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Teaching Science with Ghostly Boo Bubbles

By Courtney Rose, Science Department Chair and Teacher at John Page Middle School in Madison Heights, Michigan

Find her on Instagram and Twitter: @mrsrosesclass

Fun: The Key to Student Engagement

Teaching physical science to middle school students can be challenging, but the number one way I have found to increase student engagement and achievement in my class is to keep things fun! My students learn a lot when we combine relevant, real world experiences with our science content.

When my 7th grade students learn about phase changes of matter each year, I love to bring in Penguin Brand Dry Ice® as an example of a substance that undergoes sublimation, the phase change in which matter in solid form changes directly into a gas. Students are very curious about dry ice and have so many great questions about this material! We talk about practical everyday uses for dry ice and safe handling practices, and we get to review what is happening in the dry ice at the molecular level.

Dry Ice and Boo Bubbles

I love to do a variety of demonstrations to show dry ice sublimation in action for my students. One of my favorite demos is called Boo Bubbles, where I create large soap bubbles filled with carbon dioxide gas. To do this demonstration, you need a container that seals at the top, but has a tube to allow the sublimating carbon dioxide gas to escape. I have a plastic container purchased from Steve Spangler Science that is great for doing this activity, but I have also created my own container with an empty two-liter bottle, some plastic tubing, a funnel, and some adhesive caulking.

When you combine warm water and dry ice in the container, the dry ice quickly sublimates and turns into gas. The gas forces itself out of the end of your container’s tubing. If you dip the end of the tubing into some extra strength bubble solution, the clouds of carbon dioxide gas will form large, smoky Boo Bubbles! You and your students can handle the bubbles if your hands are gloved, and when popped, a cloud of gas quickly floats away! My middle school students love this demonstration every year, but it is appropriate for students of all ages to see and experience when proper safety precautions are taken. Please use care in handling dry ice and always use gloves and safety goggles!

Bubble Solution

Try my special extra strength bubble solution recipe! You can make a batch as big as you like. For every cup of water used, add two tablespoons of Dawn® liquid dish detergent and one tablespoon of glycerin (bottles can be found in the pharmacy section of your local supermarket). Mix well and allow the bubble solution to sit overnight if possible. You should get strong, durable Boo Bubbles that are perfect for capturing dry ice!

Editor’s note: To try making Boo Bubbles in your own classroom, find Penguin Brand Dry Ice® near you using our store locator tool!

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