5 Easy Science Experiments in a Jar

Published: May 29, 2020, at 7:11 a.m. PT

Last updated: May 29, 2020, at 10:25 a.m. PT

Science in a Jar

Dust off a few of those Mason jars you have hiding in the cupboards, grab a few simple materials, and get ready to try some super cool experiments that all can be done in a simple glass jar! 

Butter in a Jar

An age old classic, that makes a yummy outcome at the end.  Make sure to have some fresh bread nearby! 

Supplies Needed:

  • Mason Jar
  • Heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

  1. Fill the jar about halfway with cream. Leave enough room to shake the cream.
  2. Replace the lid of the jar, making sure it's nice and tight. Then, shake, shake, shake!  This does require some arm strength, so be prepared to trade off with a partner
  3. Check your butter every five minutes to see the changes. After the first five minutes, you may not see any changes but at 10 minutes you may see whipped cream! Keep shaking until you notice that you can’t hear liquid very well.  The process will take approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Spread the butter on your bread and enjoy!

The Science:

Heavy cream has a good amount of fat in it.  By shaking the cream, the fat molecules begin to separate from the liquid.  The more the cream is shaken, the more the fat molecules cling together forming a solid—delicious butter!  

Rock Candy

This edible science is for the sweet tooth of the home!  Grow your own crystals with this simple chemistry experiment.   Adult supervision required.

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups sugar
  • Mason jars
  • String
  • Edible glitter
  • Food coloring
  • Straws  

Instructions:

  1. The day before starting your sugar crystal experiment, cut a piece of string a little longer than your jars. Tie one end of the string to a straw. Tie a knot in the other end. Get the strings wet and coat them in sugar. Let them dry overnight.  
  2. The following day add four cups of sugar and one cup of water to a saucepan and heat until boiling.  This will form your supersaturated solution. Stir until the sugar is dissolved but be careful not to heat the sugar so much that it starts to turn into candy. Keep the temperature right at 210 degrees. Remove the sugar from the heat.  
  3. Pour your sugar mixture into the jars.  Add edible food coloring to each jar and add some edible glitter.   
  4. Lower the string into the jar and place the jars in a safe place.   
  5. Let the sugar crystals form for at least a week. Once the sugar crystals are as big as you want them, remove them from the sugar solution. Lay them on a paper towel or plate and let them dry for several hours.  
  6. When the sugar crystals are dry, inspect them with a magnifying glass or microscope. How are the crystals similar? How are they different?   

The Science:

Sugar crystals form as a result of a supersaturated solution.  A supersaturated solution contains more sugar than could be dissolved in water under normal conditions. In a saturated solution, the sugar molecules have a higher chance of bumping into one another because there is less space to move around. When this happens, the sugar molecules start sticking together, eventually forming bigger and bigger crystals, like the ones you will see here!  

Fireworks in a Jar

This much quieter way to enjoy fireworks uses just a jar and some simple materials but makes for an explosion of science fun.

Supplies Needed:      

  • An empty jar
  • 4 tbsp of cooking oil
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • A bowl
  • Paper towels
  • A spoon  

Instructions:

  1. Begin by filling an empty jar 3/4 of the way with water.  Set this to the side.  
  2. In a bowl combine 3 tablespoons of cooking oil along with several drops of food coloring. Add 3-5 drops of food coloring for each color that you are using.  
  3. Use a spoon to stir the food coloring into the oil. It will not mix but stirring will help to break the food coloring into smaller droplets.  
  4. Now, pour the container of oil into the jar of water. After a moment or two the oil will settle at the top of the jar, but the food coloring will begin to shoot down and mix into the water, creating a "fireworks" effect!  
  5. The food colors will continue to shoot down like fireworks until all the droplets have fallen from the oil.   

The Science:

The origin of this experiment is that food coloring will mix with water but not oil. This is because of their varying liquid densities.  The oil is less dense, causing it to float on top of the water.  The food coloring is denser than the oil, so it falls through and mixes into the water, creating the firework effect.  

Tornado in a Jar

Have you ever seen a tornado?  While an amazing phenomenon of Mother Nature, we much prefer the calmer (and safer) version at home!

Supplies Needed:

  • A jar (with a lid)
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Measuring spoons
  • Optional additions: Food coloring, Iridescent glitter

Instructions:

  1. Begin by filling a jar with cold water, leaving 1-2 inches from the top.
  2.  Add 1-2 drops of food coloring and/or glitter if desired.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of dish soap and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and mix gently. 
  4. The vinegar just helps to dissolve any bubbles from forming so you can more easily see the "tornado".   
  5. Once the ingredients are combined firmly grip the jar and swirl it around and around. Then, stop!   
  6. What happens? The jar has stopped, and the liquid is still moving—you have made a water vortex, or a tornado, inside of the jar!
  7. Try this experiment with varying temperatures of water.  Do the results change?

The Science:  

A tornado is a violent, rotating column of air that forms under the right weather conditions. When a tornado forms, it creates a vortex which is a spinning, often turbulent flow of air. You created our own vortex by swirling the contents of the jar and are able observe the motion of a tornado.  

Disappearing Egg-in-a-Jar  

Magic-meets-Science in this super cool experiment, in which you will be able to make the shell of an egg, disappear! Abracadabra!  

Supplies Needed:

  • 16-ounce mason jar with lid and ring
  • White vinegar
  • Raw egg (“older” eggs will work better)

Instructions:  

  1. Gently place the egg into the mason jar.   
  2. Fill with vinegar leaving 1/2" space at the top. It is important to leave room at the top of the jar or it might burst from the carbon dioxide gas produced by the reaction.   
  3. Loosely cover the jar with the lid and ring. Again, make sure it is not too tight so that the gas can escape the jar. 
  4. Let sit for about two to four days. Remove from jar and rinse off in water. Observe your shell-less egg!  Can you bounce it? Bounce the egg by holding it 1-2 inches above a surface and letting it go. What happens? [Tip: do this over a plate or in the sink in case the egg breaks]  

The Science:

Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate. When you submerge the egg in vinegar, the acid in the vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate and produces carbon dioxide.  As the shell dissolves, the thin membrane of the egg is left behind. The membrane is semi-permeable, which means the vinegar can pass through it. The egg absorbs the vinegar, and that’s why you see the egg increase in size as it continues to sit in the vinegar.