The scattered pepper science experiment is a classic that always produces jaw-dropping results. Teachers love it because it’s easy to set up and clean up and students love it because it’s magic! Watch as pepper mysteriously scatters at the first hint of soap in the dish.
Getting Scattered Pepper Ready
It doesn’t get any easier than setting up this science experiment! We gathered the following kitchen supplies:
My daughter sprinkled a layer of black pepper onto the surface of the water in the dish. She thought it smelled awfully strong!
I asked her what she thought would happen if we dripped some dish soap into the water. She recorded her hypothesis on her worksheet and drew a “before” picture of the peppered water.
With the dish soap close at hand we were ready for the magic to unfold!
Scattered Pepper Science Experiment
I instructed my daughter to drip one drop of liquid dish soap into the center of the dish. She carefully did so and was totally surprised as she watched the pepper scatter to the sides! It was like the pepper was running away from the soap!
We repeated this science experiment several times since she loved it so much. It is important to rinse out the dish each time and fill it with clean water so it will work correctly.
My daughter has quite a vivid imagination. She loved pretending like she was a witch that was mixing a magical potion and casting spells as she added the dish soap. It was so much fun!
After we had completed the experiment several times we took some time to complete the rest of the worksheet.
The Science Behind the Scattered Pepper Science Experiment
Of course my daughter knew the pepper wasn’t scattering by magic. She knew it was science!
All liquids have surface tension. It basically means that the molecules on the surface of the liquid bead together in a little dome because of their molecular bonds. If you have ever filled a cup of water past the rim of the glass you may have noticed how the water forms a dome on top and somehow stays suspended a little above the rim. This is because of surface tension.
In this science experiment the water forms a little dome. The pepper is light enough to simply float on top. However, when dish soap is poured over the surface, the surface tension is broken because the dish soap breaks the bonds at the surface. This causes the pepper to scatter like it’s scared of the dish soap!
More Science Activities and Ideas
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Download Your Scattered Pepper Recording Sheet Below!
I hope that you and your students Scattered Pepper Recording Sheet to use in your classroom this year!