Learning Osmosis: Gummy Bear Experiment

Grade School

Oct 11

Let’s have fun┬álearning osmosis!

When studying Egypt, or preparing for an extra spooky Halloween you might consider making a chicken mummy.

To be honest, you don’t even need a related unit to want to make a chicken mummy – they are fun and full of great science. I love all of the questions I get when I do the chicken mummy unit in my kid’s science classes.

Is it going to smell bad? Ew, I have to do what with the chicken? Why is the salt all wet?

Creating your own mummy at home is a great opening to studying the process of osmosis.

Osmosis is when there are different concentrations of something in the water. For the mummies, and our osmosis experiments you can do at home, that is often salt.

When you have an area that has a ton of salt (or sugar for our gummy bear experiment) the surrounding water is unhappy. It wants everything to be equal. Because of that water molecules will naturally flow from an area that has very little salt to an area that has a ton of salt.

For the chicken mummy, this means water goes from inside the chicken (where there is little salt), to the bag full of salt (where there is…a ton of salt). Over time this takes a lot of the water out of the chicken. By changing the salt you are allowing it to absorb more water, which is why we recommend changing the salt every week for four weeks.

I should mention that when we do the chicken mummies we never use regular chickens, instead, we use these cornish hens. They are smaller to start with so need less salt and time to mummify! You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store and they are usually only $10-15 for a twin pack.

Four weeks to see osmosis?!? Isn’t there a faster osmosis experiment?

If you wanted to show osmosis in action relatively quickly you can put two gummy bears in different cups. Fill one cup with fresh water, and one cup with salt water.

Ask yourself (and your students or kids) what do they think might happen? Is there an area that has a lot of salt or sugar? Is there an area that does not?

In the case of fresh water, water will flow from outside the gummy in to try and make the two concentrations of sugar the same. This will make the gummy bear very large over the course of a day, or even overnight.

Remember, this process of trying to even out concentrations is called osmosis.

Play the video below to see what happens when you put a gummy bear in fresh water overnight!

Want to see the process of osmosis even faster?

If you want even faster results, you can put slices of a potato in salt water and in fresh water. Again, ask yourself (and your students or kids), what do you think will happen?

Remember, there are a few salts in the potato itself. Once you have thought about it, go ahead and slice up a potato to try the experiment for yourself, then check your answers with our video below! I hope you enjoyed our two quick experiments that can help students understand osmosis in a hands-on inquiry fashion!

Which potato slice has been in salt water? Which one has been in fresh water?

You’ll notice that in the salt water there is so much salt in the water around the potato that the water wants to leave the potato to try and even out the salt concentrations between inside and outside of the potato. Again, this process of trying to even out concentrations is called osmosis.

In the fresh water, the situation is different. Instead, the water sees a lot of salts in the potato and no salts in the surrounding water, so it will try and dilute the salts inside the potato through osmosis. This will plump up the potato with extra water.

Looking for another fun experiment with osmosis?

Make french fries and see which kind you like better, those that are limp from being soaked in salt water for a little while versus those that are plump from being in the fresh water for an equal amount of time. Make sure you fry or bake them up using the same methods so you have an accurate taste comparison!

Check out our other fun science activities!