting to watch the different way that the food coloring interacted before the corn syrup was added. It sort of looked suspended in the water. Then when she added the corn syrup, the color spread like underwater lava. And then, it snuck its way under the corn syrup.

Child-Led STEAM Density Investigation. A child directed version of the old classic. I love the wonder in their eyes as they investigate density!

She used my camera to take a few pictures. Like my preschooler, she is fantastic with an iPad camera, but it was fun to let her try my camera while I held it.

She got a perfect shot right off the bat, so I’m going to retire now and let her take over the blog…

She created her own math problem (with no prompting) to count how many drops of food coloring she added as she tried to make purple in each of the cups. Only to realize that the colors would not quickly mix on their own, so she decided to use a craft stick to stir them.

And since she loves to draw pictures of everything & it’s a great way to get her writing, she drew a picture of her results and labeled the different liquids.

Child-Led STEAM Density Investigation. A child directed version of the old classic. I love the wonder in their eyes as they investigate density!

We enjoyed our density investigation and one of the glasses is currently sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for Jaida to discover the answer to her next investigation….

“Will the oil turn into a solid if we leave it on the counter?”

What child-led investigations have you done lately? I’d love to hear about them!

density science experiment STEM investigation featured image

Check out these great posts for more STEM inspiration!!

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