Below the Surface: Surface Tension II

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this activity learners explore surface tension. Why are certain objects able to float on the surface of water and how do detergents break the surface tension of water? Included in the lesson plan are several investigations, throughout each of which learners are encouraged to try changing variables in their experiments such as different liquids, different types or amounts of soap, or different temperatures and salinity of water. This activity can be used in conjunction with the "Breaking the Surface" activity found in the same educational resource.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1/2 liter water bottle
  • pie tin
  • index cards
  • boat template
  • liquid dish detergent
  • ruler
  • sponges
  • scissors
  • construction paper
  • aluminum foil
  • wax paper
  • cardboard
  • brown paper bag
  • printer/copy paper
  • sandpaper
  • wrapping paper
  • 9 oz clear plastic cup
  • ground black pepper
  • liquid dish detergent
  • electric teapot
  • bottles filled with other fluids
  • different types of soap
  • student journals and writing tools


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Solutions
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, State of New Jersey, 2006

Funding Source:

  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001