One of our favorite science as art activities is Liquid Layer Art from the incredibly talented authors of Concoctions for Kids. We have all of their books and you should too!
For this activity you need liquids of different densities. We used water, oil, rubbing alcohol, corn syrup and shampoo. We used liquid water color to make each liquid a different color, except for the oil which was already yellow. Then we set these on the table with eye droppers in the cups. The corn syrup is easier done with a teaspoon as it is difficult to get up into and then out of the eye dropper.
We were lucky to have received a great donation of these clear plastic jars with lids. At other times we have used large plastic test tubes and the children would make creations and then rinse them out. With these jars the children were able to keep their layered liquids.
When the liquids are put in the jar, they rest on each other with the heavier liquids sinking and the less dense liquids floating on top. You can actually see the rainbow. Then the children love to shake up the jars and watch as the liquids re-separate. This can take awhile to occur to it is good to have a place where they can set their jars down and come back to at a later time.
The follow up activity that we offered was to have the children fill a jar with just oil-basic cooking oil- and then add a few drops of colored water. As this jar gets turned upside down the water droplets break into smaller and smaller droplets each time it is rotated. Then when the jar rests, the water droplets re-find each other creating large blobs of water in the jar once again. The children were fascinated by this and wanted to continue testing and retesting these effects.
This can be done with other liquids that the children come up with…honey, milk, and liquid soap. The possibilities are endless and the combination of the scientific principals combined with the artistic exploration make for a powerful learning experience.