Designing Your Own Mini Fountain

Roughly seventy five percent of the Earth is water. Water play is so much fun for children of all ages, and what better way to teach your children some scientific concepts than through the use of water.

Designing and making a mini fountain is a project that will teach your children how water pressure occurs when cold and warm water combinations are forced together in one area. Together you and your family can make an easy and exciting water fountain right in your own home or back yard. Start by explaining to your children what a fountain is and where you might see them. Fountains can be outside, like natural geysers, or in a mall, like an electrical pump water fountain. There is energy, either natural or mechanical at work, forcing the flow of water from one area up and out to another location.

Materials that you will need to get started are items that you probably have around your home. This will make diving right into this project possible. Collect all of your materials and lay them out on your work table before you begin. If the weather is nice you may want to work outside on your picnic table; this way if there are any spills you need not panic. Find a clear plastic bottle with a screw top lid, a hammer and a large nail, a small block of modeling clay, some food coloring, a needle and a plastic straw. You need to find a large bucket or a big pot; it has to be deep enough to contain most of the bottle. This is where the fountain will flow from. The last of the items that you'll need is cold and hot (not boiling) water.

Fill your clear bottle half way with cold water, then add the food coloring so that you can tint the water a color. Return the screw top lid to the bottle and make sure it's on tight. Up to this point your children can do all these steps themselves, with your guidance of course.

Now if you are working in the kitchen it may be time to move to the floor in case any spills take place. If you are in the backyard spills should be fine. All of the clean up is easy and again, your children can help you with the entire process; even clean up time can be fun. Seeing the entire process of the mini fountain creation through from the beginning to the end is a key part of the scientific process.

Parents should take over this next step. Using the large nail and a hammer, punch a hole in the top of the bottle cap. This hole should be just big enough for your straw to snugly fit into the bottle cap. Your children can hold the bottle firmly as you use the hammer and nails; this step is a little bit tricky because the bottle may move around.

Gently push the straw into the hole in your bottle cap and slide it down to almost the bottom of the plastic bottle. I used a 16 ounce soda bottle and found that this size bottle works really well. My straw reached nearly the bottom of the bottle.

Now using the modeling clay, wrap some around the straw where it meets the bottle cap. Sealing up any air holes around the top of the bottle and the side of the straw will make it possible for the fountain to flow smoothly. Use a small piece of clay and plug up the top hole of the straw as well. With your needle put a hole in and make sure it goes through the top of the clay ball; this is where the water fountain effect will take place, from this one small exit hole.

Fill the large bucket nearly to the top with hot water, being careful not to have it too hot. You don't want any little fingers or hands getting injured. Tap water that is hot from your sink is just fine; boiling water is dangerous and unnecessary. Once the hot water is in the bucket, place the soda bottle with the cold water inside. Check to make sure that the bottle is covered almost to the top with water from the bucket.

In a minute or less the water in the bottle will start to rise as it's meeting the hot water. The contrast of the hot and cold water will make it shoot up and out of the straw. There you have your mini fountain! As a fun family project you and your children just created a working fountain using simple materials from your home. You taught the scientific principle that warm and cold forces upon meeting cause expansion, and therefore the flow of water takes place. Water play is always wonderful for experimenting and making new discoveries. Children will be truly fascinated with the flow and momentum of the expanded water.

You and your children may want to take your mini fountain apart and do the entire experiment over again or share it with a friend. Everyone will learn something new each time you share it by doing it over. Who knows? Your family may discover a new way to create a fountain that works a different way.

Science and water are all around us in our every day lives. As you teach your children you are preparing them for a wonderful life of adventure and continuous learning and questioning.

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