This Sharpie solubility experiment is a fun science activity for kids that is easy to do in any classroom. Ideal for teaching elementary students about scientific processes, the materials you need are all available at the dollar store. The PowerPoint lessons and recording sheet I use can be found in this science resource.
With this experiment, students gain experience planning and carrying out an investigation to answer a question or design a solution to a problem.
What is solubility?
Solubility is the ability of a substance (the solute), to mix into a liquid (the solvent). A solvent is any substance that dissoves a solute. A solute is any substance, liquid, solid or gas, that is dissolved by a solvent. Permanent markers, like Sharpies are hydrophobic, or “water fearing”. Hydrophobic substances will not dissolve in water. This is why trying to remove permanent marker with water doesn’t work.
I use this simple solubility experiment for students to learn and practice using the scientific method. Students explore solubility by answering the question, “Are permanent markers really permanent?” and by testing the solubility of Sharpie pen ink in water, vinegar and rubbing alcohol.
Sharpie Solubility Experiment
- Sharpie markers
- 3 small plastic cups labeled water, vinegar and alcohol
- 3 coffee filters
- white vinegar
- rubbing alcohol
- student lab sheet
Place students in small groups or partners with the above materials needed to carry out their experiment.
Draw several circles in the center of 3 coffee filters. Fold the coffee filters in half twice.
Ask students to consider the questions, “Are Sharpie pens really permanent?” and write a hypothesis on their lab sheet. Next, students make predictions about what will happen to the ink after the coffee filters are placed in each liquid.
Gently place the folded coffee filters in each cup and observe any changes for about 10-15 minutes.
Lastly, have students draw what they observe and describe the results of their test.
The science behind the Sharpie solubility experiment
The ink molecules in the Sharpie are soluble meaning they will dissolve in a different solvent. The rubbing alcohol (solvent) dissolves the ink molecules and carries them with it as it spreads across the coffee filter. When left over night, the ink is almost completely dissolved and has been carried to the top edges of the coffee filter as you can see in the top right corner of the above picture.
This simple Sharpie solubility experiment is a fun way to familiarize your students with the scientific method and begin building a science foundation in your classroom.
Be sure to pin it for later to have it when you plan!
For more introductory science lessons and foundation building activities for second and third grade, check out this complete science unit, Scientists and the Scientific Method.
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