Water Filtration

Adult supervision: choking hazards, liquids not for drinking

Please read the procedure before beginning! After reading, please watch the video. Some activities require more time and cleanup than others. You also have the choice of performing these activities in a way that suits your needs.

Not for children under 3 years. Adult supervision is required. Follow approved procedures.


  • Bottle (Cut for activity)
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Moss
  • Clay Pebbles
  • Activated Charcoal
  • Salt
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Cotton Balls
  • Cheese Cloth
  • Coffee Filters
  • Measuring Cup
  • Vinegar
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Food Coloring
  • Glitter



  1. The Water Filtration Challenge is to design a device that will remove contaminants from dirty, polluted water. First, add 3/4 cup of water to the measuring cup. This will be the base for the dirty water, which will be referred to as ‘OH YUCK!’ water.
  2. Add the vinegar, vegetable oil, food coloring, and glitter to the cup, and set it aside. The goal of this challenge is to design a filter that the OH YUCK! water can be poured through to remove the contaminants and smell.
  3. Place the top half of the bottle upside down in the bottom half. Think about which materials should be added to the top piece to catch the contaminants in the OH YUCK! water when it is poured through. Is the order important? Why or why not?
  4. Add small amounts of each of the materials you chose (not all types of materials have to be used) to the top piece of the bottle.
  5. Slowly pour the OH YUCK! Water through the top of the device. Is it working as expected? Why or why not?
  6. If there are materials leftover, try to create an improved design!

Science Behind it!

Rocks, minerals, soils, and other materials from the environment have many common and practical uses. The way these materials form gives them unique properties that makes them useful for different purposes. What else could the materials from this activity be used for? What environments did these materials come from? Will we ever run out of these materials?

Engineers design things that solve problems, make things easier for people, and work efficiently. Engineers and urban planners design water filtration devices and systems so that people living in cities or in the wilderness can have clean water to use for drinking, cleaning, and cooking. The engineering design process often involves repeatedly testing and improving things. If time allows, test each material individually and note how well each filters the various contaminants from the water. This knowledge will help with the development of the most effective design when the materials are combined.











1. Do this activity in a place where cleanup is easy. Ensure that the lights can be turned off with few windows—this activity works better in the dark!

2. Add the flour (approx. 1 cup), salt (approx. 1/3 cup), and cream of tartar (approx. 2 teaspoons) to the plastic container.

3. Carefully open the Vitamin B capsule by pulling apart the two halves, and pour the contents into the container. Turn off the lights, and shine the UV flashlight on it. What do you notice?

4. Stir the contents with the tongue depressor.

5. Use the pliers to remove the white piece from the bottom of the highlighter. Remove the ink sponge and squeeze it into 1/2 cup of warm water (not included). Turn off the lights, and shine the UV light onto the highlighter and ink. What do you notice?

6. Add the vegetable oil (approx. 2 tablespoons) to the dry ingredients in the plastic container.

7. Mix thoroughly while slowly adding the water. You have created glow dough! When the dough no longer sticks to your hands, stop adding water. Turn off the lights, and shine the UV light onto the dough! What can you make with your glow dough? Place the dough in the container and replace the lid to keep it from drying out.

8. Shine the UV light on the glow dinosaur and turn it off. What do you notice? Does this glow differently from the other materials?

9. Bend the glowstick until you hear clicking and watch what happens. Does this glow differently from the dinosaur?

Science Behind it!

Energy is anything that has the capacity to produce the change in matter. Matter is anything in the universe that has weight and takes up space. Cars move thanks to energy. We can walk because of the energy from the food that we eat. There are different types of energy such as chemical, nuclear, thermal, physical, sound, and  electrical. For this activity, we are exploring light energy.

You can physically see light. You cannot physically see energy but did you know that light is actually a form of energy. When the energy comes in the material, the material holds onto the energy and then releases it where is goes out. Something glows or you can see light because the energy is being released from the material as light energy, this is called photoluminescence. In this activity, you are exploring three types of luminescence: fluorescence, phosphorescence, and chemiluminescence.