MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > "Stained Glass Glue"

"Stained Glass Glue"

Caroline Sorensen
Greenbush Middle River High School
Greenbush, Minnesota
(adopted from the American Chemical Society
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In the activity, "Stained Glass Glue," students use common everyday materials to use inquiry when they mix different substances and observe the unusual result of mixing water colors, milk and common dishwashing detergent.

Learning Goals

1. The student will observe, describe, compare and contrast.
2. The student will perform a controlled experiment using a specific step-by-step procedure and present conclusions supported by the evidence.
3. The student will describe states of matter in terms of spaces between particles.

Context for Use

This activity can be used at any grade level in many settings and disciplines of science. From first grade inquiry, to fifth grade properties of color. The project can completed in less than half an hour.

Subject: Chemistry:General Chemistry
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)

Description and Teaching Materials

Light has the ability to do many things. Light can reflect, refract, or pass through objects. A translucent material allows light to pass through, but only diffusely, so that objects on the other side cannot be clearly viewed.

Colored translucent materials have been used for centuries to make beautiful stained glass artwork.

Glass makers use different chemicals in various combinations to produce many color types.

"Stained Glass Glue" (Microsoft Word 33kB May20 11)

Teaching Notes and Tips

What is the Chemistry behind all of this?

In Stained Glass Glue food coloring is added to a mixture of Elmer's glue and water. The Elmer's glue contains a polymer called polyvinyl acetate. These long flexible polymer molecules form many bonds with the water molecules and are thoroughly intertwined and intermixed with the water. Food coloring normally spreads out when placed in water but does not spread out much when placed in the glue/water solution. This is because water molecules are attracted to each other and to the polyvinyl acetate more than they are attracted to the food coloring. When detergent is added, it acts as a kind of intermediary between the food coloring and the water, bonding them together and allowing the food coloring to mix with the water.


What colors did you use?
What colors did you make?
Can you think of a way of using your stained glass glue to make a stained glass design that light can completely pass through?


I.B1 Scientific Inquiry

I.B2 Scientific Inquiry

II.A Structure of Matter

References and Resources