Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this activity students will experiment with making waves in a bottle using water, vegetable oil and food colouring.

These Snappy Science resources have been created to boost science education in primary schools across Australia. Each lesson is designed to support teachers with the scientific knowledge, ideas and resources to stimulate a sense of wonder and curiosity in their students. Many of the big issues that Australian society will face in the future are around technology, energy, resources and climate change. All of these require students to engage with science – but most of all to enjoy science!

Science at Home: These Snappy Science resources can also be used to engage families in fun science and learning for life. You can download a student friendly version of this activity here and you can also check out the Snappy Science Digital Library.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Australian Curriculum content description: This activity is relevant to Science Inquiry Skills across all primary year levels of the Australian Curriculum.

Year 2 Science

  • Different materials can be combined, including by mixing, for a particular purpose (ACSSU031)

Year 5 Science

  • Solids, liquids and gases have different observable properties and behave in different ways (ACSSU077)

Syllabus OutcomesST1-12MW, ST2-7PW.

Time required: 5 – 10 minutes.

Resources required: Empty plastic bottle and cap, vegetable oil, water, food colouring.

Safety advice: None.

Keywords: Wave, bottle, water, oil.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Brief summary:

Students will experiment with making waves in a bottle using water, vegetable oil and food colouring.

Students can use the Predict, Observe, Explain table on the Student Worksheet to describe and reflect upon this experiment.

You will need:

  • Empty plastic bottle and cap
  • Vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Food colouring

What to do:

Step 1. Remove the label of the water bottle by soaking the bottle in hot water.

Step 2. Fill the bottle with 3/4 cup of water.

Step 3. Add a few drops of food colouring to the water.

Step 4. Pour 1 cup of oil into the bottle and screw the cap on to the bottle tightly.

Step 5. Roll the bottle on its side and let it settle for a few minutes. The water will sink to the bottom and the oil will rise to the top.

Step 6. Now tip the bottle back and forth and make some waves. The waves will be bigger at one end of the bottle and smaller at the other.

How does it work?

Your bottle wave is like an ocean wave. Water moves up and down and doesn't

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Student Worksheet

In this activity you will experiment with making a wave in a bottle.


Explain what you think will happen:


Explain what happened:


Explain why you think this happened:

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