Moving On Up: Capillary Action 1

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Over the course of several days, learners explore the property of water that helps plants move water from roots to leaves or gives paper towels the capacity to soak up water. Learners will observe water's ability to move through narrow tube-like spaces known as capillaries, in an investigation called Colorizing Carnations. Learners then modify the variables in their activity to test how capillary action is affected by soapy water, salty water, different liquids and/or different plants.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

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 with tap water
  • 200 ml beakers or measuring cups to hold plants
  • 3 fresh stalks of celery with leaves
  • 3 fress white carnations with leaves
  • red or blue food coloring
  • sponges
  • clock or watch
  • calendar
  • rulers
  • magnifying lenses
  • other plants with leaves
  • other liquids (salty water, soapy water, white vinegar, baby oil...)
  • student journals and writing tools


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Motion and Forces
    • 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

Informal Categories

  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • 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