A molecule is a group of atoms bonded together. Density is how close together the molecules of a substance are or how much mass a substance has in a given space. Buoyancy and density are related. Density affects how much an object might float, or be buoyant, or sink.
For example, if you have one cup of jelly beans and one cup of marshmallows, the jelly beans have more mass because there is more “stuff” compacted into the cup. The marshmallows have less mass because the molecules of marshmallows are NOT close together. Marshmallows are mostly air.
If you put each of those cups in a microwave to melt the jelly beans and the marshmallows, the sugar and water molecules that make up the jelly beans would almost fill the cup to the top. The sugar and water molecules that makes up the marshmallows would only fill the cup a little bit because marshmallows have less mass, they are mostly made of air. Materials with more density weigh more. A cup of jelly beans weighs more than a cup of marshmallows.
For an object to be buoyant, or float, it must have less density that what it is floating in, or, it has to have something attached to it that helps it float – like you with a life jacket on. You can make some interesting observations about density and buoyancy.
What You Need
- Drinking Glass
- Clear Soda
- Ten Raisins
Fill one clear glass up with water and drop in five raisins. Fill another clear glass up with clear soda like sprite or 7up. Drop in five raisins. What happens when you drop the raisins in? What a few minutes – now what is happening to the raisins in each glass? Can you guess why the raisins are behaving differently?
Raisins are heavier than the water in the drinking glass. The raisins are also heavier than the soda in the drinking glass. At first, both sets of raisins sink to the bottom of the glass, they don’t float.
But the soda has little air bubbles in it – the carbonation. When there are enough of these little carbonated balloons (the bubbles) stuck to the raisins the bubbles lift the raisins to the surface making the raisin float. The bubbles are like little temporary life jackets! When the bubbles pop and the gas inside them escapes into the air…the raisins don’t have anything to help them float anymore and they sink to the bottom of the glass again.
Science Experiment Idea
Try putting other small objects in soda to see if the bubbles will attach to them and help them float to the surface of the soda. Try a penny, a toothpick, a peanut, or a skittle. Can you find something that the bubbles will float to the surface like the raisin?
Websites, Activities & Printables
- Science Bob: The Magic Ketchup Experiment
- Kids Science Challenge: That Sinking Feeling
- ZOOM: Density and Buoyancy Mixing Hot and Cold Water
- NOVA Online: Buoyancy Basics
- Printable: PBS Kids Fetch Float My Boat Experiment
You can also ask a math and science expert for homework help by calling the Ask Rose Homework Hotline. They provide FREE math and science homework help to Indiana students in grades 6-12.
e-Books & Audiobooks
Use your indyPL Library Card to check out books about Science Experiments at any of our locations, or check out science experiment e-books and audiobooks from OverDrive Kids right to your device! If you have never used OverDrive before, you can learn how to use it for both e-books and audiobooks.
Need more help? Ask a Library staff member at any of our locations or call, text or email Ask-a-Librarian. Additionally, the Tinker Station helpline at (317) 275-4500 is also available. It is staffed by device experts who can answer questions about how to read, watch and listen on a PC, tablet or phone.
The Science Magic of Floating – Buoyancy Explained
Books to help kids understand the science concept of density and how we see it at play when things float – both in the air and in water. Get ideas for science projects and information for the reports that are often required to go with them.