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Lesson Plan 17

DIY Lava Lamp

Brief description
Students make a simple yet spectacular lava lamp using coloured water, vegetable oil and a soluble aspirin tablet. They write an instruction manual with diagrams and a scientific explanation of the observed effect. This activity is a big hit with kids and adults alike and will impress at dinner parties, barbecues and staff meetings too!
Duration: Year level: Topics: Preparation: Extensions: 45 - 70 minutes Lower to upper primary Natural and Processed Materials, Energy and Change 5 to 15 minutes Write a report for the school newsletter / Make an instructional video for the DIY Lava Lamp / Investigate the invention and history of the Lava Lamp

Whole class Small Groups Introduce and discuss lesson Make and observe DIY Lava Lamps (10 15 min) (15 20 min)

In small groups, students make and carefully observe a lava lamp. You may wish to photograph and video the procedure for the school newsletter or website this activity is a big hit with parents! Return vegetable oil to the bottle.

Whole class

Class discussion
Discuss the activity and any extension activities.

(5 15 min)


Write a DIY Lava Lamp Instruction Manual

scientific explanation of the theory of operation.

(15 20 min)

Students write and illustrate an instruction manual providing a

Lesson Plan 17 DIY Lava Lamp | Page 1

2008 | ABC Science Online

Materials and equipment

Total Quantity
2 litres 1 litre 1 6 18 1 roll 1 1

Vegetable oil (200ml 300ml per group) Water (50ml 100ml per group) Set of four food colours (to share between groups) Tall drinking glasses (1 per group) Soluble aspirin tablets (3 per group) Paper towel (for spills) Turkey baster (for returning oil to bottle) Bucket (to collect waste water and oil)

Purchase vegetable oil, soluble aspirin and food colours from supermarket. Collect turkey baster, bucket and sufficient glasses for each group.

Students prior knowledge
No prior knowledge is required or assumed for this lesson plan. The objectives listed below are suggestions only and may not be appropriate for every year level.

Science skills
Students will: Predict whether oil and water will mix in a glass Predict and carefully observe how a drop of food colour behaves in vegetable oil and water Predict and observe how a soluble aspirin tablet behaves in vegetable oil and water Compare their predictions with observations Record their observations
Lesson Plan 17 DIY Lava Lamp | Page 2
2008 | ABC Science Online

Science concepts
Vegetable oil and water do not mix substances which do not dissolve in each other are immiscible Vegetable oil floats on water because it is less dense Aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) is a mild acid Soluble aspirin tablets also contain a mild base which reacts with the acidic aspirin when dissolved together in water to form bubbles of carbon dioxide gas The chemicals in soluble aspirin tablets do not dissolve in, and therefore do not react in, vegetable oil

Positive attitudes
Students will Work cooperatively with partners/group members Handle all equipment and water carefully and responsibly Dispose of waste responsibly (eg pour waste water and oil onto plants or garden beds instead of down the sink)

Discuss lesson Whole Class (1015 min)
NOTE: a student worksheet is not provided for this activity because writing the instructions is a key component of the lesson.
OPTIONAL: If you or any of your students own a lava lamp, bring it to the class and discuss how it works (the light bulb heats the waxy substance which causes it to expand and become buoyant so that it floats after sufficient cooling, the waxy substance shrinks and becomes less buoyant again so that it sinks the process repeats as long as the lamp is on) Write a basic outline of the procedure on the whiteboard and discuss each step

NOTE: younger students may need supervision or assistance when adding the water and oil to the glass if so, groups can prepare materials and await your assistance for each step

Lesson Plan 17 DIY Lava Lamp | Page 3

2008 | ABC Science Online

Ask students to predict what will happen at each step ie: will the oil and water mix? how will a drop of food colour behave in oil? will the soluble aspirin tablet float or sink in the oil and how else might it behave? Assign group jobs and distribute materials required

Make and observe DIY Lava Lamps Small Groups (1520 min)
Equipment Manager collects materials required for activity from science store Group members cooperate to make a Lava Lamp each group member should have a turn at adding one of the ingredients to glass: fill glass with water carefully add vegetable oil until glass is near full add two or three drops of food colouring and observe add soluble aspirin tablet and observe discuss ideas about how the lava lamp works
NOTE: a whole class discussion about the theory of operation may assist groups to formulate and articulate their ideas at this point

repeat, observe and revise ideas All group members cooperate to clean up Equipment manager returns equipment to science store NOTE: You may want to delay clean up so that early finishers can repeat the experiment

Discussion Whole Class (5 10 min)

Discuss the activity and observations Discuss how to approach writing and illustration of instruction guide students could design a one page illustrated instruction sheet or poster. Students could also take photographs for their instructions or make a video presentation (eg for the class BLOG on the schools website)

Individual Whole Class (20 30 min)

Students write and draw instructions in the format discussed above they can complete their instructions as a homework task if they run out of time

Lesson Plan 17 DIY Lava Lamp | Page 4

2008 | ABC Science Online

Teachers notes
How to make a DIY Lava Lamp
1. Quarter fill a tall glass with coloured water

alternatively, use clear water at this stage and add a few drops of food colour after the oil is added.

2. Add oil to the glass until itand gently topIfup the 2. Hold the glass at an angle is nearly full. adding glass with oil the drop of food colour now, it will sink through the the drop to burst through the oil/water interface.

oil without dissolving. It may take up to a minute for

3. Add a soluble aspirin (or any other soluble tablet) and observe what happens.

4. The aspirin does not begin to dissolve until it breaks through and into the water.

5. The bubbles of carbon dioxide in the water make

buoyant blobs which float in vegetable oil. When the blobs reach the surface, the bubbles pop so the blobs of water become less buoyant and sink again.

6. After removing the top layer, use a turkey baster to return the remaining oil to the bottle for re-use.

Lesson Plan 17 DIY Lava Lamp | Page 5

2008 | ABC Science Online