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The principles of cohesion and adhesion are demonstrated in this quick and easy science activity





Title – Quick Cohesion/Adhesion Activity
By – Patty
Primary Subject – Science
Grade Level – 5

Note: I created this quick lesson for my class because I always felt that there was very little time for science. This takes only about 20 minutes, spread out over the course of one day



    Students will observe concepts of cohesion and adhesion. Students will infer what will happen as the experiment changes.


  • two clear plastic cups
  • water
  • food coloring
  • one sheet of paper towel
  • a large, thick book
  • an undisturbed area of the classroom


  1. Teacher will set up the experiment in the morning. Place two clear cups approximately 1-2 inches apart. Fill one cup about 3/4 full and drop in some food coloring. Roll a sheet of paper towel and flatten it to a long 1-inch flat rectangle. Place the paper towel across the cups, touching the water in the first cup, and placed into the second cup.
  2. * Before placing the paper towel, ask students to make a prediction about what may happen .
  3. Have students set up a chart after their hypothesis. It should include two columns: Time and Observations.
  4. Tell students in one hour they will observe what will happen.
  5. * Over the course of the day, students SHOULD observe that the water will be absorbed by the paper towel and carried across to the other cup. By the end of the experiment, the water in the cups should be even .
  6. Tell students you will be placing a large, thick book under one of the cups (Place it under cup 2, the cup that did not initially have water in it, so that they see that water moves in both directions). Ask them to predict what will happen then.
  7. Place the book and watch what happens! After a period of time, the water levels will be at the same height within each cup.
  8. A discussion should follow to include why the water travels the way it does. Cohesion is the ability for water to attach to itself and travel. Adhesion is the ability for water to attach to other materials.

Additions to this lesson:

  1. A follow up lesson/activity may include putting water on the head of a penny. Pose the question How many water drops do you think will fit on the head of a penny?
  2. Students will use water droppers and place one drop at a time on the head of a penny and count.
  3. Students will be amazed to see how many will fit. This also connects to cohesion, because students will observe the round bubble of water on top of a penny.

E-Mail Patty !

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