Insta-Worms Experiment

Experiment Procedure

  1. Fill up the cup with warm water.
  2. Mix one blue scoop of Worm Activator Solution and stir until dissolved.
  3. Pour some Worm Goo into the 4oz bottle and seal the cap.
  4. Squeeze a stream of Worm Goo into the cup. Remove your worms!
  5. Try adding some Pearl Swirl to your Worm Goo bottle. Seal the cap and shake it up.
  6. Squeeze another stream of Worm Goo into the cup and enjoy your pearlized Insta-Worms!

Materials List

  • Worm Goo
  • 9oz Cup
  • Worm Activator Solution
  • Pearl Swirl
  • Blue Scoop
  • 4oz Bottle with Cap
  • Warm Water
  • Adult Supervision

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!