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Melt a mosaic in your kitchen

This article appeared in the May 3, 2013 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise

Join Explorit this spring and summer by using science to create art.  You can try this easy activity in your own kitchen.  It’s also a great way to cool off during these hot days.

You will need:  water, a freezer, various containers for making different sizes and shapes of ice cubes, a tray with sides (baking trays work great), food coloring or liquid water colors, salt and paper towels.

Plan ahead by freezing your ice cubes the night before.  Small plastic containers with snap-on lids in various shapes are a great choice.  Just don’t fill them all the way; water expands as it freezes.

Once your ice cubes are completely frozen, you’re ready to make some very cool art!  Start by emptying your ice cubes into your tray.  If you have trouble loosening them from their containers, try running them under some water to melt them around the edges a little bit.

Sprinkle salt on one or more of your ice cubes and watch what happens.  Do the salty ice cubes hold their shape as well as the others?  What do you see happening?

You’re probably observing that your ice cubes are developing deep cracks where the salt is.  Salt lowers the temperature at which ice melts.  That means ice with salt doesn’t have to get as hot to melt so it melts faster.

These cracks are just what we need to infuse our ice cubes with color.  Add drops of food coloring or liquid water colors to your ice cubes.  See if you can get the color to go all the way to the center of the cube through one of your salt cracks.  Experiment with salt, different colors, and different shapes of cubes to create a multi-colored ice sculpture!

But of course all your cubes will melt sooner or later, with or without salt.  As the cubes melt, the colored water will swirl together in the bottom of your tray.  This is your chance to make some art that will last.

Carefully lay a paper towel on the surface of your melted colored water.  Let it soak up the colored water, but don’t let it get so saturated that it falls apart.  Once it’s as colored as you’d like, lay it aside to dry.  The liquid will evaporate, but the pigment will stay creating a paper towel mosaic.

You can take pictures of your ice sculptures or paper towel mosaics and share them with Explorit on our facebook page at  Then come visit our current exhibition Beautiful World: Science and Art to try more hands-on activities using science to create art!


Explorit’s events:

• Summer Camp Volunteer Recruitment – Explorit is seeking volunteers from now through May 10, 2013 to assist with activities during Summer Camp 2013.  Volunteers must be age 12 to adult.  If you are interested in volunteering please email Lisa at for more information and a volunteer application. 

• Explorit Summer Camp Registration – New Sections of 1st – 2nd Grade Camps Now Open!  We have added additional sections of our most popular 1st – 2nd grade camps.  These sections are filling up quickly, so don’t delay sign up today! Register on-line at


Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit  You can also “like” us on Facebook at or follow us on twitter at @ExploritScience.

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