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Program Overview: STEAM Kids - Properties of Water

Did you miss our summer STEAM Kids series? Or do you want to replicate any of the activities at home? Check out this overview of our STEAM Kids: Properties of Water program!

This program was originally presented at the library on June 23, 2022. It is geared for ages 5-8.

See the full PowerPoint for this program here.

The weekly kids program for the 2022 Summer Reading Program was STEAM Kids. Each session was based on a different aspect of the summer theme of “Oceans of Possibilities.”

The first STEAM Kids session was all about the properties of water. What is water? What does water do? How can it do the things it can? We discussed these questions as a group before moving to different activity stations. You can recreate this program at home through the following activities.

Discussion Question: What is water?
Before you begin, list out everything you already know about water. Ask your learners the question, “What is water?” As a follow up question, you can clarify by asking pointed questions. For example, “Where does water come from?”

Video: Where Does Water Come From? | Ecology for Kids by SciShow Kids
Before moving on, share at least three things that you have learned from the video.

Presentation: The First Three Properties of Water
We discussed five properties of water. While the complete scientific picture of water can be quite complex, some properties can be easily explained and demonstrated to younger learners.

First, we discussed solvency. This is water’s ability to dissolve other materials. Second, we discussed insulation, which is water’s ability to maintain it’s temperature. Next, we discussed the density of water. Specifically, how water is unique because its solid form is less dense than its liquid form. In other words, we discussed how ice floats!

Demonstration: Ice in Water vs. Ice in Oil
We conducted an experiment to demonstrate the different densities of ice and water. To conduct this experiment, you will need:

A glass of water
A glass of vegetable oil
Two ice cubes

Ask your learner(s) what they think will happen when you drop an ice cube in water. What will happen when the ice cube starts to melt? Ask your learner the same questions regarding the oil.

Drop at least one ice cube into the glass of water. Observe the ice cube and describe what you see. Drop at least one ice cube into the glass of oil. Observe the ice cube and describe what you see.

The ice cube floats on top of the water because it is less dense than the water. However, the ice cube will appear to sink below the surface of the oil. The oil and the ice are about the same density, so the ice does not float as well.

Wait a few minutes for the ice cube to begin melting and then observe both containers. Describe what you see.

The ice cube in the water will simply appear to be smaller as it melts. The remaining ice will stay floating, while the melted ice will vanish into the water. However, while the ice may continue to float in the oil, the melted ice will sink to the bottom of the glass. The oil will float on top of the water because the oil is less dense. This demonstrates that the water, which sinks in the oil, is denser than the ice, which floats in the oil.

Presentation: The Fourth and Fifth Properties of Water
Next, we discussed adhesion, which is water’s ability to stick to other materials. If water adheres to a material, we then say that material is “wet!” Next, we discussed cohesion, which is water’s ability to stick to itself. This can be a complicated concept to explain to younger learners. You can observe cohesion in action by watching rain drops on a window. What happens when the rain drops get too close? They move towards each other to form one big drop! This is cohesion. A different example: have you ever poured yourself a full glass of water? Have you noticed that the water can sometimes go over the edge of the glass without spilling? The water keeps itself from falling with the power of cohesion!

Demonstration: The Magical Leak-Proof Bag
We then conducted an experiment to demonstrate how water can stick to itself and to other surfaces. To conduct this experiment, you will need:

A Ziploc bag
One or more sharpened pencils
A plastic tub

Fill a Ziploc bag with water and seal it. Holding the bag over a plastic container, slowly puncture it with a sharpened pencil. Push the pencil through the other side of the bag. Leave the pencil so that it is protruding from both sides. Observe the process and describe what you see. You can repeat this with multiple pencils.

The water will not leak out of the holes made by the pencil. There are many physical forces at play! One is the elasticity of the plastic, which forms itself tightly around the pencil to keep it place. Other forces at play include adhesion, which is the water sticking to the plastic and the pencil, and cohesion, which is the water sticking to itself to prevent itself from leaking.

These properties are further explored in the station activity, “How Many Drops of Water?”

Activity Stations
Station #1: How Many Drops of Water?

This experiment demonstrates adhesion and cohesion. To conduct this experiment, you will need:

A water dropper
Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters
Measuring spoons

Lay out different coins and measuring spoons. Estimate how many drops of water can fit on the surface of the coins and in the measuring spoons. Why did you guess that number? Slowly and carefully use a water dropper to place drops of water on the coins and measuring spoons. Make sure to count the drops!

Adhesion will keep the water connected to the different surfaces, while cohesion will allow the water to stick to itself to form a large drop.

Station #2: Ocean Waves—Water Solvent Art
This artsy experiment demonstrates solvency. To conduct this experiment, you will need:

Coffee filters
Washable markers
A paper plate or washable surface
Droppers or spoons

Dry a pattern on a coffee filer using washable markers. Describe the pattern you drew. Now, place water over the pattern using a dropper or spoon. You do not need to soak the coffee filter! A little water at a time will do the trick and allow you to watch the process more carefully.

The water will dissolve the washable marker. The water will then carry the color throughout the coffee filter as the water adheres to the filter. Describe what you see! Allow the filter to dry overnight for a cool piece of scientific art.

Station #3: How Do Penguins Stay Dry?
This experiment demonstrates cohesion as well as polarity—a complicated concept that describes why water can’t dissolve materials like wax. While polarity might be too complex for younger learners, you can forego that term and explain that this demonstrates how some things, like penguin feathers and rain coats, can be “waterproof.”

To conduct this experiment, you will need:

A penguin coloring page

Print out a coloring page depicting a penguin. Color the entire picture heavily with crayon. Place drops of water on the colored spots. Observe what happens and describe what you see!

Normally, the water would adhere to the paper and the paper would become wet. However, the wax of the crayons separates the water from the paper. The water cannot easily dissolve the wax, so it cannot soak through to the paper. The water will instead stick to itself through cohesion to form drops on top of the wax. You can carefully tilt the paper to watch the water run and form different drops.

Be careful! Any spots not covered with crayon will be soaked.