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Chemical Magic    Mystery 4

Mystery 4 image

This Mystery develops the idea that chemical reactions create new materials that have useful and interesting properties. In the activity, students conduct an investigation to determine if the mixing of various substances results in a new substance.

What do fireworks, rubber, and silly putty have in common?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 3)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 3)

DISCUSS:

What could you do with powders that cause different colored flames?

Powders image

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 3)
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Beginning Activity Prep
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The Great Goo Experiment

This is a two-part activity. In Part 1, students experiment by combining different substances and watching for reactions. In Part 2, students make “Mystery Science Goo” in ziplock bags and observe its properties. If the activity is running long, you can save the second part for another day.

Step 1: Think ahead

If you have a class or group of students, students can work in pairs and share supplies with others at their table or pod. To figure out quantities of supplies, start by figuring out many pairs and how many tables you’ll have. Individual students can work alone.

Step 2: Gather equipment and supplies

To prepare for the activity, you’ll need:

  • a permanent marker
  • a ruler
  • a measuring cup
  • a teaspoon for measuring (abbreviated as tsp)
  • a tablespoon for measuring (abbreviated as Tbsp)
  • a bottle that holds at least a half gallon (check the recycling bin)
  • a bottle that holds at least a pint (check the recycling bin)
  • a large jar or bowl for mixing glue and water
  • lots of water

The table below shows supplies with amounts needed for a pair of students or a single experimenter, and also for a class of 32 students working in pairs. Since each pair shares supplies with another pair of students at a table, you need one set of testing supplies for each group of four students.

Supplies for Part 1 (Testing for a Reaction)

Supply Quantity for 1 Pair or Individual Quantity for 16 Pairs Working at 8 Tables Notes
Set of printouts (2 pages) Answer Key for Teachers 1 set 16 sets Each pair of students needs a set of printouts.
White vinegar 1 Tbsp ½ cup
Milk 1 Tbsp ½ cup
Borax powder 2 tsp 2 tsp You will mix this with one cup of water. Note that you’ll need more borax powder for Part 2.
Baking soda 1 tsp 1 tsp You will mix this with one cup of water.
Elmer’s multipurpose glue 1 Tbsp 4 Tbsp (about 1/4 cup) White school glue may not work. You will mix glue and water in equal parts. Note that you’ll need more glue for Part 2.
Toothpicks 10 80
Press ’n Seal 1 sheet 16 sheets You can substitute sheet protectors if you have them.
Prepared straws 7 56 Each of these is half a straw, prepared as described in Step 4. Each pair of students needs a straw for the water cup. Groups of 4 will share straws for other cups.
Paper towels 2 32 Note that you may need more paper towels for Part 2.
Newspaper Enough to cover a table Enough to cover 8 tables
Small cups 6 48 These cups are used for supplies that are shared when working with another team. We used 3-ounce plastic bathroom cups. If you use paper cups, be aware that vinegar will leak through some brands after an hour and a half. Plan accordingly. Note that you’ll need more cups for Part 2.

Supplies for Part 2 (Making Goo)

Supply Quantity for 1 Pair or Individual Quantity for 16 Pairs Working at 8 Tables Notes
Borax powder 2 tsp 6 tsp Borax is used in Part 1 and Part 2. The total for 32 students doing both parts is 8 tsp (about 1/6 cup).
Elmer’s multipurpose glue 1 Tbsp 18 ounces White glue is used in Part 1 and Part 2. The total for 32 students doing both parts is 22 ounces.
Small cups 4 (two for each experimenter) 64 (two for each experimenter) Small cups are used in Part 1 and Part 2. The total number for 32 students doing both parts is 112 cups.
Paper plates 2 32
Ziplock baggies 2 32
Paper towels (optional) 2 32

Step 3: Mix your solutions before class

To make the baking-soda solution, mix 1 cup water and 1 tsp baking soda in the one-pint bottle.

To make the glue mixture, mix equal amounts of glue and water in your mixing jar or bowl.

To make the borax solution for Part 1 of the activity (for up to 32 students), mix 2 tsp borax powder with 1 cup of warm water. It is okay if all of the borax powder doesn't dissolve.

To make the borax solution for Part 2 of the activity (for a class of 32), mix 6 tsp of borax with 3 cups of water in a half-gallon bottle. If you have just a few students, you can use your leftover borax solution from Part 1.

Step 4: Prepare and set up your supplies before class

To prepare the straws, follow these steps:

  • Cut each straw in half (Note: Long straws may cause small cups to tip over).
  • Lay the straws side by side with their ends squared up.
  • Eyeball ½ inch and draw a line with your permanent marker across the straws, as shown below.

straw setup

To prepare the testing supply cups, follow these steps

  • Count out 6 cups for each group doing the activity.
  • Use a permanent marker to mark cups for each group.
    • W for Water
    • S for Baking Soda solution
    • B for Borax solution
    • G for Glue/water mixture
    • V for Vinegar
    • M for Milk
  • Put 1 Tbsp of the supply in each cup.

To make Mystery Goo in Part 2, each student will also need:

  • 2 Tbsp of glue/water mixture in a small cup
  • 1 Tbsp of borax solution in a small cup


Borax, while safe when diluted, can be a mild skin irritant to some people, especially those with sensitive skin. If you are concerned, you may want to consider having your students wear gloves or use one of the alternative recipes here .

Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Activity: The Great Goo Experiment
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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.
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The Challenge

When you drop Mystery Science Goo, it splats. Suppose you wanted a goo that bounced when you dropped it.

That's our challenge for you. We want you to make a goo that bounces.

Start with the Mystery Science Goo recipe. Think about the properties of this goo make it splat. What do you need to change to make it bounce?

Discuss with your friends. Then check out our ideas.

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Bouncy Goo — Our Ideas

We decided Mystery Science Goo needed to be firmer to bounce. So we experimented with adding powdery stuff to the recipe to make firmer goo.

Here are our three new recipes:

  • 1 Tbsp talcum powder, 2 Tbsp of glue/water solution, & 1 Tbsp of borax solution
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch, 2 Tbsp of glue/water solution, & 1 Tbsp of borax solution
  • 1 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp of glue/water solution, & 1 Tbsp of borax solution

Try all three and compare the resulting goos. Which one bounces highest?

For more information on goo recipes, visit the Page that Dripped Slime on the Bizarre Stuff website.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
Activity