Solar Convection

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In this activity, learners add food coloring to hot and cold water in order to see how fluids at different temperatures move around in convection currents. When the colored hot and cold liquid are both poured into the same container, learners will observe that the hot water sits on top, while the cold water sinks to the bottom. Step-by-step instructions with photos are included along with safety recommendations. Activity guide includes a "What's going on?" explanation about density and connections to the convection process in the Sun.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • loaf pan-sized glass or clear
  • plastic container
  • blue food coloring
  • red food coloring
  • access to tap water
  • two drinking cups of equal size
  • handful of ice cubes
  • two spoons
  • strainer


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat Transfer


Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DIY Science Apps

Funding Source:

  • NASA, NNX10AE05G