Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This material reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Also available in:


Teaching Resources

Homepage > Teaching Resources > Teaching Resources Form


Virtual Experiment: Viscosity Explorer
SEED (Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development, Inc.)Shlumberger is a multinational company, a provider of services for oil and gas companies around the world. SEED is one of their foundation, dealing with education.
WEBSITE OF THE PRODUCT http://www.planetseed.comFrom the homepage you can reach the page in this way:Home à Science à Learning Resources à Seed kits à V
Online course, Web Site/Portal
Basic, Medium
Problem solving, Modelling, Experiential learning
Materials Science
Primary School, Lower Secondary School
The prerequisites
The meanings of liquid and temperature.The students can directly get to the interactive resource and use it, and there is no need they have specific knowledge about viscosity, but they must be able to understand what acting on a variable means in the field of experimental activity. Hence it could be useful they have already done in class experiments in which the change of one or more variables modifies the course of an experiment.

The contents
Materials (especially liquids), thickness and viscosity.

The aims
- to explore different liquids and their viscosity;
- to understand the meaning of variable (quickly displaying the effect of changing variables or their values).

Task Description
The Viscosity Explorer lets you see how viscosity varies from liquid to liquid and how temperature affects viscosity. You can:
- compare two different liquids with each other;
- test the same liquid at two different temperatures.
In the page there are two containers in which you can pick (choose) a liquid between water, olive oil, ethanol, corn syrup, honey. Then you can set the temperature of the liquids (from 10°C to 90°C). When you click the DROP button, two steel balls drop into the liquids and you can see how fast they reach the bottom. Clicking on RESET, the balls go back in the grabbers and you can repeat the experiment

How to use it in class
Before using the Virtual Viscosity Explorer, it could be better doing some preparative activities and trying at least one hands-on experiment.
- First of all, children have to get that not all liquids are the same: some are thin and flow easily, while others are thick and gooey. For this aim we can lead a discussion in class about liquids and their proprieties.
- Afterwards, considering what students said in their discussion, we can show a couple of liquids with different viscosity (for instance water and honey) and ask students to describe their features: colour, taste, density, capacity of pouring....When it will be clear that water pours more rapidly than honey, we will be able to say that a liquid's resistance to flowing is called viscosity;
- Now a problem can arise: how can we test the viscosity of a liquid? The teacher can ask student to project an experiment. It could came out that one way to test the viscosity of a liquid is to drop something into it and see how long it takes to sink.
- At this point the teacher can organize an hands-on experiment in which students can drop pebbles in two graduated cylinder filled with water and honey and time how long it takes each pebble to reach the bottom (teachers can find more explanation about this hands-on experiments and others in SEED web site:;;
- At last students can use the animation of Viscosity explorer to carry out new investigations, on their own or in group. The animation is effective because it allows quickly make viscosity measurement with different liquids and, most of all, to include in the experiment the temperature variable.(Tteachers can find instructions and examples for leading activity with the viscosity explorer in the pdf file “SEED workshop outline”, on page 3: )
Points of strength
The interactivity of simulation makes the students protagonists of their knowledge;The simulator use is easy and “intuitive”.

Points of weakness
The resource is not easy to found because it is included in a very complex website: you need the correct address or you have to refer to the Italian website where we found it.

Scientific reliability
Excellent for the possibility to introduce and use significantly the concept of variable.

Pedagogic value
As declared in the site, SEED’s educational activities are based on a constructionist/learning-while-doing approach. Students are encouraged to be more proactive in their learning, and teachers are encouraged to provide more guidance and less direct instruction. From the point of view of scientific learning, the resource is valuable if the teacher promotes a plan of experiments in which students have to isolate variables.
University of Genova

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2012.09.30

Posted by Mónica S. N. Oliveira (Portugal)

Message: This particular link presents a virtual experiment designed to illustrate the differences in viscosity between several common liquids, as well as the effect of temperature on the viscosity. The “experiment” is a classical ball-drop experiment, and can qualitatively illustrate the concept of viscosity without requiring a real experimental set-up. The virtual experiment is probably of limited use in the classroom (unless time and basic resources are an issue), but its simplicity and visual appeal mean that it can be used as a learning resource by people of all ages, for example in the home environment. Furthermore, it can serve as a basis to develop an in-class experiment.
The link posted does not provide any information about the physical phenomena, but in reality it is part of a larger resource collection set-up by Schlumberger that includes much more detailed information. The main website is not straight-forward to navigate, but after you find the lab related resources section ( it contains a range of very useful information for students and teachers, including a large array of experiments related mostly to physical properties of fluids. In each experiment, a detailed protocol with illustrations is provided, both in html and as a downloadable pdf file (the latter can be directly used as a handout in class), as well as teacher’s notes, providing further in-depth information, safety concerns, expected results, etc. Very interestingly the site, as well as the downloadable files, are translated in several languages, including Portuguese and Spanish, which may be of added value to school teachers. The experiments are simple, well conceived and tested, and focus on materials and properties of relevance in day-to-day life. Importantly, most experiments can provide not only qualitative information about the physical phenomena, but also quantitative measurements of the relevant property (e.g., density, viscosity) and results are provided for comparison.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.