Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Ice Worlds

Flubber Flows

Overview

Flubber Flows is a 30-minute activity in which teams of four to five children ages 8 to 13 experiment with Flubber and investigate how a solid can flow! They predict and model the properties of glaciers, view images of advancing glaciers, and create their own Flubber flow!

What's the Point?

Materials

For each child:

For each group of three to four children:

For the facilitator:

Preparation

Flubber Flows has three parts and can be done in a variety of ways. It can be facilitator-lead as a demonstration or can be set up as a team activity, or a combination of the two. The activity below is a combination of demonstration and hands-on experimentation.

Suggestions

Activity

1. Introduce the activity by revisiting the three states of matter with the children.

2. Divide the children into teams of three to four and distribute the foam core boards, markers, scissors, pencils, rulers, and the baggies of Flubber to each team. Invite them to remove the Flubber and feel it. Have them roll it around in their hands.

If they used words like mushy and gooey, share with them that these are words that describe Flubber's viscosity. Viscosity is the measure of a fluid's resistance to flow. The more viscous a substance the stiffer it is and the more that it will resist flowing.

So far, we have determined that Flubber is very viscous (thick), and malleable (bendy), and it can break.

3. Give the children an opportunity to play with the Flubber, and ask them to predict whether Flubber can flow.

4. Invite the children to form their blobs of Flubber into 5 inch by 6 inch rectangles, and draw a line across the Flubber center with a marker. Share with the children that they are creating a model of a glacier.

5. Invite the teams to carefully place their Flubber at the top center of their boards. Have them draw a line even with the bottom of their Flubber "glaciers," across the board.

6. Have each team prop up their boards— lengthways — against a wall, with the bottom of the board one foot from the wall. You may also wish to have the groups prop their boards at different angles.

7. Ask the teams to leave their Flubber experiments for now and move to an area where they can view the glacier images. Share the images of Antarctica's Amundsen Scott South Pole Station with them. Before telling them anything about the images, invite their observations.

8. Predict! After viewing the images of the ice at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and the glacier in Alaska, ask the children what their predictions are now about the way in which their Flubber behaved while they were gone!

9. Invite the teams to return to their boards to view the Flubber flows!

Ask the teams to measure how far their Flubber flow advanced and share their meashurements with the group.

10. Share the images of the retreating glaciers.

Note to Facilitators: Glaciers never go backwards! They always flow "forward" with gravity, regardless of if they are growing or getting smaller. When glaciers accumulate mass faster than they lose it through ablation (melting or sublimation of ice), they grow and their leading edge(s) advances. When they lose mass faster than they accumulate snow, their mass decreases and their leading edge(s) retreats.

11. Help the children make the connection between their Flubber flows and glaciers.

Conclusion

Once they have completed the activity, invite the children to revisit their snow mobiles to record any answers they discovered on the appropriate pieces. Some of the questions that they can answer might include:

Have them annotate any new questions they have or interesting things they learned on the appropriate shapes of either raindrop, cloud, or snowflake.