Candy Chemistry – Bears and Fish, Oh My!

My kids received goodies bag last weekend filled with candy that I’d prefer they not eat.  But my older superhero reminded me that we can’t just throw it away because that would be wasting food, so we came up with an idea to put the candy to good use!  As a bonus, we had friends try out several experiments with us.

This is a simplified version of a lab I used to do with my 8th grade science class.  Our results were unexpected!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • clear cups or clear glass bowls
  • gummy bears and swedish fish (or any gummy candies in any shapes)
  • water
  • paper and pencil

First I had the superheroes (and their super-friends) trace the shapes of the gummy bears and swedish fish onto a piece of paper.

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Then we added them to the empty cups and I asked them what they thought would happen when we added water to them.  The responses were hysterical: “They will swim away!” “The fish will drink the water!” “The fish will eat the gummy bears!”  Can you tell these superheroes are little?

They added the water and we went on to another activity for a bit before returning to check in on our bears and fish.

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When we checked on them, a curious thing had happened.  (I was surprised as I expected a completely different result!)

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Yes, the colors started to bleed into the water which was not unusual, but the gummy bears shrunk to the point where they were almost non-existent!  You can see this as the superheroes stuck their candies onto the sheet where they had traced the original candy shapes.

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The Swedish fish did not shrink or expand or lose color but the gummy bears were barely there!  In all the years I did the “Gummy Bear Lab” with my 8th graders, the gummy bears expanded and filled with water, never shrunk.  This is why I love science.  You never know what your results will be!

The superheroes did not know what to expect so they were not surprised by this (“I think the fish ate some of the bear!”)

The Science behind the Activity:

The gummy bears are porous and due to osmosis (the diffusion of water), they should soak up with water.  Obviously in our case, this did not happen.  Of course I’m curious and I think I might just have to set up another experiment with different brands of gummy bears and how they react based on their ingredients!  Stay tuned!

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Candy Chemistry – Bears and Fish, Oh My!

  1. Im 17, which doesn’t mean much but this is just a wild guess. Maybe since you put the Swedish fish in with the gummy bears, sugar or some other ingredient from the fish dissolved into the water and that solution is what caused the gummy bears to shrink. Not just plain water.

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