Science Activity on Compounds With Marshmallows

Written by dana schafer
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Science Activity on Compounds With Marshmallows
Create a molecular structure with marshmallows. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Marshmallows can be used in science activities to create molecular compounds, such as water and carbon dioxide. Molecules are made up from at least two atoms and held together through a chemical bond. Different coloured marshmallows can be used to represent the atoms and bonds. This helps students understand chemical structures of different molecules and compounds.

Marshmallow Water Molecule

The water molecule is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Students can create a water molecule from two different coloured marshmallows. Using small marshmallows, pick out two different colours, one for the hydrogen and one for the oxygen. Since water is made of two hydrogen and one oxygen, connect the marshmallows together on a toothpick in the order, hydrogen-oxygen-hydrogen. Create multiple water molecules and place in a bowl. Students now have a bowl filled with water molecules.

Air Molecules and Marshmallows

A kitchen vacuum packer is a device that can be used to help explain air pressure and air molecules to students. Fill marshmallows a quarter full into the vacuum packer and remove the air using the vacuum hose. Observe how the marshmallows swell. The marshmallows are swelling because the molecules of air in the marshmallows are pushing out since all the air in the container has been removed. As soon as the vacuum seal is broken and air enters, the marshmallows will shrink again because air molecules move back into the container.

Microwave Marshmallows

Explore molecules in a marshmallow in a microwave. Place a plate of marshmallows on a microwave-safe plate. Set the microwave for 1 minute on high. Observe the marshmallows through the microwave window and notice how the marshmallows begin to grow in size. Marshmallows are made of sugar and water wrapped around air bubbles. As you cook the marshmallow in the microwave, the microwave vibrates the water molecules, making the water inside the marshmallow heat. The heat warms the sugar molecules and softens them and the air bubbles expand, puffing the marshmallow.

DNA Marshmallow

Create an activity using marshmallows to help students understand the DNA molecular structure. In addition to small, coloured marshmallows, students will need toothpicks, string and red and black liquorice sticks. The liquorice sticks should be cut into 1-inch strips. The red liquorice represents the sugar deoxyribose and the black liquorice represents the phosphate groups. Together, the red and black liquorice represent the sugar-phosphate backbone. The liquorice should be threaded through the string into two strands of equal length of alternating red and black pieces. Choose four different colours of marshmallows. Pair two colours of marshmallows together and pair the other two colours together. The marshmallows represent the bases in DNA. The four different colours are used to represent adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. Remember that the bases need to be paired up correctly: adenine with thymine and guanine with cytosine. Place the marshmallow pairs on the toothpick, then attach the toothpick to the two-licorice strand. Add marshmallow pairs to the liquorice strands until it is filled. Twist the strand into a double helix. The DNA marshmallow molecule is complete.

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