How do you make a paperclip float on water? This is an awesome STEM challenge for young kids and older ones too! Learn about surface tension of water, with a few simple supplies. We have lots more fun STEM activities for you to try!
HOW TO MAKE A PAPERCLIP FLOAT ON WATER
PAPERCLIP STEM CHALLENGE
Get your kids thinking outside of the box with this floating paperclip experiment. STEM doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive!
Some of the best STEM challenges are also the cheapest! Keep it fun and playful, and not make it too difficult that it takes forever to complete. All you need for this challenge below are paperclips, water and a paper towel.
Take up the challenge to make a paperclip float on water. Can a paperclip float or sink? Does it do both? Let’s find out!
STEM QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
These questions for reflection are perfect to use with kiddos of all ages to talk about how the challenge went and what they might do differently next time around.
Use these questions for reflection with your kids after they have completed the STEM challenge to encourage discussion of results and critical thinking.
Older kiddos can use these questions as a writing prompt for a STEM notebook. For younger kiddos, use the questions as a fun conversation!
- What were some of the challenges you discovered along the way?
- What worked well and what did not work well?
- What would you do differently next time?
FLOATING PAPERCLIP EXPERIMENT
- Paper towel
- Bowl of water
- Dish soap
STEP 1: Fill the bowl almost to the top with water.
STEP 2: Now drop the paperclip into the water. What do you notice? Does it sink or float?
Test out more items with this simple sink or float experiment.
STEP 3: Try gently placing the paperclip flat on top of the water. Does it float?
STEP 4: Now cut a square of paper towel and place it into the water first. Then place your paperclip gently on top of the paper towel. What happens?
STEP 5: Once you have some floating paperclips, add a single drop of dish soap to the water. What happens now?
WHY CAN A PAPERCLIP FLOAT ON WATER?
As you would have noticed from dropping a paperclip into the bowl of water, paperclips don’t float. So how does it work? It’s all because of the surface tension of water.
Surface tension exists in water because water molecules stick to each other. This tension is so strong that when you gently lay a paperclip onto the water, it sits on top of the water instead of sinking into it.
It is the high surface tension of water that allows the paperclip, with much higher density, to float on water. The surface tension of water also helps propels water-striding insects on the surface of ponds. Read more about surface tension.
When soap is added to the water, it breaks the surface tension in that area. That makes the water molecules pull away and the paperclip drops to the bottom. This is similar to how our magic milk experiment works.
MORE FUN SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS TO TRY
Make a floating drawing with our dry erase marker experiment.
Blow up a balloon with just soda and salt in this soda balloon experiment.
Make a homemade lava lamp with salt.
Learn about osmosis when you try this fun potato osmosis experiment with the kids.
Explore sound and vibrations when you try this fun dancing sprinkles experiment.
Grab some marbles to use with this easy viscosity experiment.
Explore what happens to the freezing point of water when you add salt.
FUN PAPERCLIP EXPERIMENT FOR KIDS
Click on the image below or on the link for more easy STEM projects for kids.