Stay Cool this Summer: Fun STEAM Kids’ Activities Using Ice Cream
Back in the day, hearing the jingle of an ice cream truck and chasing it down the street was a staple of every summer break. But ice cream trucks have largely fallen out of fashion, and taking a tub out of the freezer just doesn’t make for fond summer memories. That’s why we’re bringing the excitement and adventure of everyone’s favorite freeze-y food back with homemade ice cream!
But this tasty treat isn’t just delicious. It’s also a great way to learn about science even when the school year is over and done with. So we’re going to show you three ways you can carry out your own ice cream science experiment in the form of a fun, hands-on STEAM project.
Ingredients for our ice cream science experiment
All three of our experiments involve making homemade ice cream in different ways. But for each one, you can use the same basic ingredients. This is all you need for four servings (and there are no weird additives or fake flavors):
- 4 cups half-and-half (or full-fat coconut milk for a dairy-free option)
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons sugar
Don’t forget the bowls and spoons (and maybe a few sprinkles)!
Method #1: Freeze and stir
You’ll also need:
- A deep stainless steel baking dish
- A spatula
- A freezer
1) Mix all your ice cream ingredients in your deep stainless steel baking dish.
2) Put the mixture in the freezer for 45 minutes.
3) As it begins to freeze, take the mixture out of the freezer and stir it vigorously with your spatula.
4) Put it back in the freezer.
5) Every 30 minutes, take out the mixture and stir it vigorously again.
6) Repeat for two or three hours, or until the mixture is frozen.
7) Serve and enjoy!
Method #2: Ice cream in a bag
You’ll also need:
- A strong quart-size zip-top bag
- A strong gallon-size zip-top bag
- ½ cup rock salt
- Warm gloves
1) Put all your ice cream ingredients in the quart-size zip-top bag and seal it.
2) Half fill the gallon-size zip-top bag with ice. Then, add the rock salt.
3) Place the quart-size zip-top bag inside the gallon-size zip-top bag and seal it.
4) Put on your warm gloves to protect your hands from the ice, then shake the bags vigorously for 10-15 minutes until the ice cream thickens.
5) Remove the ice cream-filled bag, pour your creation into a bowl, grab a spoon, and dig in!
Method #3: Coffee can soccer ice cream
You’ll also need:
- A large mixing bowl
- A mixing spoon
- A large coffee can with a lid
- A smaller container that can fit inside the coffee can
- A funnel
- Rock salt
- Duct tape
1) Mix all your ice cream ingredients together in your large mixing bowl.
2) Pour them into the smaller container using a funnel.
3) Seal the smaller container and put it inside the large coffee can.
4) Pour one cup of ice into the large coffee can, followed by one cup of rock salt. Keep doing this until the coffee can is full.
5) Put the lid on the coffee can then seal it very firmly with duct tape.
6) Take your sealed coffee can outside and use it to play soccer! (You can also roll it down the driveway or take it for an energetic walk around the neighborhood, if you prefer. Just make sure it keeps moving!)
7) Every 15 minutes, open up the coffee can and check to see if your ice cream is ready. If it’s not, add some more ice and keep playing with it.
8) Once the ice cream has reached the perfect consistency, take the smaller container out of the coffee can. Then, serve it up and give it a try!
The science behind our homemade ice cream experiment
The second law of thermodynamics tells us that heat moves from an object at a higher temperature to an object at a lower temperature. In our ice cream science experiment, that means the freezer or the ice keeps absorbing heat energy from our ingredients until they’re cold enough to freeze. By constantly mixing the ingredients as they cool, we make sure all the ingredients freeze evenly so they eventually become tasty ice cream.
Pure water freezes at 0oC. But salt lowers the freezing point. So when we use ice in our bag and coffee can methods, the ice can absorb more heat energy from its surroundings.
Out in the world, this is how grit spreaders work. When temperatures drop, they throw salt on roads to lower the freezing temperature of moisture. That means it can’t turn into ice (unless it gets REALLY cold), which keeps the roads safe to drive on.
Mix up your homemade ice cream STEAM experiment with these yummy flavors!
Once you’ve tasted your first ice cream science experiment, you’re going to want to do it again (and again and again and again and again). So rather than tire yourself out eating the same flavor every time, try one of these delicious alternatives each time you make it!
- Chocolate: ¾ cup cocoa powder (sifted) + 4oz melted, cooled chocolate
- Cookies and cream: 15 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
- Peanut butter: ½ cup peanut butter
- Mint chocolate chip: 1 teaspoon peppermint extract + 1 cup mini chocolate chips + green food coloring
- Cinnamon roll: 3 tablespoons butter, melted + ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Rocky road: 1 cup chocolate syrup + 1 cup mini marshmallows + 15 graham crackers, coarsely chopped
- Blueberry swirl: 2 cups fresh blueberries + 3 tablespoons sugar + 2 tablespoons lemon juice, all cooked in a small saucepan over medium heat and chilled before swirling into ice cream
Have a super scientific summer with our other STEAM project ideas!
Carrying out your own homemade ice cream experiment is a great way to learn about science while spending quality time with your kids. But summer is long, and there’s only so much ice cream your belly can handle!
To keep your kids entertained all summer long, we have plenty of other STEAM project ideas they can enjoy. Check out our Fun Summer STEAM Activities and Science Project Ideas for Kids at Home blogs for more fun activities that keep their brains growing.