Introduction: Ice? Scientific Inquiry

In this Summer Camp Science Activity we try to determine if a substance is ice by using some scientific inquiry.

From Ohio's Learning Standards Grades 3-5

Scientific Inquiry, Practice and Applications

All students must use these scientific processes with appropriate laboratory safety techniques to construct their knowledge and understanding in all science content areas.

• Observe and ask questions about the world that can be answered through scientific investigations.

• Design and conduct scientific investigations using appropriate safety techniques.

• Use appropriate mathematics, tools, and techniques to gather data and information.

• Develop and communicate descriptions, models, explanations, and predictions.

• Think critically and ask questions about the observations and explanations of others.

• Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.

• Apply knowledge of science content to real-world challenges.

Step 1: Materials

Materials Needed

Soil Moist


Bucket or bowl

Soil Moist can be found at Walmart in the Spring. Here is a link to Miracle Gro's version on Amazon. I use Soil Moist but the Miracle Gro will work. These are water gel crystals that absorb water.

Step 2: Prepare

I do not have the kids do this part as it gives away the "ice" as not being real ice.

In a bowl add a half a spoonful of soil moist to 1/2 cup of water.

After only a few hours the gels absorb a lot of water.

Let sit for several hours but it is best if the soil moist sits in the water for a full day or two.

This will make more then enough for 10 half filled 3 oz cups (Dixie cups).

Step 3: Very Similar

The crystals will look like broken up ice after they have sat in water for a day or two.

We have the kids, using scientific inquiry, decide if the substance is truly what it looks like.

The first picture is the water gel and the second picture is crushed ice.

We do not use the real ice. Only shown for comparison sake.

Step 4: Ice? Observe Visual Properties.

Is that Ice?

Take a look at the ice in the container. Do not touch it, yet. Observe the color and the shape. Does it look like ice?

Step 5: Predict and Hypothesis

Predict if the ice is real. Tell someone what you think and why you thing the ice is real or not.

Step 6: Observe Some More

Go ahead and touch the "ice". Observe the texture (the way it feels in your hand). Does the "ice" feel cold? Does the "ice" feel wet? Does it feel like real ice? Why do you think the "ice" feels the way it does?

Step 7: Critical Thinking

Predict what would happen if you put the ice into a cup of water. Let someone know what you are thinking and why.

Add water to the "ice". What happens? Why do you think that happened?

Step 8: Crystal Clear

In the hidden message demonstration, the message looks scrambled under the hydrated gels because the light reflected off of the message is scattered in every direction by the water-filled gel (diffused reflection). It’s like trying to read through broken glasses. When water is added, the light rays pass straight through the water and the gels. The light is no longer scattered as it goes back to your eyes. This is due to the gels’ refracting (bending) light the same as the water. So, it seems like you’re looking through a bowl of water and can easily read the message.

Step 9: The Science

Science Behind the Fun
These are gel crystals. They can be found in the lawn and garden section of many stores. The crystals start out as tiny, hard misshapen granules. Add water and the super absorbent polymer they are made from absorbs 300 times its weight in water. These hydrophilic (water loving) gels are approximately 99% water when fully hydrated. If you look closely at a gel in a bowl of water, you can barely see its outline. That’s because light passing through the gel is refracted (or bent) only a tiny bit along the edge. Without this refraction along their edges, the gels would totally vanish altogether. The water-filled gels become invisible due to having an identical index of refraction with the water in the bowl. The secret to keeping them this way is to keep the gels clean. The more the gels are handled, the more visible they become because dirt and oils on your skin are transferred to the surface of the gel. This increases the amount of light reflected from the gel and reveals them.

DIY Summer Camp Contest

Runner Up in the
DIY Summer Camp Contest