Hands-on-Science: What happens to water when frozen?

Have you ever placed a water bottle in the freezer for some time? What did you notice when you take it out? Did you  ever wonder why people put covers on their outside faucets in the winter? Why isn’t it a good idea to leave water in a garden hose during freezing temperatures? It’s the power of ice.







What do you need?

  • 3 small plastic drinking cups, one with a lid dish or pan big enough to hold all three
  • Water
  • Freezer


  • Fill all three cups with as much water as possible without overflowing. Put the lid on one.
  • Set all three cups on the dish and place in the freezer overnight.
  • Check to see what happened the next morning. Did the water stay the same size after it became ice?
  • Leave the frozen items in the freezer for a few days. Did you notice any changes?

What’s happening?

When water freezes, it expands. (Peculiar!!) When water is left in a garden hose during freezing temperatures, the force of
the ice expanding can cause the hose to break open. The same thing can happen with the water pipes in your house. If the water freezes in the pipe, it can break the pipe open.  As water cools further and freezes into ice, another property takes place: it actually becomes less dense.  Most substances are most dense in their solid (frozen) state than in their liquid state, however water
is not.  Have you noticed ice floats in water?  This explains why icebergs float and lakes freeze from the top down.  If
water froze from the bottom up then all life in the water would be killed and life might not have evolved on Earth.

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