Winter science experiments and winter STEM activities are some of the best ways to explore the world when it’s cold outside. A classic winter science experiment that you can do indoors is the snow storm in a jar experiment.
This snow storm experiment can either be a science demonstration or you can create a hypothesis and test variations on the design to make it a science experiment. And use the free STEM extensions for open-ended snowstorm science experiment directions to scale the lesson for preschool, elementary, or middle school!
Follow along to learn how to make your very own snow storm in a jar!
The Science Behind the Snow Storm in a Jar Experiment
Water and oil don’t mix.
This means that when water and oil are added to the jar, they stay separated. But, when you add a reactant to the jar (in this case the alka-seltzer tablets), water and oil are forced to interact to allow the carbon dioxide gas to escape.
Adding paint to the water thickens the water, which makes larger bubbles during the reaction process. The bubbling and swirling colors and glitter looks just like a snow storm!
But you can go further than simple carbon dioxide reactions with this snow storm activity. You may also want to explore the following science topics when making a snow storm in a jar:
- forces of attraction
- Density (get a full explanation of density science in this hot and cold water density experiment)
- Immiscibility (a fancy word that explains that water and oil don’t mix)
Snow storm in a jar experiment hypothesis
If you are making a snow storm in a jar as a science fair project, you must have a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a informed guess about how something might work, or how certain changes might occur.
For this experiment, the snow storm in a jar hypothesis might be that changing how many alka seltzer tablets are added will change how violent the blizzard in a jar is.
Another hypothesis is that the type of oil in the jar doesn’t matter, or that it matters a lot.
Testing these hypotheses will make a fun science fair project for active kids.
Use the STEM extensions below to scale this lesson for preschool, elementary, or middle school!
Making a Snow Storm Jar with Vegetable Oil
One thing we’ve found when making a variety of snowstorm jars is that the type of oil changes how the reaction occurs. When baby oil is used, the bubbles are usually smaller, and the jar gets cloudier faster.
When vegetable oil is used, the bubbles are larger and it takes longer for the jar to become cloudy.
Because we like large bubbles, we often choose to use vegetable oil for our storm jar- even though it doesn’t look quite as sky-like.
If you’re in a rush, these are our favorite weather science kits.
What you Need for the Snowstorm in a Jar Experiment
For this snow storm in a jar experiment, you will need:
- Large jar (big mason jars are our favorite and use one for each group)
- Vegetable oil
- Blue or white paint
- Blue or white glitter
- Alka-Seltzer tablets
More Winter Science Experiments for Kids
Here are more fun wintery science experiments to try with your students!
- How to Make Borax Crystal Snowflakes
- How to Make an Instant Ice Tower
- Colorful Snow Volcano Experiment
- Galaxy Snow Experiment
Snow Storm in a Jar Experiment Instructions
Follow along with the printable instructions below to learn how to set up and complete the snow storm in a jar experiment!
Don’t forget to discuss the science behind this chemical reaction when completing this experiment.
And if you’re testing variables, try different oils in different jars to see which bubbles the fastest, or to see which oil allows the carbon dioxide gas to escape the fastest.
What other variations on this snowstorm in a jar experiment can you think to test?
Don’t forget to record your snow storm in a jar experiment data in a science notebook!