Shop bestselling products! ➔

Make Lava Lamp and Learn About Density

We have all seen it!  The flashy science experiment that really is very exciting and certainly gets students to observe, but somehow falls short when it comes to actually teaching a concept.

I tell my beginning teachers, make sure you think about what concepts, skills or ideas you want to teach first and then come up with a great experiment to go with it.  

Take the Lava Lamp.  It is spectacular and easy to do.  The students love this one!  It is colorful! It happens fast!  It uses simple household materials!  But what are we actually teaching?

I think there are several great science concepts within this activity.  To me the most obvious one is the opportunity to talk about density.  Simply put, water is more dense than oil.  That is why the oil is on the top.  Another concept that you can teach through this exciting activity is polarity (why oil and water do not mix).

There are also skills that you can teach or have students practice:
Making observations
Making inferences
Reading informational text to learn new information
Arguing from evidence
Recording data
Comparing and Contrasting

Here is my procedure:
I have the students fill a bottle  3/4 full with vegetable oil.
I have them fill the rest with water.
(Even this much ends up looking really cool as the water and oil separate). Observe and Record Observations

Add three or four drops of food coloring.  Observe and Record Observations
Break up Alka-Seltzer Tablets into smaller pieces.  Add a few to the bottle. Observe and Record Observations
Give students a flashlight to shine on the bottle. 

Now that I have the students curious and excited.  I have them read some informational text to find out the science behind what is happening!  This works great.  They are suddenly interested in reading some technical reading because they have had this exciting hands-on experience and they want to know how it works. 
We have a great discussion and I then have them record their findings in their interactive notebook.
Here are couple of the folds I use.
Now I have really made sure my students did not just experience science magic!  I made sure they actually learned something and practiced important skills.  
This entire lesson plan including the Informational Text article that explains the science behind it and All the Flaps and Folds is available for purchase. 

Also available in this Density Bundle at a 20% savings!

Share it: