Water Ways

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In this activity (on page 2 of the PDF), learners explore surface tension by adding pennies to cups which are "full" of plain water or soapy water. The surface tension of the plain water allows learners to add many coins to the water before it overflows. In the soapy water, fewer pennies can be added. Learners are encouraged to think about the environmental implications of soapy water, or other pollutants that may affect surface tension. Included on the PDF are two additional activities from the Environmental Chemistry unit in OMSI's Chemistry Lab: Iron in The Environment and Recycling Paper.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • 2 small, identical plastic cups or glass jars
  • 1 larger cup
  • several pennies (or paper clips)
  • water
  • liquid soap


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation