Saturday, November 26, 2011

Discovery Bottles

Magnetic, Static Electricity, and "Magic Dust" Discovery Bottles

Discovery bottles are just clear closed bottles filled with something for the children to explore visually and through interaction with the bottle. We've made several over the past week or two, but I'm sharing my three favorites today.

Magnetic Discovery Bottle

This bottle is simple in concept. Fill the bottle with pipe cleaners cut into half inch or inch long pieces. Have the children predict if a magnet will attract the pipe cleaners. Give them the bottle and the magnet and let them find out.

The kids loved watching the magnet attract the pipe cleaner segments. They competed to see who could get their magnet to attract the most segments of pipe cleaner. They attracted pipe cleaners near the bottom of the bottle and then would drag the magnet (and therefore the pipe cleaners) to the top of the bottle very carefully to watch them suspended seemingly by "magic" at the top of the bottle. Michael even managed to suspend the bottle in mid-air through the power of the attraction between the magnet and the pipe cleaners.

Static Electricity Discovery Bottle

Cut small shapes out of tissue paper and insert into clean dry bottle. I presented this to the kids like a magic trick. I showed them the bottle "at rest", so to speak, with all the shapes resting at the bottom. We talked briefly about gravity and what happens when we flip the bottle upside down (fall to the bottom) or on it's side (fall to bottom again). I then told them I needed their help to do a magic trick and had them repeat magic words after me as I rubbed the bottle against the carpet. (abracadabra, alakazam, etc.) Then I showed them how our magic made the shapes stick to the side of the bottle. When Michael asked I explained a little bit about how it was really static electricity that made it work, not really magic.

"Magic Dust" Discovery Bottle (or Current Bottle)

Put some shaving cream in the bottle (about 1/3 full). Then fill bottle with colored water (be careful, the shaving cream will try to escape). Swirl until the shaving cream dissolves and then add more water until the bottle is completely full. Now your bottle will make beautiful swirls and current-like patterns as you swirl or shake the bottle. It is hard to see in the picture but it really is quite peaceful and beautiful. The children call it the "magic dust" bottle. It is one of the first ones they choose to show off to guests.


  1. Thank you! I really like the discovery bottles for magnets and electricity. Will try these out at home, as we home ed.

  2. I tried the magic dust bottle and it didn't work. I used the white shaving cream and colored water. Did I do something wrong? It looks like bubbles on top.


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