Thursday, June 09, 2011

Magnetic Putty and Slime: A K-12 Classroom Idea

What if you could control the flow of slime across a table? What if your Silly Putty could curve toward, then stick to the side of the refrigerator?

I just read about magnetic putty on Instructables, an online network for tinkerers and inventors. Looks like tons of fun. I thought that teachers might want to make some for demos and class activities. Also, the comments at Instructables offer many ideas for potential science fair projects. The link is:

Check with a high school chemistry teacher for some safety suggestions, but if the kids do not ingest the putty, wear goggles and masks (bandannas or scarves are fine) so they do not get iron dust in their eyes or breath it in, and you get the coarser powder, it should be plenty safe for elementary and junior high kids. (Read this essay of mine--I taught HS chemistry for years--about Elementary School Science Safety; follow the links to other essays on safety.)
The fractal flame is "White Veil" ©Valerie Coskrey, 2009, all rights reserved.

The need for the safety precautions are especially important if students mix their own. Warning, fine iron dust is flammable and a spark can set it afire. If you buy the iron (II) oxide from a chemical supply company, the finely ground powder must be kept away from an open flame and any sparks. Keep it out of drafts as it blows into the air easily.

In fact, this iron powder is one of the chemicals that teachers blow into candles to make the flame get larger and brighter and sparkly.

I would love it if you, Teachers, had your students suggest experiments with this silicone putty + ferric oxide. Tell me about it in a comment--or have them do so. If you do try it with slime, I would like to know about that, too. I would really like to have a list of science fair ideas in a set of comments.

You can get the needed chemicals from
Don't forget your safety supplies!