Learn about capillary action and the properties of materials in this colorful STEAM project!
You could call this project the “Case of the Disappearing Designs…,” at least that’s what my daughter said when she came back to look at her flowers the morning after we made them. “Where did my designs go?!”she yelled, completely bewildered. Well….”they moved,” I said, or rather the water in our cups moved all the colors to the very edges of the petals. Read on for why and how!
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STEAM Project Idea: Bleeding Blossoms
- Washable (Water soluble) Markers Crayola markers are perfect!
- 6” Bamboo Skewer
- Paper Towel
- Wood bead
- Spray Bottle & Water
- Step One Color the center portion of the blossoms with water soluble markers.
- Step Two Cut out blossoms.
- Step Three Wrap a paper towel tightly around the skewer.
- Step Four Thread 2-3 blossoms on the skewer with the lowest blossom touching the paper towel.
- Step Five Place a wood bead at the end to hold everything in place.
- Step Six Fold the blossoms at the dotted lines to “close” the flower.
- Step Seven Place the paper towel covered stem in a cup with 1” of water at the bottom.
- Step Eight Spray the flower with a mist of water and watch the blossom open!
- Step Nine Leave the flower in the cup overnight and watch the color dissipate as water is absorbed first by the paper towel and then by the paper blossoms.
What’s the STEAM behind it?
This experiment illustrates two scientific concepts: properties of materials and capillary action. When you spray the folded blossoms with water you are watching what happens when the fibers of wood (paper is ground up wood pulp) come into contact with water: they swell and expand. The flower appears to open as the paper fibers swell when water touches them.
As the flower sits in the cup of water overnight, the paper towel that surrounds the skewer “stem” absorbs water through capillary action, which is ability of liquid to flow against gravity through other materials. In this project water moves up the stem via the paper towel and is then absorbed by the paper blossoms. The water continues to “move” the ink on the blossoms outward, and by the end of this experiment the designs you drew will have disappeared and the ink will be gathered at the flower tips.
Garip Ay A video of Garip Ay recreating Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on the surface of water circulated the internet recently and amazed millions of people! In fact Garip Ay practices the art of Ebru, the Turkish art of marbling paper by painting on top of oily water and then transferring the designs to paper. You can watch the “Starry Night” video and get a taste of Ebru here.
Our Bleeding Blossoms reminded me of this project in their unusual use of water as an art medium with a scientific twist!