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Magic Sand

'Magic sand' has a special coating that prevents water from clinging to it - that is, it makes the sand hydrophobic ('water-hating'). When ordinary sand meets water, the water clings to the sand, getting it wet and making the grains stick together. However, water rolls right off magic sand, so it doesn't get wet. 

It's like magic, but it's actually science!

Wet and Dry printable guide.

This activity was developed and tested with preschool and kindergarten educators as part of Science World's Big Science For Little Hands program. 

Objectives

  • Observe how magic sand seems to stay dry in water.

Materials

  • Per Child:
    a couple of tablespoons of magic sand in a small cup or container (magic sand available for purchase at Boreal Science, Educational Innovations, and also from many toy stores)
    a clear, wide-mouth container of water
    a spoon

Key Questions

  • Is the magic sand wet or dry? How can you tell? What about when you lift it back out of the water?
  • Bring some comparison into this activity by having a separate station with ordinary beach sand. How is magic sand different from ordinary beach sand?

What To Do

Preparation

Pour some water into each child’s container, and magic sand into a separate cup or container. Provide spoons.

Activity

  1. Feel the magic sand, then pour or spoon it into the water, a bit at a time. Watch what happens.
  2. Try to sculpt the sand underwater!
  3. Try to lift the sand back out of the water. How does it feel?

Tip: Pour the water off the sand, then pour the sand out onto a paper towel. Leave sand overnight to dry thoroughly, it can be used again and again for endless science ‘magic’!

Extensions

  • Pour the water off the sand, then pour the sand out onto a paper towel. It can be used again and again for endless science 'magic'!
  • Pour magic sand into water using a funnel to create underwater 'sand snakes'.
  • Try to form water beads! Some water sticks together in these little beads (see above picture) when it's 'trapped' on top of magic sand.
  • This activity can be fun to do in conjunction with the Sandcastles station.