Over the past week, we’ve been hit by an unusually long stretch of days where the temps have been at or over 100 degrees. Today was the HOTTEST day of the week, or so the forecasters claim. It’s been too hot to go outdoors and we’ve all been getting cabin fever so over the past few days, I’ve been preparing an icy dino dig and today the superheroes finally “dug in” (Bad pun, I know. But science teachers are known for bad puns and corny jokes)
Here’s what you need to get started:
- shallow bin to collect the melted water
- Ice block with frozen toys (I have details on how to make this below)
- Salt (I used colored salt which added extra fun to this)
- spray bottles with warm water
- Metal spoons or anything sturdy and safe to dig and break the ice with
- eye droppers, syringes, spray bottles, cups, test tubes, turkey basters, etc… as “tools”
To make the ice block:
I used a plastic ziploc container that fit in my freezer and added about 1/2 inch of water in it and froze it. Then I gathered the boys’ toy dinosaurs, fish, rocks, sea shells and some blue and green foam shapes and added a few to the container and covered it with an inch of water. I put it in the freezer. Once that layer froze, I added more “treasures” and repeated until the container was full. It took me about 2 days to prepare this, adding water and toys in layers about twice per day)
I also learned how easy it is to color table salt and figured colors always make things more fun. I added about half a cup of table salt to a ziplock bag and added a few drops of food coloring to it. I squeezed out all the air and sealed the bag. Then I mixed it together until I got the color I wanted. It took me less than 5 minutes to make it.
I filled 2 spray bottles with very warm water and then had a container with just tap water. I added the salt to another container with a spoon. And then I let the superheroes at it!
First they added the salt and rubbed it into the ice. Immediately we heard the ice crackling. Then the spray bottles came out. My middle one really loved the spray bottles.
The syringes and droppers allowed them to get the water precisely where they needed to dig out the dinos. As the ice melted, the boys got creative and started dumping water on top to see if it melted faster. Not only were they trying to figure out the best way to dig the dinosaurs (creative problem solving) but they also were working together as a team!
Slowly, but surely, the ice block started coming apart and the dinosaurs were freed! It took them about an hour to dig them all out but it sure helped to cool us down and distract us from the miserable heat.
The superheroes really enjoyed this and we will be doing this again on a hot day. There are so many variations with this activity. You could pick any theme you want and add the appropriate toys and colored salt. And And the best thing was that we had everything at home. This cost us nothing at all!
The Science behind the Activity:
When the salt is added to the ice, it lowers the freezing point of the ice so that water can exist as a liquid at a temperature lower than 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). This helps to melt the ice, much like East Coasters use salt on the roads to melt the snow and ice so that cars don’t skid in the cold, snowy weather. Using hot water also helped to melt the ice which was a concept that my boys already understand but perhaps younger kids could discover. What I loved most about it, besides the science, was the creative problem solving that they did while working together to dig out the dinosaurs and rocks. It was so wonderful for me to listen to their discussions on why they needed to use the droppers and when it was necessary to add more salt.
Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and more details about the experiment:
Follow this link to see how I learned about coloring salt: