Saturday, February 6, 2016

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Ice Cube Igloo STEM Project!

Creating an ice cube igloo is a wonderful STEM project that gives kids practice in science, math, engineering, physics, fine motor skills, and patience! It is loads of fun for groups and/or individuals!

Igloos fit in perfectly with our Arctic theme this month, but you could also build them when you talk about winter, polar regions, or states of matter!

To make your own igloo, you need the following

Simple Supplies:

* ice
* salt
* water
* something to build on (we used a plate)
* blender
* freezer

Easy How To:

1- Make an icy "glue" to hold the ice cubes together by blending up about two cups of ice.  Add just enough water so that the ice is soft and moldable, but not liquid. I "cut" the water in with a fork.  It should hold it's shape (or a snowball shape!) easily when you squeeze it together.  When I was a kid living in Utah, we used to call this "slush," so as we built we talked about our "slushy" mixture!

2- Arrange the ice in your igloo shape around a plate or on another building surface.

3- Fill in the gaps between the ice with slushy!

4- Sprinkle salt on top of the ice cubes to encourage them to melt the tiniest bit.  The melted water will freeze to any ice that touches it.  Add another layer of ice and slushy.  My kids were fascinated by the way the ice cubes stuck together and how the slushy could change its shape as you molded it and then re-freeze.  I should add that we live in Houston, so my kids have had a lot less experience with ice and snow than some!

5- Put it in the freezer to harden.  Then repeat steps 2-5 until your igloo is as tall as you want it.  Check out my video to "watch" ours grow!  (If it doesn't load, you can watch it here.)

Working with the slushy and the ice and designing the igloo takes a lot of experimenting and trial and error.  Often, our kiddo would slap a piece of ice or slushy onto the igloo only to watch it break and fall off.  This is okay!  Let them engineer the perfect igloo!  They will figure out how much pressure is okay and how much is too much, and will love their igloo even more.

6- Use slushy to form the top of the igloo.  Also add slushy to the sides to make it air-tight and stronger!

7- Ta da!  Your igloo is done!  We took about two days to build ours and just did each step in between other lessons and activities, letting it freeze while we were busy.  My kids pointed out that a real igloo built in the arctic would have re-frozen as they were building it.  They were also very impressed with the amount of work it would have taken someone to build a life-size igloo, as our 14-inch tall igloo took quite a bit of care and effort!

You can play with your igloo, show it off, or just store it in the freezer for a while!  We had some arctic animals move in!

Your kids can also experiment with the ice and slushy to make different ice sculptures and creations!  
My son continued to grind snow, make ice, and experiment & play with it for two days after we finished!

I loved how the entire project modeled a real-life solution to a problem (housing in the artic), and gave our kiddos experience with the cold ice and snow while staying in a nice warm environment.  And, of course, we talked about how people living in the arctic now do not usually make igloos.  It was still a fun connection to the past and to an environment different than theirs!
The project also let them experience first-hand states of matter: how water freezes into ice and ice melts into water.  For more experiments with this, check out our Frozen Water Magic Science and Elsa's Ice Castle Science Play!

Would you make an igloo with your kiddos?  I'd love to see it!  Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email, or say 'Hi' on Facebook!

Do you love science?  Be sure to check out my collection of 100+ science activities here!

STEM Saturday.jpg

You will also love these science activities from the STEM Saturday bloggers:

Ice Cube Igloo STEM Project from Preschool Powol Packets
DIY Engineering Project Kit from The Homeschool Scientist
Glow Stick Science from Little Bins for Little Hands

I may share at any of these parties!

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