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 science fair project.
This experiment can either be a science demonstration, where you make a storm jar once and use it to discuss a scientific concept, or you can create a snow storm in a jar hypothesis and test variations on the design to make it a true science experiment that you can bring to a science fair.
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 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.
Doing the Snow Storm in a Jar Science Experiment
Follow along with these instructions to learn how to complete your own snowstorm in a jar science project.
Snow Storm in a 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.
What you need for the snowstorm in a jar science project
For this experiment, you will need:
- Large jar (big mason jars are our favorite!)
- Vegetable oil
- Blue or white paint
- Blue or white glitter
- Alka-Seltzer tablets
Snowstorm in a jar instructions
Completing the snowstorm in a jar science project is easy, and super fun for kids!
First, fill your jar with about 1-2 inches of water (how much you use will depend on the size of the jar).
Next, add some white or blue paint to the water and mix.
Finally, add enough vegetable oil to fill the jar to about 3/4 of the way full. You want to leave some room at the top in case your kids get a little too enthusiastic about adding the Alka-Seltzer tablets.
To do the experiment, drop about a quarter of a tablet into the jar at a time.
Watch as the carbon dioxide gas catches the water in its bubbles and rises to the top of the jar.
The more tablets you add, the more of a big snow storm you’ll have in your jar.
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 data in a science notebook!