STEAM Saturday – Milk Surface Tension! (7/8/23)

Surface tension

It has been hot and steamy outside!  This week, we are giving you a STEAMY experiment you can do INSIDE!  You can teach your child about the concept of surface tension using just a few supplies that you likely already have at home.

You’ll need:

  • Whole Fat Milk
  • Food Coloring
  • Dish Soap
  • A Cotton Swab
  • A Shallow Container

So, how does this experiment work?  Fat particles are spread equally throughout homogenized whole milk.  Food coloring is lighter than milk because it does not contain fat.  Surface tension is caused by the force of the molecules in the milk pushing against one another.  This means that when you add food coloring to the milk, it will stay in one place on top of the milk.  But what happens when you add dish soap?  Let’s find out!

This is a great opportunity for your child to use the scientific method.  They can create a hypothesis – What will happen when the soap touches the milk?  Then they can do the experiment and record and analyze the results.

First, fill your container with milk.  Then, add a few drops of food coloring in different areas of the milk, being careful not to shake the container.  Now, dip a cotton swab into the dish soap and gently touch the food coloring in your dish of milk.  When the dish soap touches the milk, it binds with the fat molecules and lowers the surface tension of the milk.  This makes the food coloring appear to dance, creating colorful swirls in your milk dish!

One of the most fun parts of using the scientific method is experimenting with variables.  You can do this experiment over an over again, changing the type of soap – bar soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. – and the type of milk – skim milk, 2%, half and half, cream, etc.  They can explore which type of soap clings to the fat particles the best, and whether the experiment works better with one type of milk versus the others.

Check out the full experiment and the science behind it at STEAMsational HERE!

As always, get as creative as you want, and above all, have lots of fun learning together!

We’ll see you right back here next Saturday for another STEAM Saturday activity!  Scroll through the rest of our website to learn how Critchlow Adkins is Building Brighter Futures for the children and families we serve!

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