Easy Friction Science Experiment that Will Make You Look SmartSomeone recently told me about this super easy friction science experiment. We’re huge fans of science activities in our home. Our favorite recent science activity was Learning about Electricity. I listened to the explanation but had doubts if the “experiment” would work. So, like any good parent and educator, I tested it out. First, by myself and then with my children. By the way, have you checked out Steve Spangler’s Science experiments? He is fantastic! Definitely, check him out!
I like to do activities by myself first not because I don’t want to fail in front of kids (that is a healthy and great thing for children to observe) but instead because I want to be organized with the materials. I want to be able to have conversations about the concept and the experiment without stumbling for a bag of rice. 😉
The post includes photos of my sons when we did the experiment. They were joyous, amazed with the result, and had loads of questions and ideas on what to do next with this experiment. This easy friction science experiment definitely ignited their desire to learn more!
Use this downloadable Friction Science Activity Observation Sheet!
Friction Science Experiment Idea
Materials for Science Experiment
- Enough rice to fill a medium sized plastic bottle
- Pencil or chopstick
- Funnel to get rice into the bottle
- Medium sized plastic or glass bottle
- A scoop to get rice to the funnel
Steps to Friction Science Experiment
- Bring out the materials and ask the child: “Do you think I can lift a bottle of rice with a chopstick?”
- Pour rice into a bowl for easy access
- Place funnel into bottle
- Scoop rice and pour into funnel (that is already in the opening of the bottle
- Bang the bottle gently on the table to settle the rice (key point)
- Continue until mostly full
- Place the chop stick into the bottle
- Work it into the rice, gently banging the bottle to get the chop stick worked well into the rice
- Once worked into the rice, grab the chopstick and try to lift the bottle
- Observe the wonder
Science Behind Friction Experiments
Friction is a force we experience every day, all day. We can’t see it. So, we tend not to notice it. Friction is the force that opposes the movement of one substance against another. In this case, we had rice and a chopstick. As the rice sits in the bottle, there are air pockets around most grains, which prevents friction. As we push the chopstick into the bottle, the grains of rice settle close to one another eliminating most of the air pockets. Once this happens, the frictional force overwhelms the rice and so the rice will push against the chopstick. In fact, the grains are pushing so forcefully, they create a force that causes the chopstick to become stuck enabling you to pick up the bottle of rice.
Further Friction Questions & Ideas
- Why could the chopstick pick up the bottle of rice in one case but not in another? (The rice wasn’t settled enough in the bottle, around the chopstick.)
- Try different materials like sand, pasta, etc. Record what works and what doesn’t work and thoughts on why that might be the case
- Try different sized “pencils” or tool to lift. Try a thicker/thicker dowel. Try a shorter or longer instrument. Record observations.
- Try with more or less rice. Record the observations.
- Check out PhysicsforKids.com for Friction Basics
If you enjoyed this activity, check out my Montessori Science Activities Pack!
I’d love to hear your ideas on ways to experiment with friction!