Want a fun glow stick STEM activity to go along with your summer STEM activities? Make a glowing lantern to add to your list of glow in the dark science experiments!
With a few variables and questions, you can learn a lot about glow sticks with this acitvity!
You’ll find directions for making the glow stick lantern out of a mason jar later on, but first, learn a bit about the science of glow sticks, and what fun STEM extensions you can add to your glow stick activity!
Easy Glow Stick STEM Activity for Curious Kids
Start learning about the whys behind glow sticks here!
Supplies for the Glow Stick STEM Activity
Shop these Amazon affiliate links for the supplies needed for your glow stick lantern!
How to Make This Activity a Glow Stick STEM Activity
Here are some STEM elements to add to this activity:
- Learn about the science of what makes a glowstick glow.
- Figure out if freezing a glow stick recharges it.
- Find out how many glow sticks you have to use to use your lantern as a light source.
- Calculate how long your glow stick lantern will last.
- Find out if adding other things to the inside of the lantern will make your glow stick lantern shine more brightly.
- Compare the glow time of different glow stick brands.
- Think of your own STEM applications, too!
What Makes a Glow Stick Glow?
A glow stick works because of the chemical process known as chemiluminescence. Basically, this means lit by chemical reaction. The chemical reaction causes the molecules to move faster, creating light.
Two chemicals are required for this reaction: hydrogen peroxide and tert-butyl alcohol. The reaction of the two chemicals causes them to glow. Most glue sticks also include fluorescent dyes to change their colors to green, yellow, pink, and blue.
The glow stick doesn’t start the reaction until you break the inner thin glass vial that contains one of the chemicals. When the chemicals mix, the glowing starts.
How Long Can a Glow Stick Glow?
How long a glow stick can last depends on variables. Variables like, how much of the chemicals are present, in what ratio, how warm it is outside, and how concentrated the chemicals are.
Generally, colder weather will mean a glow stick will last longer, but be dimmer. Warmer weather will cause a glow stick to glow brightly, but for less time.
The duration of your glow stick’s glow will vary depending upon the type of liquids used, the exact composition and also the quality of the liquids inside. Temperature also affects the intensity of the glow – the warmer it is the brighter the glow but this shortens the total glow duration. The colder it is the glow stick will glow less but will glow for a longer duration.
Does Freezing a Glow Stick Recharge It?
No, you can’t actually recharge a glow stick by putting it in the freezer. All this does is slow down the reaction time, meaning that it takes longer for the chemical reaction to occur.
So, your glow stick’s life can be extended by putting it in the freezer, but it won’t re-charge with cold temperatures. Completed reactions will remain completed.
Check out the STEAM summer camp for summer science fun!
How to Make a Glowing Lantern from Glow Sticks
Follow these easy directions to make your own glow stick lantern! Then add in the glow stick STEM ideas to bring the activity to life!
“Crack” each glow stick down its entire length.
Push the glow sticks inside of the jar to create a glow stick border around the edges of the jar.
Add as many glow sticks as possible to line the inside of your jar. You can tape them in place if they are stubborn and want to move around.
Screw the lid on the jar and place the mason jar wire handle around the jar and lock it in place. Your glow stick lantern is complete!
Now you can experiment with the STEM extensions outlined above.