Layered Density Tower (Grades 3-5)

Did you know you can stack one liquid on top of another? Find out more in this hands-on STEAM activity.

bottles of liquid

In this activity from the NY STEAM Bus at Niskayuna CSD, kids can create a layered density tower using liquids found around the house. Click the image above to watch a video demonstrating this experiment, then try it on your own.

What You Need

  • Clear glass, jar or cup
  • Smaller cups or containers (these do not have to be clear)
  • Liquids, such as:
    • Water
    • Oil
    • Dish soap
    • Honey
    • Rubbing alcohol
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Layered Density Challenge worksheet (or any blank sheet of paper)

What To Do

  1. Separate your liquids into individual smaller containers. Add food coloring, if you like, so you can clearly see which is which.
  2. Print out the worksheet, or use your own paper, to list all the liquids you are using.
  3. Do an internet search to find out the density of each liquid in grams per milliliter (ask a grown-up for help or permission).
  4. Once you know which liquids are most dense, begin pouring the liquids into your clear glass or jar, starting with the most dense and ending with the least dense. It may take a little time for the liquids to separate out. How many different layers can you make?
  5. Draw and label your liquids on your worksheet, or on a blank sheet of paper.
  6. As an added challenge, try adding objects to your tower. Can you figure out the density of each object you add? (Hint: an object will float if it’s less dense than the liquid, and they will sink if they are more dense.)

Thanks to Pallavi Datta of Niskayuna CSD for demonstrating this activity! Check out more STEAM Bus activities.