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Updated on Apr 17, 2013

As infants we learn to stack blocks, taking one block and placing it on top of the other, hoping that it will not topple. Just as we learned to build a tower of blocks we can learn to build a stack of liquids. Most liquids, when poured into the same container will mix. However, some liquids do not mix with others so instead they separate into layers. What happens if you drop a small amount of oil into a glass of water? The oil floats to the top. In this experiment we will create a liquid gradient based on density.


In this experiment students will learn about density by creating a liquid gradient.


  • 12 oz. glass (tall)
  • Water
  • Honey
  • Vegetable oil
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Other household liquids
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Measuring cup


  1. From you research create a chart of densities among various household liquids. Use the following: water, honey, vegetable oil, and rubbing alcohol. Find more liquids in your home but have an adult make sure it is safe to mix with other liquids.
  2. Based on your chart what has the greatest density? List the liquids in order of decreasing density.
  3. Now you will start building your layers. From your list (most dense to least dense) start pouring the liquids into the glass.
  4. Measure ¼ cup of each liquid and carefully pour the liquid in the center of the glass. Do not pour the liquid down the sides of the glass.
  5. Continue pouring the layers in the center of the glass. The liquids may mix while pouring. Wait a few minutes for the layers to separate before pouring the next layer.
  6. You can add food coloring to the liquids to see the layers better.
Melissa Bautista is a research scientist, freelance editor, and writer, with a focus in Neuroscience. She believes in establishing solid foundations in education through experience, creativity, and collaboration. She is fascinated by pedagogy and the concept of learning through living.

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