January has definitely been the coldest month of our winter so far. With this in mind, our very simple activity this month will get the family outdoors to take advantage of the weather.
For this activity you will need some containers, some water, a cold location, a pan and a metal spoon. Find a container (mould) shaped to your liking, fill it with water and then leave it in a cold spot – a freezer works, but the temperature outside can get much colder, which will speed up the process. As you might guess, this will eventually form a nice piece of ice in the exact shape of your mould. Great moulds range widely: from ice cube trays and yogurt containers to balloons or rubber gloves (though you’ll need to cut these away to remove your ice). Just make sure that your container has room for your ice to expand, because water gets slightly larger as it turns to ice (and therefore can break your mould if it doesn’t have room to stretch).
Now, take your cool-shaped block of ice, rest it in a pan (to catch melting water!) and sculpt it with a metal spoon and a cup of warm water (to keep your spoon warm). Use your imagination and scrape and melt your ice into nearly any shape you like. Upload your ice sculptures to our Facebook page!
There are two bits of science to be learned in this icy activity: first, the bigger the difference in temperature between two things, the faster they will come together (the warm one cools and the cold one warms). That means your ice will form faster the colder your day (or freezer), and melt faster the warmer your carving tool is. Secondly, ice sculptures look particularly cool because of how they catch the light: light bends a bit when it moves into and out of water, which makes a spoon look bent in a glass of water (try it!) and can make an ice sculpture seem like it’s glowing.
If you need a break from the cold – be sure to come to the Discovery Centre and check out our two new exhibits coming this month – Grossology: The Impolite Science of the Human Body and Let’s Go: Animals in Motion. Both will be here until May.