Young Scientists Discover the Secret of Bursting Colors

Some milk, food coloring, and a tiny drop of soap were all the ingredients needed to discover the secret of bursting colors by the fourth graders at St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore. These young scientists grabbed their science journals and donned their thinking caps to uncover the mysterious chemistry in just a droplet of dish soap.

Taking a saucer filled with milk and four drops of food coloring (one of four colors), students learned how the properties of milk—vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fat—suspected in the solution chemically interact with other substances. The youngsters carefully dipped a clean, cotton swab into the mixture to observe any reactions and found the solution remained stable. They next placed the tiny drop of dish soap on the swab’s tip and witnessed the spectacular bipolar characteristics firsthand!

Due to the dichotic polarity of the soap, the chemical bonds holding the proteins and fat in the milk solution were weakened resulting in a burst of color that rolled, twisted, bent, and contorted in all directions in the milky substance as the soap molecules raced around to join up with the fat molecules. These fourth grade scientists learned that the soap’s polar, hydrophilic (water-loving) end dissolves in the water and its hydrophobic (water-fearing) end attaches to the fat globules in the milk resulting in a vividly colorful show!

Sharon Domin, fourth grade science teacher, encouraged the students to try this easy experiment at home with their siblings (under parental supervision, of course!). Domin commented, I like to present relevant experiments to what we’re studying in the classroom because they are obviously so engaging to the students. However, whenever possible, I try to find opportunities such as this that could be recreated at home—it not only reinforces the lessons, but it brings the love of science beyond the classroom and into their daily lives!”