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Virtual Science Fair

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All About Oobleck

Have science fun as a family! Complete activities with parental supervision.

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Plastic bag
  • Newspaper or another protective table covering
  • Optional: Small plastic toy to “sink” in the “quicksand”
  1. This activity is messy, so prepare your area with newspaper or other material.
  2. Combine the cornstarch and water in the bowl and slowly stir until it looks like pancake batter. Add slightly more water a few drops at a time if needed to achieve this consistency.
  3. Firmly and quickly tap the surface of the mixture with your fingers (or a small plastic toy). What happens?
  4. Now, slowly push your fingers (or small plastic toy) into the quicksand. What happens? Is there a difference and why?
  5. NOTE: When you are done playing, discard the quicksand into a plastic bag when you are done and NOT down the drain—it may cause a clog.
  6. Be sure to take a picture or video to share in the Facebook comments on the Buffalo Museum of Science or Tifft Nature Preserve pages!

What’s it all about?

Oobleck isn’t like most solids or liquids—it is a non-Newtonian fluid. Cornstarch is made up of very small particles (try looking at it with a magnifying glass). When you press it quickly, it acts more like solid. But if you press it more slowly or even pour it, it acts like a liquid.

This mixture is kind of like quicksand. While quicksand is often featured in movies, it is not common in the real world. However, it does have similar non-Newtonian properties to what you created and investigated. Grains of sand mixed with water react to how much pressure is applied.

Fun Fact: The name of this mixture comes from a Dr Seuss book; “Bartholemew and the Oobleck”!

Try It!
  • Try slowly pouring the quicksand into a small plastic bag and seal it securely. Continue your investigation of the quicksand while keeping it neatly in the bag. Try adding a couple drops of food coloring or a scent like vanilla to add to the sensory experience!

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