Do you want to build a snowman?

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Texas it has been really hot outside! Shocking, I know! So how do my munchkin and I beat the heat while having fun and learning a little along the way? Well, besides squeezing in our daily airing of Frozen, we built a snowman!


Well, not exactly a real snowman, but it was our own little science experiment of a snowman that we could build and “melt” in the cool air conditioning.  You can do it too! This experiment is easy for any age, but adult supervision is encouraged! My two year old had a blast and was very helpful in making the snowman. It was supposed to look like Olaf from the Disney movie. Please don’t judge. My daughter was quite pleased with how he turned out before she destroyed him.

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Do You Want To Build A STEM Snowman?

Recipe:

What you need:

  •  2 cups baking soda
  •  1 teaspoon Dish Soap (like Dawn liquid dish soap)
  •  2 Tablespoons of salt
  •  8 Tablespoons of water
  • A big dish, pan, or other container to contain the mess (I like using a big plastic lid I saved that came from one of those disposable turkey baking pans)
  • A couple of cups of vinegar (I used distilled white vinegar)
  • Add-ons to make your snowman’s fabulous features (carrot nose, chocolate chip eyes, etc.)  : )

What to do:

In your waterproof container, combine the baking soda and salt and mix well. Add in the soap; thoroughly combining the ingredients with your hands until it becomes a crumbly dough-like substance. 

Add the water.  The dough is ready if it can be formed into a ball, but if it is still to dry add 1 Tablespoon of water at a time until it can hold the form of a ball. 

Make your snowman and decorate him.  Now you are ready for some foaming, snowman “melting” action! Put vinegar into a squirt bottle, or other squirting device and squirt away at the snowman.  It works best if you add lots of vinegar at once to create the biggest reaction.

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Our little snowman and his foamy remains after the vinegar got the best of him!

Our little snowman and his foamy remains after the vinegar got the best of him!

 

What is going on here?!?

For older kiddos-- because my tot just gave me a blank stare when I tried to explain this-- the foamy result of this activity can be explained by describing an exchange of energy.

To put it simply, both the baking soda (a base) and the vinegar (an acid combined with water) react with each other in a way that helps each compound get rid of stored energy. The universe favors things to be in a state of low energy so reactions take place to make this happen.

More specifically, the vinegar wants to get rid of a positively charged hydrogen atom (called a proton) because that is what acids do and the baking soda, being the base it is, wants to receive the proton. In this exchange, exciting things happen! The baking soda breaks down easily in the water from the vinegar.  The acid then gives its proton away to result in sodium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide. These new molecules are at a lower state of energy than the baking soda and vinegar were at the beginning. This breakdown and formation of new molecules happens very quickly and you can see the carbon dioxide gas being released as all of the foamy bubbles!

 Want more?

You can make your own baking soda and vinegar bottle rocket! First design a launch pad using a PVC pipe, toilet paper roll, etc. that will hold a plastic bottle on its top pointing straight up. Take a piece of paper and put some baking soda onto it. Roll up the paper like a burrito and twist the ends closed. Pour some vinegar into an empty plastic bottle. Carefully, put your baking soda burrito into the bottle, cork the bottle, and shake it! Immediately place it into your launch pad! The paper will unroll inside and the baking soda will then react with the vinegar. See how high your rocket will go! Experiment with different amounts of baking soda and vinegar. Can you add fins and a nose cone to the bottle to make it fly differently?  

Want even more?

Extend your learning and fun this summer by checking out our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) summer activity calendar* !  This calendar is packed with daily activities to keep young minds active and engaged all summer long.  It isn’t too late to make the most of your summer and the activities can be used the rest of the year as well.  Have fun exploring and playing!


* You must have a TeachersPayTeachers.com account to purchase. Setup is easy and free! You will then have access to tons of great resources like our calendar—many of which are free to download and use.

-Claire