Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center

Dorothy Manning, Edgemont Elementary, Idaho Falls, ID


Appropriate for grades 4-7.

OVERVIEW:  The concepts involved with atomic theory are difficult
for teachers to demonstrate because the particles involved are too
small to actually see and manipulate.  Whenever possible it is
helpful to allow students to observe actual concepts and then
either develop their own theories about what was seen, or
reconcile what they have seen with what they have been taught

PURPOSE:  The purpose of this activity is to assist students to
visualize and better understand the concept of the constant motion
of molecules.

OBJECTIVES:  Students will be able to:

 1.  Observe the motion of water molecules using food coloring.

 2.  Compare dispersal time in hot, cold and room temperature

 3.  Record observation data on record sheets.

ACTIVITIES:  Fill the beaker or jar 3/4 full of water.  The
students should be able to see the water level and that it is
clear.  Place the beaker where it can be seen by the students but
will not be disturbed with any type of motion.  Carefully place a
few drops of food coloring on the surface of the water.  Do not
agitate or stir the color into the water.  Allow the beaker or jar
to sit and observe it periodically during the lesson.  The color
will disburse throughout the water.  Depth of color will depend
upon time allowed and how much food color was used.

To determine whether the temperature of the water has an effect,
do the activity again using hot water and using the coldest water
possible to obtain without freezing the water.  Record the time it
takes for the color to disburse throughout the water.


A clear glass jar or beaker (large enough to be easily seen by
students), Water, Food coloring (a dark color such as green or
blue is more easily seen).

Because of the time involved in allowing the food color to mix,
student need to either be working on a related lesson which can be
stopped periodically at the instructor's direction to refer to the
activity, or students should be recording the activity on
experiment record sheets.


 1.  Have the students illustrate the activity using a series of
pictures.  Students could illustrate the activity from the
perspective of an individual molecule, or as a record of what the
student observed happening at certain time intervals.

 2.  Students could write a summary on the activity describing
what they observed happening. The summary could be factual and
scientific, or could be in short story form as told by a molecule
of water or a molecule of food coloring. bit intimidated by the
stars if they have no prior experience. 


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