Now is your chance to create a bowl full of Insta-Worms! Just add a little Worm Activator to some blue Worm Goo, stand back, and watch the worms wriggle and squirm, along with your friends and family! Fishing, anyone? Oh, did anyone mention that this is an excellent way to learn a little chemistry at the same time?
Now is your chance to create a bowl full of Insta-Worms!
- To start your worm creation, you need to prepare some Worm Activator Solution. Get a clear plastic or glass bowl. It will be easier to see what’s going on inside there if it is clear. (If you cannot find a clear bowl, your jar doubles as a worm-making container.)
- Measure out 1 cup (8 oz) of warm water into the bowl and stir in 1 blue scoop of Worm Activator Powder. 1 blue scoop is equal to 1 teaspoon or 3 grams of Worm Activator, just in case you happen to lose the blue scoop. Make sure that most of the Worm Activator is dissolved into the water before you move on to the next step.
- Now that you’ve got Worm Activator Solution, squirt a small stream of Worm Goo into the bowl. Whoa! The Worm Goo instantly turns into a long stringy worm. You know you want to touch it… so reach in and grab your Insta-Worm.
- Take the worm out of the solution and play with it. The worm has elastic qualities like rubber, but can break if you tug it too hard. You know what? Go ahead and break the worm in half.
- What do you notice about the inside of the worm? It’s still a gooey liquid. Not to worry, Insta-Worm surgery is really simple. Just dip the broken end of the worm back in the activator solution. You’ve saved the worm, Doctor!
How Does It Work?
When you make Insta-Worms®, you're learning about the science of polymers. The creative scientists at Steve Spangler Science coined the name, Worm Goo, but the real name of this liquid is sodium alginate. Sodium alginate is a long chain of molecules called a polymer. Specifically, sodium alginate is a polysaccharide isolated from seaweed. Polymers are large molecules made by linking many smaller molecules together. Polysaccharides, such as starch and alginate, are made by linking together hundreds of glucose (sugar) molecules. Alginate is commonly used as a thickener for foods such as ice cream and fruit pies. Now that you know this chemistry secret, take a look at food labels the next time you're at the grocery store to find out which other foods contain sodium alginate. Alginate compounds are also used for dental impression materials and wound dressings to name a few.
The sodium alginate (Worm Goo) immediately changes from a liquid to a solid the moment it touches the Worm Activator solution. The Worm Activator solution contains calcium which serves to link the long polymer chains together. Scientists call this “cross-linking.” For the scientists in the audience, here's a more detailed description of what happens: a polymer strand is formed when the sodium alginate solution is added to a calcium chloride solution. This occurs because the Ca++ ions replace the Na+ ions and serve as a cross-linking agent to link two alginate chains together. The resulting cross-linked polymer is insoluble in calcium chloride solution and this results in the formation of the polymer strand. See, now you know!