Heather Sanders

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November 2013

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A Sweet Sugar Density Experiment

Posted in: Experiments, Homeschooling

A Sweet Density Experiment

Back in September, which feels like ten gazillion years ago now, Jeff and I attended Blog Elevated, and spent the weekend in one workshop after another–absorbing (to the point of overflowing, I might add) helpful tips about blog development.

I am STILL working through my action steps (I know, I know…I work full-time AND homeschool, give a gal a break), but one of the things Jeff and I remember most about the weekend was the AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS cupcakes courtesy of one of the conference sponsors, Imperial Sugar. Seriously, if I had a cooler with me at the conference (you think you know what you should take to these things, but you NEVER REALLY DO–for instance, coolers, extra suitcase for all the goodies from sponsors, extra-extra-extra-long extension cord for my laptop), I would have volunteered to take the remaining cupcakes off their hands.

I’m selfless like that.

What I DID take off their hands were multiple boxes of sugar, and then spent the next week dropping hints on Twitter that I NEEDED an apron, which they sent (!!!!), but then, was quickly stolen by Meredith for her Cake Decorating class.

So, already sweet on Imperial Sugar, I was excited to receive an email from one of their reps asking if I’d be interested in blogging a sugar science experiment with the kids. ABSOLUTELY!

There are a number of interesting Fun Kid’s Projects on the Imperial Sugar site, but to compliment what Meredith and Kenny have learned this year about atoms, molecules, mass, volume, and density, I chose this sugar water density project.

These are the ingredients needed for our sugar water density experiment.

Experiment/Materials

This experiment requires very little in the way of materials:

  • sugar
  • 4 glasses
  • 1 tablespoon
  • 1-cup glass Pyrex
  • a few glass droppers (or a plastic pipette)
  • color dye (green, red, yellow, blue)
  • Jumbo Test Tubes
  • spoons

Add food coloring to warm water.

To begin, the kids used the glass Pyrex to measure and pour one cup of warm water into each of the 4 glasses. Then, they added a different color dye to each glass of water.

Blue was the least dense sugar mixture.

With the dye mixed well, the kids began pouring specific amounts of sugar into each of the glasses of colored water using the following water/sugar ratios:

  • Blue water = 2 tbsp of sugar
  • Yellow water = 4 tbsp of sugar
  • Red water = 6 tbsp of sugar
  • Green water = 8 tbsp of sugar

Adding more and more sugar molecules

Stirring the water until the sugar completely dissolved was not a difficult task, although Meredith did place it in the microwave about 20 seconds to warm the solution, which took care of the remaining sugar that was not completely dissolved.

The sugar completely dissolved in all 4 glasses.

Using a dry erase marker, we labeled the glasses with the amount of tablespoons of sugar mixed into each, though I think that was more for my benefit than the kids; they kept it straight in their heads the entire time.

Using a water dropper sloooowly add different mixtures.

Using a glass dropper, we started with the densest sugar water mixture–blue. That was the easiest step.

Then, we began adding the next dense solution (the second layer–red), and this is where I offer the friendly suggestion to TAKE IT SLOW!

Our first try wasn’t slow enough, and because the sugar solutions are miscible, they bled into each other, mixing to look more like root beer than a rainbow. Our second attempt was better, but our speed still caused the mixtures to blend instead of retaining the individual layers.

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM, right?

Remembering the classic story of The Tortoise and the Hare, the kids sloooooooooowed their drops significantly until we thought it might take the entire afternoon to complete a single layer. It didn’t, of course, but FINALLY, the colors began to stack, from the densest mixture to the least dense–the green.

Sweeeeeeet Success!

Kenny's layered rainbow.

Observations/Take-away

The kids found their own methods as they moved along. After finding a plastic pipette in his school science kit, he switched to using it instead of the glass dropper, which gave him more length to release the mixture closer to the current layer’s surface.

Another difference was that Meredith felt more in control when holding her jumbo test tube, but Kenny preferred using the stand it came in for support.

Unlike mixing different density layers of different substances all together, like oil and water, these sugar density layers are comprised of different concentrations of the same substance–sugar; so, stirring or shaking would not only mix the solution, but once mixed it could not be un-mixed.

We discussed that density is the number of atoms in a given object (mass), divided by the space that object takes up (volume). Since sugar molecules are simply lots of atoms stuck together, the more sugar added to each cup of water the denser it became. Liquid with less density will float to the top of liquids of higher density. For this reason, the green solution remained on the bottom, the red solution floated on top of it, and so on.

Experiments available at Imperial Sugar's Kid's Kitchen

Wanna Try Other Sugar Science Experiments?

In the Kids Kitchen at Imperial Sugar, they emphasize that cooking with kids is both educational and fun. Look for their kid-friendly recipes, kid craft projects, fun food projects, and free downloads and links.

Other Sugar Science Experiments of interest:

SPONSORED POST: Special thanks to Imperial Sugar for providing the sugar and reimbursing the costs of the jumbo test tubes used in the experiment.

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