I started doing this little science experiment during our kindergarten weather unit a few years ago. I love it because it’s super easy to put together, the kids find it really exciting, and it’s a great way to model the scientific process for little learners!
The premise is pretty basic- you want to figure out what material would make a good raincoat! I pick a small variety of materials to test, have the kids make predictions, then pour water over each of them to see which ones do the best job repelling water and keeping the inside of a cup dry! Although you could totally have your kids try it themselves (if you’re feeling brave), to save on prep time I generally just do it once as a whole class activity. Being in a large group also gives you a chance to reinforce things like keeping experimental conditions consistent, predicting, and interpreting the results.
This experiment can go along with the Kindergarten NGSS standard: K-ESS3-2: Ask Questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather and especially the engineering practice: Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in K–2 builds on prior experiences and progresses to simple investigations, based on fair tests, which provide data to support explanations or design solutions. Make observations (firsthand or from media) to collect data that can be used to make comparisons. (K-PS3-1)
To clarify, here are the steps in detail;
Easy Raincoat Science Experiment
Step 1: Gather materials
you will need:
- Four clear plastic cups, numbered 1-4
- Four types of material, cut into about 4 inch squares; I used a piece of an old sweatshirt, a tissue, a piece of denim, and a plastic bag. Cotton or felt also works well, or whatever you have on hand!
- Four rubber bands
- A large bin or basin, preferably clear
- a measuring cup
- (depending on the layout of your classroom) a pitcher or other container you can use to bring water to your circle area so you’re not running back and forth to the sink!
- Either a chart pad to record observations or the printable recording sheet
If you’d like, you can introduce the experiment with a book about rain. I used “Come on, Rain!” by Karen Hesse, which is a wonderful, lyrical, and multicultural story about a little girl waiting for it to start raining on a hot summer’s day.
Step 2: Make predictions
Gather your students in the circle, explain the experiment, then pass the pieces of material around so they can feel them and predict whether they’ll repel water or not. You can record their predictions on the whiteboard or even let the vote on which one they think will be the best raincoat!
Step 3: Assemble the “raincoats”
Cover the top of each cup with one of the materials, and secure it with the rubber band.
Step 3: Fill your measuring cup
This is a great opportunity to talk about how important it is to pour the same amount of water over each cup, so you can compare them to find out which one is really the best at keeping water out. Discuss how, by using a measuring cup, you can make sure you know exactly how much water you used for each trial.
Step 4: Pour the water!
Start by placing your experiment cups in your basin- if the “raincoat” is effective, the water will run off the sides so you need to be ready to catch the spills!
Carefully pour the water from the measuring cup over the “raincoats”, one at a time, then place them where the students can easily see the water level.
Step 5- Compare and discuss the results
Line the cups up so you can see the water line inside each one. Which one was the most effective? Which was the worst? Were they surprised? How did the actual results compare to their prediction? This is a great opportunity to work in all sorts of science vocabulary! In our experiment, the plastic bag, of course, let no water through, but the jeans were a close second, which we weren’t expecting!
Step 6- Write and record
This can be done whole class on chart paper or by individual students. Have them draw and write about what they noticed. If they’ve drawing, encourage them to use labels in their picture.
If you choose to have your students respond independently, I made you a set of FREE printable response sheets: Click HERE to download!
The first one is very basic and open ended, the second provides a little more structure and asks the students to record their predictions, and the third one also includes an outline of the cups so students can focus on recording the results! Feel free to choose the one that would work best for your class.
Did you enjoy this experiment? Don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know!
For more hands-on science and STEM ideas, make sure to check out Hands-on Optical Illusion Activities, Inspired by “Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks!” and The Best Books and Activities to Teach Kids about Architecture!
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