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Dry Ice Experiments -- First Steps

Comparing dry ice and wet ice

These fun dry ice experiments let you compare dry ice with “wet ice” (aka “water ice”).

Wet Ice on a Skillet

Start your dry ice experiments by comparing "wet ice" and dry ice.


It’s best for the young people to work in pairs so they can talk to each other while they examine “wet ice” and dry ice.

Use a hammer to break a smaller piece from the blocks of dry ice you purchased from a supplier. Then provide each pair with cubes of dry ice, “wet ice,” and garden gloves so they can touch the dry ice.

They should draw both substances and write down a number of observations about each. Having made the observations, they can list ways in which dry ice and water ice are different and similar to each other.

Heating dry ice and wet ice

After the young people have had the opportunity to compare dry ice and wet ice, they should see how heat affects these two substances. In a school science lab, you can use a hot plate to heat both ices. At home, you can use a hot skillet.

An adult should take a piece of wet ice and place it on a hot surface. Use a glove to push the ice onto the skillet or slide it around. Young people should not touch the hot surface or the ice.

The young people should then draw what happens, and note their observations.

Repeat the process using dry ice.

Structured explorations of Dry Ice

Having had the opportunity to play with dry ice, the students are now ready for more structured explorations. Provide them with a variety of household objects, and let them do some simple dry ice experiments.

They should keep records of each of these “experiments.” They should note:

  • What they did.
  • What happened.
  • Why they think this happened.

Understanding Dry Ice and Wet Ice

Before discussing dry ice with young people, prepare by reading my page about dry ice or this page on dry ice. (Download the pdf file near the top.)

Start the discussion with concrete questions like:

  • What did you observe about dry ice?
  • What did you observe about wet ice?
  • How are the two substances similar?
  • How are they different?

They move on to more abstract question, like:

  • Why is dry ice called “dry ice?”
  • If dry ice doesn’t melt, what is happening?
  • Why do you think dry ice might not melt? What is it doing instead?
  • Why do you think dry ice slides around on the table?
  • How do you explain your observations about both dry ice and wet ice?

Let the discussion flow freely. The best way to prepare for this discussion is not to create a list of questions with correct answers. Instead, you should educate yourself about dry ice, and then let the conversation unfold naturally.

Even if the young people have some mistaken ideas at this point, their thinking will develop as they continue to experiment.

Now you're ready for Dry Ice Experiments (2) -- Frozen Bubbles

Return from Dry Ice Experiments (1) to Cool Science Projects -- Dry Ice


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