Walking Water Experiment

We are currently studying Soil and Water Conservation in science. One of our suggested activities was to show the actions of water in relation to soil and plants. We decided to use the “walking water” experiment to show how trees and other plants get water from the ground through their roots.

It’s a really simple experiment that you can probably do with items you already have around the house.

Here’s what you need:

  • 6 Small Clear Plastic Cups
  • 3 Paper Towels – I used the “choose your size” type and selected the smallest size
  • 3 Different Colors of Food Coloring (or more if you want)
  • Water

Experiment Steps

  1. Fold each paper towel into thirds lengthwise and then cut about 1-2 inches off (this will help it sit in the cups better).

2. Fill each cup about half-way with water.

3. Add the food coloring by putting about 4-5 food drops of one color in three of the cups. We used red (it was actually neon pink, more on that later), blue, and green. Then pair each glass of colored water with a clear water partner.

4. Place a paper towel from each glass of colored water over into the clear glass.

5. Repeat for the other two glasses.

6. The water will start “walking” very quickly, and it will take about 30 minutes for your first colored water to reach the clear water. Here’s what ours looked like after about 30 minutes (along with a cute model who was proud it was working 😊 ).

We let ours go for several hours and then came back and checked it. About two hours in we had a really great mixing of the blue and green. But the red (pink), not so much. This is how it looked then:

Since it looked like we were getting closer, we decided to put a few more drops of red in the glass and then let it go overnight. But the next morning the red still didn’t reach. We broke down and added some of the dye directly to the paper towel and we watched it finally reach the water.

Tips for the Project

We finally got the red color!!
  • The more food coloring the better. I would say you could even go 6-7 drops to make your secondary glass really show up.
  • Definitely stick to primary/dark color food coloring. I think the reason our red didn’t work was because it was actually the neon pink. Despite how red it looked in the glass, it really just wasn’t strong enough to reach the second glass.
  • For an even more fun twist, put paper towels between all of the glasses to see what cool colors the clear water makes when two colors are “walking” in.

This is definitely a fun (and easy) hands on experiment. It’s basic enough for even the smallest kiddos to be able to help with and understand, but entertaining enough that the big kids can enjoy it too (even Brian left his office a few times to see how it was “walking”). If you are looking for a low mess, high success experiment-  this is a good one.

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