Water Cycle Experiments
Floaters and Sinkers

In these water cycle experiments you will learn how water strikers and other small insects can walk on water. This cool science experiment demonstrates water cohesion, an important characteristic of water. Water cohesion creates a thin film on the surface of water strong enough to float paper clips.

Floaters and sinkers science experiment, Photo by Myrna Martin
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Materials

  • Box of paper clips
  • Bowl
  • Water

Directions

  1. Place a bowl of water on a flat surface.
  2. Take out some paper clips from the box and set them beside the bowl.
  3. Test different ways to set the paper clips on the surface of the water so they will float.
  4. When you can easily float several paper clips on the water's surface determine the maximum number of paper clips that can be floated there.
  5. After you get very good at floating paper clips predict how many you can place on the water's surface before one paper clip falls to the bottom. See if you are right!

Try these other water cycle experiments.

  1. Place a large number of paper clips on the surface of the water in the bowl.
  2. Create a "fish hook" with another paper clip that has one end pulled out so you can fish the paper clips out of the water without touching them.
  3. See how many clippies you can catch before they fall to the bottom of the water.
  4. Get a friend and see who can place the most paper clips on the water. The first person places paper clips on the water until one sinks to the bottom. Then it is the other person's turn.
  5. The winner is the person who puts the most paper clips on the water's surface. You can also have the winner determined by who can place the last paper clip on the water's surface.
  6. Try floating pieces of paper on the surface. Estimate how long the paper will float before it sinks.
  7. Test other objects to see if they will float and how long it takes them to sink.

Science behind the activity

In these water cycle experiments you found things could float on water. The reason they float on water is because of water cohesion. Water cohesion is the ability of water molecules to bond together.

Each water molecule has a positive and negative charge that attaches to other water molecules using these bonds. This creates a film across the water allowing water striders to walk across the water. It also allowed you to float paper clips on the water's surface.

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