This activity is a great way to introduce the word "polymer" to elementary children without
getting too deep into the science and organic chemistry.
It can be used as a for-fun-only hands-on activity or as part of a science unit.
We suggest using this unit to teach scientific method, observation, comparison, and measurement skills
with a systematic and scientific approach.
In this activity your students can use household items such as glue and borax to create fun
Students can observe properties and make comparisons such as which ball
bounces higher, which one has a smoother texture, which one squishes easier, etc.
This activity can also be used to teach/reinforce diameter, radius, and circumference
of a sphere.
Borax can usually be found with laundry products, though it is not available at
The liquid latex is often used to make molds for craft projects and can be
found at a craft or hobby store.
If you choose to make the latex and vinegar ball with your students, be sure to mix in a well-ventilated area
or outside. The latex has strong fumes!
Wearing rubber gloves provides an added safety measure that can eliminate any
possible skin irritation from prolonged contact with the ammonia preservative
in the liquid latex.
All materials used in this lab can be washed off the hands or clothes with soap and water.
If any chemical is splashed into eyes, rinse with lots of water immediately.
The instructions for making each ball can be found by clicking in the box
beneath the name of the ball you wish to create.
A printable page of this activity is available by clicking on "Printable Version" at the
bottom of the Level 1 Page.
The instructions for making each ball can also be printed by clicking on the instructions
and then clicking the print button in the pop-up box.
You may choose to make the latex and vinegar ball (Ball #3) as a teacher demo, especially for
After the creation of your bouncy balls, they must be sealed in a plastic bag to prevent
The radius of the ball can be found by placing the ball on the ruler to determine its diameter (width), which
can then be halved to find the radius. Next, students can use a piece of string wrapped around the middle of the ball
to measure the circumference. Then use the C=2pr
formula (where r is the radius that was just calculated) to compute the circumference and compare that answer to the
Suggestions for Assessment:
An on-line computer quiz with instant feedback is available in this section.
A printable version is also available. Click here for answers.
You may want to have students write or tell the class one thing/one paragraph/one page
(depending on grade level) about what they have learned from this experiment.
A teacher-created worksheet could also be helpful and more directly meet the
level and needs of your class.
The activities found at the bottom of the page are links to some more information and
activities involving polymers. These links will take you off our page
to other pages on The Polymer Science Learning Center site.