Density Rainbow and the Great Viscosity Race

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Learners conduct two activities to investigate two properties of liquids: density and viscosity. In a clear container, learners stack 7 different liquids which will layer according to their density. For the second part, learners "race" drops of different liquids to see how their viscosities compare. Learners can record their layered liquids with drawings and/or photographs. A related activity, "Floating and Falling Flows", allows learners to investigate the interactions of liquids as well. Resource contains vocabulary definitions and suggestions for assessment.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

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


Materials List (per group of students)

  • a box of food coloring
  • 1 rectangular glass container or vase (no smaller than 15 cm x 10 cm x 8 cm or 6 in x 4 in x 3 in; available at hobby or craft supply stores)
  • 5 small disposable cups (preferably transparent)
  • marker
  • ¼ cup (59 ml) isopropyl alcohol
  • ¼ cup (59 ml) shampoo (Pantene Pro-V recommended)
  • ¼ cup (59 ml) strawberry syrup (Hershey's brand syrup recommended)
  • ¼ cup (59 ml) corn syrup
  • ¼ cup (59 ml) cooking oil
  • ½ cup (118 ml) ketchup
  • ½ cup (118 ml) chocolate syrup
  • 1 clear 8 oz (240 ml) drinking glass
  • 1 spoon or mixing rod (or a small supply of plastic spoons or stirrers)
  • 3 sheets white paper
  • tape
  • pencils
  • Student Instructions Handout; one per group
  • Density Rainbow and the Great Viscosity Race Worksheet; one per person
  • Camera, of any type (optional)
  • Black cardboard or fabric for photograph background, 2 ft X 2 ft (or .6 m x .6 m) (optional)
  • 60 Watt clip-type light or equivalent (optional)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Photography and Film/Video


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • 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


  • Taylor, Cody ; Camacho, Gala ; Hertzberg, Jean ; Schaefer Zarske, Malinda ; Carlson, Denise

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the Univeristy of Colorado, 2006