Kool Colors

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Learners investigate how temperature affects the rate of chemical reactions by observing how steel wool reacts with various types of Kool-Aid solutions at different temperatures. The reaction is monitored as the color fades in the Kool-Aid solutions. Background information includes how the dyes change color from an oxidation-reduction reaction. Extensions include investigating how surface area and concentration affect reaction rate. Part of the "No Hassle Messy Science with a Wow" activity guide by OMSI, where all activities use only household materials.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
4 to 24 hours

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

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

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 pad fine grade (#000 or #0000) steel wool
  • 1 package unsweetened Kool-Aid (flavor suggestions: grape, black cherry, cherry, strawberry, watermelon-cherry, orange)
  • 4 clear plastic cups, 4 oz or larger
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • 1 stopwatch or clock with second hand
  • 1 roll masking tape
  • access to hot water
  • access to refrigerator
  • 3 pop-top squeeze bottles
  • paint color strip samples from paint store (optional) see video for details


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
      • Solutions

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read

Learning styles supported:

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


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry


  • All rights reserved, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 2007

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

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