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Making Clouds (0 Favorites)

LAB in Density, Phase Changes. Last updated May 23, 2017.


Summary

In this lab students will investigate liquid density by creating model “clouds” with shaving cream in a glass of water. They will add food coloring in order to make the clouds heavy and cause them to rain.

Grade Level

Elementary School

Objectives

By the end of this lab, students should be able to

  • Understand that this model simulates real world events in nature.
  • Describe, make predictions, and investigate real world meteorological changes.
  • Use their senses to identify properties and patterns of objects such as clouds and rain.
  • Communicate their observations using related vocabulary and pictures.
  • Record and organize data and observations using pictures, numbers, and words.
  • Identify and describe weather changes.
  • Identify differences in liquid density.

Chemistry Topics

This lab supports students’ understanding of

  • Density
  • Weather changes
  • Water cycle
  • States of Matter
  • Phase Changes

Time

Teacher Preparation: 15 minutes

Lesson: 60 minutes

Materials (per group)

  • Three transparent cups
  • 1 can of shaving cream
  • 1 box of food coloring
  • 1 balance
  • 1 pipette
  • Running water and access to a sink to pour the experiment after its completion.

Safety

  • Always wear safety goggles when handling chemicals in the lab.
  • Students should wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • When students complete the lab, instruct them how to clean up their materials and dispose of any chemicals.
  • Do not consume lab solutions, even if they’re otherwise edible products.

Teacher Notes

  • As a suggestion, you can pair students during this activity in order to be able to communicate observations.
  • This activity could be a good complement after reviewing the units of weather and clouds.
  • Review key vocabulary by making an anchor chart since students are required to observe, describe and report the weather using appropriate vocabulary.
  • Science background, the following links have additional information.
  • In this unit, we will explore in simple terms the concept of dense materials and density. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary dense is defined as having parts that are close together. In other words, density is the compactness relationship between the mass of the substance over a volume, and it determines if something will float or sink in another substance. Since density is a complex concept especially for young grades because it has to deal with the displacements of other masses, we will focus on the idea that a denser mass is heavier than a less dense mass of the same size (volume).
  • Take a walking fieldtrip outside of the school and describe what the weather and clouds looks like.
  • Depending on the grade level, the directions in student section can be read to the students.
  • Ask the pre-lab questions as a whole group if you are working with kindergarten and first grade, or let the students do some research in second grade.
  • Conclusion: In this activity student will simulate how rain is formed.
  1. Since the shaving cream is less dense than the water it is pushed to the top of the cup. Similarly the high density of oxygen gas combined with the temperature helps to push the water vapor into the atmosphere.
  2. Since the temperature affects the density of the droplets (vapor) making them less dense and light, the little droplets are pushed to the atmosphere.
  3. Once in the atmosphere the little drops start to lose heat making them more dense as they join with other drops forming rain.
  4. In our experiment you had to add several drops of food coloring to help make the “cloud” denser and form “rain” inside the cup.

For the Student

Background

Did you know that some clouds weight as much as 100 elephants together? But if clouds are that heavy, why do they float in the air and not just fall to the ground? You know, everything is related to density. Density is how much material or matter is squished in a certain space. The more matter that is more squished into a given space that means that matter is denser. If it's more spread in a given space that means is less dense.

Clouds are formed by very tiny water droplets. These droplets are very light and spread out that a denser material, such as oxygen gas pushes them high into the sky. When water droplets join together with others, they become bigger and heavier and can fall to the ground as raindrops.

Pre-lab Questions

  1. What do you think is the most dense item: shaving cream, water or food coloring?
  2. If items take up the same amount of space, are denser materials heavier?
  3. If items take up the same amount of space, are less dense materials lighter?
  4. How can we determine if materials are heavier or lighter than one another?

Problem

Your challenge will be to determine which material is most dense.

Materials

  • Safety goggles
  • 3 cups
  • 1 can of shaving cream
  • Water
  • 1 box of food coloring
  • 1 balance
  • 1 pipette

Safety

  • Always wear safety goggles when handling chemicals in the lab.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • Follow your teacher’s instructions for clean-up of your materials.
  • Do not consume lab solutions, even if they’re otherwise edible products.

Procedure and observations

  • Draw an empty cup in each side of the balance. Both sides are full of the same amount of air. Which side is heavier; write your observations below.Lab makingclouds balance1
  • Fill one cup with shaving cream and fill the other cup with the same amount of water, draw the sides of the balance and label each cup. Which substance is denser? How do you know? Write your observations below.Lab makingclouds balance2
  • Fill one cup with the red food coloring and fill the other cup with about the same amount of shaving cream, draw the sides of the balance and label each cup. Which substance is denser? How do you know? Write your observations below.Lab makingclouds balance2
  • Empty the green and yellow food coloring in a cup. Using a pipette fill the other cup with about the same amount of water, draw the sides of the balance and label each cup. Which substance is denser? How do you know? Write your observations below.Lab makingclouds balance2

Calculations

Write in order of density from lightest to heaviest the three substances: water, food coloring shaving cream.

Lightest

Arrow

Heaviest

Analysis

Now we will make a density simulation of rain.Lab makingclouds cup

  1. Fill to the top a glass of water.
  2. Pour shaving cream on top of the glass as if it was a cloud.
  3. Pour and count the little drops of blue food color in the same spot until you see how it rains to the bottom of the glass.
  4. Draw the experiment in the cup and answer the following questions:
    1. How many drops of food coloring made rain?
    2. Why doesn’t the shaving cream go to the bottom of the cup?
    3. Why doesn’t one drop of food color did go to the bottom as rain?