Watt about Alexander²?

img_1072Attempting to make a catchy title, which includes 3 famous Scottish scientists (James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell and Alexander Flemming). 

Chemistry and Physics are for boys, Biology is for girls. That’s how I felt about science in high school and therefore I just never went for the science subjects when I was picking my choices for 5th year. I didn’t understand any of my science lessons in high school, despite having amazing science classes in primary or secondary school. So when I saw that I had science AND maths in the same day I thought I was going to have a really horrible day. However, it actually turned out to be exciting and engaging (in maths and science) and even from today’s workshops it makes me want to read more and engage more with my ‘inner geek’. Before my lecture today with Richard, we were to design a ‘mini-teach’ lesson and present it to our groups and our friends around the class. I went for the lava lamp idea (which I thought was really original, then went on Richards email to the class and discovered it was in a video link he had sent).

When looking up on how to do the lava lamp, I thought this would be great for any age of the primary school, from P1-P7, as you can change the lesson plan and success criteria to suit the needs of the children.

First of all, I decided this would be a good opportunity to write up a ‘practice’ lesson plan and see how I would get on. I wrote down what I would need, which is:

  • Water (probably quite a bit if my whole class were to do this)
  • Oil (I have read you can pretty much use any oil, I used baby oil)
  • Asprin (I also read that Alka-Seltzer works best)
  • A bottle/clear glass
  • A funnel (with children it’s probably recommended, I didn’t however)
  • Food colouring (I suppose it can be optional, but I liked the colour)

How was I going to do this? I wrote down my steps:

  • Fill a glass/bottle quarter of the way up with (coloured) water
  • Add oil until the bottle/glass is full
  • Add the asprin
  • You have a lava lamp

Or so I thought.

img_1075You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I tried this to make sure it was perfect. I wanted a great experiment with lots of research behind it and something that would also be entertaining. As you can see to the left however, it didn’t work at all. Which, in a way, I’m glad it didn’t.

When I was putting the oil in, it came out the bottle at quite a speed (one of those squeezy bottles) and when I was doing this, it mixed with the food colouring from the water, therefore turning the oil red and you couldn’t see any reaction at all. Next time, I will know to use a different oil and not be so violent!

**(I am not sure if I am doing this right).**

Learning Intentions

SCN 2-19a

SCN 1-16a


We are learning why certain liquids don’t mix and why they don’t mix.

We are learning how to be safe with experiments and what happens when reactions happen.

We are learning how to dispose of water and oils in a safe and eco-friendly way

Success Criteria

I am able to identify how to reuse materials in a safe way

I am able to tell the difference between oil and water and why they don’t mix

I am able to learn in a safe way?


Assessment Methods

If this was done in groups or pairs, then I would have a group discussion in the end and ask the pairs together. The pair may feel they can say if they don’t understand as it is not just one child not understanding and may have more confidence in saying this. Another way I would maybe do this is by having maybe 2/3 questions at the end about if they understood why the asprin reacted the way it did etc and ask everyone to do a ‘thumbs up/down’ approach.


To begin with, the children could predict if the oil and water will mix together and why they think that. What will the food colour do in the water, what will the tablet do in the water. They could predict results and record what actually happened (starting to collect data, group work) etc.

Whilst the experiment is going on, I would explain why the oil and water don’t mix, and this is because substances which don’t dissolve into each other don’t mix (maybe a bit too complicated?) I could explain that the oil floats on the water as it is less dense. That the aspirin tablets react in the water and why they don’t react in the oil, explain the process of the bubbles forming carbon dioxide gas and that because the aspirin doesn’t dissolve in oil, it can’t react in oil.

Afterwards we could discuss how we could get rid of the waste responsibly and pop it in the flowers/plants (assuming I have some imaginary plants).

Before the experiment, we could go on youtube and watch a bigger version of this experiment being done, or how an actual lava lamp works (with a light etc). There could be predictions, what the steps may be on a board or worksheet, assign jobs to students to hand out the materials.

Afterwards, we could talk about what we found out and if it was a surprise or if it’s what we expected. We could draw a picture about what we saw, write about what we found out, maybe some related activity to who created the lava lamp, where they came from, about that country etc.


Finally, to summarise this whole experiment and lesson plan. The photo here is my failed experiment featuring a successful lava lamp in a bottle.


One Reply to “Watt about Alexander²?”

  1. Thanks Micha, love the title here! Thanks for posting such an in depth explanation. I was really impressed with all the examples today. Your ‘mini-teach’ is a really good practical activity which demonstrates several principles or concepts in science. You make reference to predicting and this is a scientific skill – we’ll cover these later.
    So I think the next step for you is to think about the SCs in your planning above as the steps that will help achieve the LI. But considering this is your first attempt at science I think you, and your peers, did really well. Thanks for taking the time to post here.

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