Shrinkers: Cook up some plastic!

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In this activity (on page 2 of the PDF), learners (with adult help and supervision) investigate how heat affects polystyrene plastic. Learners cut the plastic to desired shapes and sizes and use permanent markers to draw or write words. When placed in a hot oven, or on a hot pan on the stove, the plastic shrinks. Learners analyze the different ways the plastic shrinks depending on the source of the plastic. This is a take-home version of the experiment of the same name in the Industrial Chemistry unit in OMSI's Chemistry Lab. Also included on the PDF are two activities: Chalk it Up and Plastic Milk.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • polystyrene (#6) plastic from cup or take-out container
  • scissors
  • permanent marker (optional)
  • stove
  • non-stick pan
  • plastic spatula or tongs
  • bowl of water


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation