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Ice Cube Painting

In this activity, by keeping the powder dry, students are able to create artwork while observing an exciting interaction between wet and dry materials.

When we paint, we usually use paintbrushes and wet paint. Powdered tempera paint is mixed with water to create the paint we're familiar with. Change up the a regular process in this activity.

Surprise your students by making them ice cube 'paintbrushes' to paint with powder! Their paintings may change before their very eyes as they watch the ice cubes melt, and watch the powder turn into paint!

By checking out their own artwork, students can also explore texture. Parts of their painting may stay powdery, while other parts may be very wet.

Wet and Dry Printable guide.

These activities are part of Science World's Big Science For Little Hands program. They were developed and tested with preschool and kindergarten educators.

Objectives

  • Create artwork using melting ice cubes and powdered paint.

  • Understand how the wet paint was created.

Materials

  • Per Class or Group:
    powdered tempera paint, several colours
    (we like Funstuff Tempera Powder Paint and Sargent Art® Powder Tempera Paint- available online and at art/hobby stores)
    small bowls/containers for the paint
    shiny fingerpaint paper

    For the ice cube ‘paintbrushes’:
    ice cube tray
    cardstock or cardboard, cut to fit over the ice cube tray
    a pencil or pen
    scissors or boxcutter
    popsicle sticks (1 per child)

Key Questions

  • Are ice cubes dry?
  • What happens when you take them out of the freezer?
  • Is the powdered paint dry?
  • What do you think will happen to the powder when the ice melts on it? (Where did the wet paint come from?)
  • Are there parts of your painting that look different? Are some parts wet and some parts dry?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Tape the cardstock/cardboard to the top of the ice cube tray.
  2. Make a mark on the cardboard where the middle of each ice cube compartment is underneath it. Carefully slit the cardboard where you’ve marked it, just wide enough to fit a popsicle stick.
  3. Take off the cardboard and fill your ice cube tray with water.
  4. Place the cardboard back on the tray, with or without tape, and carefully insert popsicle sticks into each of the slits. Push the sticks all the way down into the tray, keeping them as straight and centred as possible. The sticks will be the handles of the ice cube paintbrushes.
  5. When frozen, gently remove the cardboard from the popsicle sticks. You should now have ice cubes with popsicle sticks sticking out of them.

Activity

  1. Dip your your ice cube paintbrush into some powdered paint.
  2. Try ‘painting’ with your ice cube.

Extensions

  • Powdered paint is a great resource for exploring wet and dry materials- it's fascinating to watch a powder turn into paint by just adding water! Experiment with how you add the water to the powder. Try painting with the dry powder first, then use misters to spray it with water!
  • Experiment with liquids - try adding something other than water to get the powdered paint wet, like vegetable or other cooking oil.
  • Did you know that you can paint with spices, too? Some may need to be ground to a finer powder, but many are already powdery enough and can be used like powdered paint! Nutmeg and cinnamon are good ones to try, and their smells make this a truly multi-sensory experience. (Be aware of allergies and emphasize that the spices are not to be tasted.)