Did you know that Dr. Seuss‘ birthday is coming up? It’s true. Theodor Seuss Geisel was born March 2, 1904. How will you celebrate his special day? Will you eat Green Eggs and Ham? Perhaps you’ll buy a pet turtle and name him Yurtle? Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll study science with Dr. Seuss, Bartholomew and the Ooblek!
Read Bartholomew and the Oobleck
To study science with Dr. Seuss, first read the story Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Initially, I wasn’t sure about the Kindle version, but it had a very cool touch feature which allowed us to magnify the text for reading while at the same time enjoying the full scope of the book illustrations! It’s a charming story, but you should know that in and of itself, it has no scientific value. It’s purely a literary selection about Bartholomew, the King of Didd and of course, Oobleck. The story brings morals to light such as being grateful for the way things are, saying sorry, and being content. And of course, it introduces Oobleck!
What is Oobleck?
In the story, Oobleck is a green sticky substance which falls from the sky in place of snow or rain. It causes all kinds of trouble in the land of Didd. But in real life it’s also become the name for a mixture of cornstarch and water with unusual physical properties.
Studying Science with Dr. Seuss
After reading Bartholomew and the Oobleck, introduce your science lesson by tell your kids they’ll be making Oobleck today for science and conducting an experiment.
Introduce solids and liquids to them. Divide a paper into three columns, one for solids, one for liquids, and one for gases. Discuss rain, snow, ice, hail and fog. In what form are these? Have your child list them in the right columns. List off numerous familiar materials: soda pop, a chocolate bar, etc. See if they can identify which are solids and which are liquids. Do they know at what temperature water becomes a solid? Or that it evaporates at boiling point? Explain to them that just as in the story, in real life Oobleck is not like snow or rain- but don’t tell them why just yet.
Lesson Focus: Properties of Materials
This is a fun experiment for everyone in the family. And kids love it! Because it is so crazy and fun. What makes the Oobleck act the way it does? Why does it sometimes act like a liquid and other times, a solid?
The answer: Oobleck is a pressure dependent substance. When you apply pressure or lack of, you get different results. For example, if you tap or pat quickly the surface of the Oobleck it will seem as solid as can be. This is because the pressure forces the cornstarch particles together. But if you gently let your hand rest on Oobleck you’ll soon find out it’s not solid at all! Your hand will sink like quicksand!
For older children you may want to have them look up these science related terms before or after the experiment. Perhaps they should use some of them to write a report on their findings.
- States of Matter: Solid, Liquid, Gas
- non-Newtonian fluids
Is Oobleck a liquid or a solid? Making Predictions
Before you explain the science behind Oobleck, have your child predict what will happen when you….
- Pour it?
- Squeeze it?
- Tap, Smack or Slap it?
- Pick it up?
- Hold it in cupped hands?
Conduct the Oobleck Experiment
After you’ve made your predictions begin your experiment. Have your child record how Oobleck reacts to each test. Does it act like a liquid or solid? Then, if available, place Oobleck (while still in container) on something with a motor or vibration? Oobleck will “become alive” and finger-like projections will form and move around. If you can’t make this happen, simply watch a video.
Now, aren’t you glad it doesn’t rain Oobleck?
How to make Oobleck
Basically Oobleck is two parts cornstarch and one part water. You can add food coloring to your mixture by adding it to the water before mixing.
- 2 cups cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- A few drops on food color (optional)
- First, if you wish to make your Oobleck colored, add food color to water.
- Add colored water to cornstarch.
- Mix well.
- Have fun!