Water's Effect on Fibers Science Experiment

Paper Petals

Luckily, I got another great experiment idea from a teacher that came by the Museum of Discovery and Science this weekend. We were talking about fun things to do in the classroom, and she told me about an unusual way to talk about absorption.

To try it, you will need:

  • paper
  • scissors
  • crayons
  • a bowl of water

On the paper, draw a large flower. You want a flower that has a large center and nice, large petals. Something that looks like a daisy or sunflower will work very well. Once you have drawn the flower, use the crayons to color it. Then carefully cut out the flower, cutting around each petal. You want to be able to fold the petals inwards over the center of the flower, so don't make the petals too long.

Do not color the back side of the paper. We do not want it to be coated with wax. Carefully fold each petal across the center, so the flower is closed up. Then place the flower, petal side up, in the bowl of water. It should float on top of the water. Then watch it carefully. What happened?

Slowly, the petal opened, as if the flower was blooming. Why? Paper is made of fibers of cellulose from wood pulp. When you folded the paper, you squeezed the fibers, compacting them on the inside of the fold. As water soaked into the paper, it caused the squeezed fibers in the paper to expand. The swelling fibers pushed outwards, unfolding the paper.

You can try different kinds of paper and get the flower to open at different speeds. If some of your petals do not open, try making them shorter with a wider base. That seems to help. Now, I just hope that this is not an experiment that I have already written.

Have a wonder filled week.

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