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Filling Without Spilling

Source Institutions

    Lawrence Hall of Science

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Filling Without Spilling

In this activity, learners explore the property of surface tension by carefully dripping water onto a penny and counting how many drops fit before the water spills over the edge of the penny. Then learners repeat their steps using soapy water and saltwater to see if the surface tension changes and the penny can hold a different number of drops for each solution. Learners enter their results online and can see other learners' results for comparison. Learners can also click on a resource page with links to other activities, photos, and information related to bubbles.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Tablespoon
  • Salt
  • Dish washing liquid or liquid soap
  • 3 Droppers
  • 1-3 Dry pennies (washed and dried)
  • Paper towels
  • 3 Cups
  • Computer with internet access


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
    • Motion and Forces
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • use keyboard
  • use mouse
  • 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



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