Halloween is here! Start celebrating by turning students into mini mad scientists with dry ice experiments. This activity is cool and spooky enough to make any classroom Halloween-ready.
Experimenting with dry ice can be tricky; children really need to understand the safety issues involved with using this frozen form of carbon dioxide. Dry ice requires adult supervision and is not safe to touch or swallow. As the dry ice turns into gas, you do not want to breathe in much of it. Dry ice can burn skin easily upon direct contact. Also, it is not always the easiest material to find. But when used under adult supervision, basic experiments with dry ice earn big oohs and aahs. These types of experiments can spike children’s interest in science really quickly. If you have very young children, however, I’d make sure they are somewhere safe where they can watch but not touch. Otherwise, it’s just too tempting. The National Weather Service has a good explanation of the safety issues on its website.
- Small pieces of dry ice
- Insulated gloves
- A glass or plastic container
- Warm water
- A plate (optional)
- Fabric strips (optional)
- Dishwashing liquid (optional)
- Food coloring (optional)
- Make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area. We like to try this experiment outside.
- Fill a container about halfway with warm water (cold water will not work as well).
- With everyone wearing gloves and using tongs, have the kids help you place a piece of dry ice into the water.
- Watch as the dry ice turns into carbon dioxide gas and water vapor, creating clouds that will bubble out over the top of the container and down onto the surrounding surface. The clouds are safe to touch briefly, but make sure they do not touch the dry ice directly!
- As the dry ice cools the water, add more warm water to continue the cloud effect.