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Family STEAM Challenge: Melting Snowmen

Do you have leftover packing peanuts from all of those holiday gifts you ordered? Playing outside in the snow is fantastic, but what is there to do once that winter chill hits and you want to stay cozy and warm in house? Let’s decorate – and melt – a snowman ...

The topic:

Exploring and observing the science behind the power of water or acetone and the future of biodegradable packing.

The Mission:

Use your scientific and detective skills to figure out why the liquid melts the packing peanuts and which variation works best to dissolve them. 

The Challenge:

How many packing peanuts can you dissolve into one small cup?

Materials you could use (but are not limited to):

Variation 1:

  • Biodegradable packing peanuts              
  • Water 
  • Markers
  • Small bowl or cup

Variation 2:

  • Normal packing peanuts
  • Acetone (nail polish remover)
  • Markers
  • Small bowl or cup

Melting your snowman:

This challenge is very open-ended as it can be applied whenever and wherever the materials are available. To start this experiment, you must first draw and decorate your snowman. Use the markers and draw on a face, nose, hat, and buttons. You can also add extra decorations or accessories and see if they melt in the liquid, too.

Next, place your snowman into whichever liquid you are using for your experiment. (If you are using the acetone, be sure an adult is supervising and you may want to wear gloves and eye protection). Now watch your snowman melt! Time how long it takes him to disappear. Does the water or the acetone work better?

Tip: If you use your finger and just get a small amount of water on the packing peanut, it will stick to other peanuts and you can create a structure with it. Then you can dissolve that!

Questions to Mull Over:

• If you color the whole peanut, will the liquid dissolve the color or will the liquid change color?

• Which works best?

• Is there a way that the world could use this to be more sustainable with packaging?

• What is the texture of the melted peanut?

• Is there anything else that dissolves in either of these liquids?

• Is there any other liquid that dissolves the peanuts?

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