Electrolysis of Water Experiment for Kids

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Use this experiment to help kids get familiar with electrolysis of water. You'll find easy to follow directions and educational resources in this article.

Split Water (Not Hairs)

Your students will perform the steps necessary to complete the electrolysis of water with this experiment.

Each student will need:

  • A 9V battery
  • 2 number 2 pencils
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Cardboard (cut to cover the mouth of the glass)
  • 2 pieces of electrical wire (8-10 in. long)
  • A glass
  • Warm water

Getting Ready:

Make sure your students have a solid understanding of what they're going to do by ensuring they're familiar with the scientific concepts involved in the process of electrolysis. These lessons on chemical compounds and chemical reactions can help students review what they need to know.

Experiment Time!:

Begin by having students get their pencils set up. For this experiment, they'll need to take off the erasers and the metal sections that attach to the pencils. The pencils also need to be sharpened on both ends. If young students are conducting this experiment, you can go ahead and get the pencils ready for them. Have your students poke the pencils through the cardboard. They should be around an inch apart. Students should also fill their cups with warm water and mix in the salt.

Now it's time to work with the battery. Have students connect one of the pieces of wire to the positive battery port and one of the sharpened points of a pencil. Repeat with the other wire, the negative port and the sharpened point of the other pencil on the same side of the cardboard. Then have your students place the other ends of the pencils in the water and watch what happens!

Small bubbles should start collecting around the pencil tips as electricity separates the water into two gases, hydrogen and chlorine. Keep in mind that chlorine is dangerous to inhale, so make sure your students conduct this experiment carefully!

Students can find an easy-to-follow breakdown of the chemical processes involved in electrolysis with this lesson, titled What is Electrolysis? This lesson on how compounds are broken down by heat or electricity provides an excellent explanation of these scientific processes. This lesson also helps to reinforce everything students learned in the experiment.

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