Shrinking Polymers

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In this activity, learners discover that some plastics will shrink when you get them hot. Learners bake polystyrene in a regular oven and discover what happens. Safety note: Learners need an adult's help for this activity! Use this activity to talk about different types of plastics such as thermoplastics and thermosets.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • A clear, disposable food container
  • Sandpaper
  • Permanent markers or colored pencils
  • A cookie sheet
  • Margarine or shortening


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
    • States of Matter
      • Solids

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access