Make oobleck, a material that behaves both like a liquid and a solid, for very interesting experimentation.
Science content
Chemistry: States of Matter, Properties of Materials (K-7)
Chemistry: Physical Changes, Solutions, Mixtures and Separating (2, 4, 5, 6)
  • 2 cups cornstarch (~230g), or for a class reduce to 1/4 cup per student pair, or 2 Tablespoons per student
  • 1 cup water, or for a class reduce to 1/8 cup per student pair, or 1 Tablespoon per student
  • bowls or deli tubs to mix in
  • spoons or popsicle sticks

Add the water to the cornstarch in the bowl.
Adjust if necessary by adding very little water or cornstarch, until it feels like a liquid when you're mixing it slowly, but can be scooped up if you move fast. It will not be powdery and feels hard when you tap on it.

Invite students to play around with the oobleck - it acts very strangely!
Pick up a handful and squeeze it. Stop squeezing and it will drip through your fingers.
Tap a spoon on it, then rest the spoon on the surface - it will slowly sink. Rest your fingers on the surface of the oobleck. Let them sink down to the bottom of the bowl. Then try to pull them out fast. What happens?
Take a blob and roll it between your hands to make a ball. Then stop rolling. The oobleck will trickle away between your fingers.
Put a small plastic toy on the surface. Does it stay there or does it sink?

Oobleck is tiny particles of cornstarch distributed in water. Cornstarch is a chain of sugar molecules (a polymer) called amylopectin.
This kind of mixture, with tiny particles of one substance mixed into another, is called a colloid. In this case, solid particles are mixed into a liquid.
To separate this mixture the water can be evaporated away to leave the cornstarch - this will happen quickly if the oobleck falls as drops on a surface.

Water and other liquids have certain properties and behave like many familiar fluids - if you stir them they move out of the way quickly. Oobleck doesn't act like these - when oobleck is hit or moved suddenly, it gets more rigid, or viscous.
Something that behaves in this way and changes it's viscosity (thickness) is called a non-Newtonian fluid.

Why does ooblek behave in this way? If moved slowly, the cornstarch particles have water between them which allows them to slide past each other. But if ooblek is moved quickly or hit, the water is squeezed out from between the particles and the friction between the cornstarch particles increases a lot, locking them together so they can't move past each other.

Ooblek slow motion video (including running on it):
More about oobleck from a research lab that studies it:

Quicksand is also a non-Newtonian fluid, but it acts in the opposite way from ooblek, when hit or pressure is exerted on it, it becomes more fluid. If you ever find yourself sinking in a pool of quicksand, try swimming toward the shore very slowly. The slower you move, the thicker the quicksand will be and so you can push against it.


Put on a speaker: #6 in

Ooblek with vegetable oil is electrostatic. Try this stuff: styrofoam rubbed in hair brought nearby

Grades taught
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6