A few weeks ago, my son brought home an assignment to create an “ice house” that could keep ice from melting. He could use any materials he wanted as long as they weren’t toxic (don’t you love that teachers have to actually spell that out for the few idiots out there that would try to make a 2nd grade science project out of something toxic?!) and as long as the measurements weren’t bigger than 8x8x8.
Sounds easy enough…until you sit down to hear your 7-year-old’s suggestions, which leads you to thinking about how his skill level, and yours for that matter, don’t quite mesh with his brilliant ideas. Then, the easy 2nd grade project turns into a mad dash to figure out what in the world you can do without spending a ton of money and without you having to do most of the work. Ooh the crazy world of elementary science!
After discussing several possibilities with my son (including his pitch of just buying a small cooler – duh), we decided that we should use either an aluminum can or a styrofoam cup to hold the actual ice cube and then house that inside of a bigger, more insulated box of some sort. We did a quick experiment on our own to see whether the can or the cup would hold the ice the best by just setting them on the counter with one ice cube in each and leaving them for an hour. At the end of the hour, the styrofoam cup ice cube had barely melted at all and the aluminum can ice cube was a huge puddle of water; we decided to go with the styrofoam cup.
We were originally going to use a shoe box to hold the cup, but then I came across an old baby wipes box with the perfect sized opening in the top to place the ice cube and my son chose to use that instead so that we could have the ice cube enclosed as much as possible.
He knew he was going to use the styrofoam cup, but we needed to add more to the inside of the box to make sure that the cup didn’t move and to help insulate it more. We found several different materials around the house that seemed like they would help insulate the cup so we cut up a foam noodle into many pieces and wrapped everything in aluminum foil. (FYI, we did do some internet research regarding these materials and their ability to insulate prior to using them so they weren’t random choices).
Once we had everything in place inside of the box, we wrapped the outside in a cooling bag we had. You know those bags you find at the grocery store that say they can keep things frozen for 2 hours in case you can’t go directly home from the grocery store? Yeah, we’re geniuses (or really just grasping for straws here). Originally, I had asked my son if he wanted to paint the outside of the box with chalkboard paint and then try to decorate it to look like an igloo of some sort (or just decorate it at all) but he was less about the decorating than finding the right materials so we just wrapped it up and called it a day.
We didn’t cover the lid entirely so that when the time came to pop the ice cube in, he could just push the button, insert the ice cube and then shut the lid again, hopefully keeping the cold air inside longer.
Yeah, we are clearly headed down the path toward the next big invention with our high tech ways.
His ‘ice house’ kept 2 ice cubes from melting for 3 hours. Not too shabby considering that we didn’t freeze it beforehand or stick an ice pack in it that morning or turn in a tiny, decorated styrofoam cooler like some other kids did (sidenote – I guess my son’s original pitch to turn in a cooler wasn’t that far removed from the ideas of other people in his class, but doesn’t it kind of defeat the purpose of the experiment if you are just going to hand in a cooler or something already frozen? seriously, come on!)
our my original freak-out about how we were going to handle this experiment together, we ended up having fun creating it and I think it worked pretty well. Of course, now the box is back home and has been disassembled so that it can serve as a container for other things, so it has been retired from its freezer status. Talk about multi-functional!
Now, I am just praying that the next school project comes directly from PINTEREST!!! 🙂