Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dissolving Sweethearts

Well, Valentine's Day has come and gone (happy belated, everyone!) and, yet again, we have a stash of candy that we are slowly/quickly working our way through.  My girls are not especially fond of the ubiquitous Sweethearts candy (nor am I, to be honest) - you know the powdery ones with the messages on them - so we've been brainstorming things to do with them.  Here's what we came up with...

Materials Needed:
  • Sweethearts candy - at least four of the same color, as well as a few additional of other colors
  • bowl with water
  • four clear liquids - we used water, tonic water, vinegar and sparkling water
  • four containers - we used Wilton's Love Potion Sprinkles containers (okay, I have to admit that I bought these because I really liked, and wanted to reuse, the test tubes more than because of the sprinkles themselves) but plastic cups would have worked as well.

Sweethearts in Water
Start off by putting some of the extra Sweetheart candies into the bowl of water.  Ask your child to predict what will happen to the candy once it is placed in the water. Allow the candy to soak for a while and you should see the colors start to come off into the water.  (It may take 15 to 20 minutes to see a significant difference in the color of the water.)  Some of the colors seem to dissolve a little faster than others - for us, it seemed like it was the blue and orange.  We had enough of the orange left over so we chose to use that for the second part of our activity. 

Dissolving Sweethearts
Fill each of your containers with a different clear liquid.  Make sure to measure out the same amount of liquid for each of the containers.

We then labeled them with a dry erase marker so we could keep each container straight. Ask your child to predict which solution will cause the Sweetheart candy to dissolve first.

Carefully, at the same time - or as close as you can manage it - drop your Sweethearts into the solutions in each of your containers.

Watch each of the solutions carefully to observe any changes.  As before, this can take a while.  We set up a camera to make a time-lapse video of the process and used Google's Picasa to stitch the pictures together into a video.  Below is the video we created, taking pictures every 20 seconds over the period of about an hour.  Unfortunately, my "helpers" kept moving the camera the first 5 minutes or so, so the video starts at the 5 minute mark where you can  see that the second test tube (containing tonic water) had already started to dissolve and you can see an orange tinge.  As you can see, as the Sweetheart dissolves, it begins to "dance" (as my girls called it) and eventually floats to the top.  (It was really fun to watch!)

If you are using a science journal with your child, have your child draw a picture and describe the final results.  

What's Happening?
This activity examines the rate of dissolution.  Dissolution occurs when a solute (a solid, liquid or gas) dissolves into a solvent (usually a liquid, like water).  In this activity, the Sweetheart candy is our solute and the solvents are the different clear liquids that we used.  There are several factors that affect the rate of dissolution including the nature of what is being dissolved and what is doing the dissolving - here we changed what is doing the dissolving.  Other factors that affect the rate of dissolution include: temperature, surface area, how much has already been dissolved (saturation) and whether there is any mixing.

Try experimenting with one of the other factors that affects dissolution rate (temperature, surface area, saturating level and mixing.  Older kids can make a data table and record the times at which the candy dissolved.  Another great thing to do with younger kids is to use it as a simple color mixing experiment - drop different color Sweethearts in water and observe what color is created.

As always, check out for other fun ideas experimenting with candy.

Science Process Skills Used In This Activity:

Observing Communicating Classifying Measuring Inferring Predicting



Visit the science process skills page for more information on the different skills.  I hope you enjoy this activity!   If you try it, please leave me a comment to let me know how it goes!  You can also post any pictures you take to the Momma Owl group on Flickr.  Have fun with science!

P.S. The time-lapse video was made with an older model Canon point and shoot camera.  It does have a built in time-lapse option but it is only for a short period of time.  A while ago, while we were installing some solar panels at our home, I came across a way to hack the camera to give it more capabilities.  (Google "Canon Hack Development Kit" if you are interested.)  Check out the time-lapse video we made of our solar project!

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  1. This is awesome! I'll have to try it. We've experimented with Sweethearts in different liquids before, and admired them bobbing in soda water. They'll float in plain water too, given enough time (but that's another experiment entirely).

  2. I read your whole post, found it very informative and educational.