Sand, Plants and Pants

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In this activity, learners explore how the application of nano-sized particles or coatings can change a bigger material’s properties. Learners investigate the hydrophobic properties of plants, nano-fabric pants and magic sand.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Assortment of hydrophobic plant leaves, such as lotus leaves, nasturtium leaves, mustard greens, leafy kale, broccoli, or Chinese cabbage and an assortment of non-hydrophobic plants (iceberg lettuce, etc.). At minimum, 4-5 TOTAL leaves (note that more leaves will extend the length of the program)
  • Trays for plants
  • Beaker of Water
  • 1 cup of cocoa mix and spoon or small strainer
  • 1 Beaker filled with a purple liquid (water with food coloring will come out in the wash)
  • Swatch of non-treated fabric
  • Swatch of nano-treated fabric (search online for “stain resistant pants,” then check for the word “nano” in the garment description)
  • Miniature Pants made of nanotechnology stain-resistant fabric (search online for “stain resistant pants,” then check for the word “nano” in the garment description)
  • Regular-sized nano pants (search online for “stain resistant pants,” then check for the word “nano” in the garment description)
  • Water guns filled with purple liquid (to resemble grape juice) - optional
  • Tray and hanger for miniature and regular-sized Nano Pants, respectively
  • Magic Sand®
  • Regular Sand
  • Demo Tank, small aquarium, or large bowl
  • 2 small plates (or petri dishes)
  • Two cups for magic and regular sand
  • Large serving spoon
  • 3 Plastic (or stainless steel) spoons
  • 6 Multiple Pipettes
  • Paper or regular towels


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Biodiversity
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
      • Chemical Reactions
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0532536
  • National Science Foundation, 0940143