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I Scream, You Scream: States of Matter and Ice Cream


ice cream

School's out for the summer! But, that doesn't mean your kids won't learn anything. Discover how matter changes states by making a ice cream.


First, let's talk about matter.

Matter is a scientific term that basically means stuff. Rocks are matter, and so are things as different as carrots and bicycles and raindrops and air. Matter is mostly classified into three groups. These different groups are called states. These different states are solid, liquid and gas.


Solids are matter with a definite shape and size. A brick, a sneaker and a sheet of paper are all solids. They hold their shapes and only change unless they are acted on, like tearing a piece of paper in half.


Liquids are types of matter that take up space, but do not have a defined shape. Liquids, unlike solids, can flow and be spilled. Apple juice is a liquid, and so is paint and maple syrup. Maple syrup takes on the shape of the bottle it is in. Once you pour it on your pancakes, it spreads out and takes on new shapes.


Gases are a category of matter that has no size or shape. Helium is a gas. It takes on the shape of a balloon when it is inflated. Air is a gas, and takes on the shape of whatever it fills.

Experiment with a change of state

Matter can change states—go from a gas to a liquid or a liquid to a solid. Water is a liquid. It can be a solid when frozen into ice. When water is heated, it changes states into steam, which is a gas. Phase changes can occur when heat is gained or lost. Heating water on a stove is a way to add heat. Making water into ice in a freezer is a way to remove heat.

What happens when heat is removed from a sweet milk mixture? Ice cream!

Ice cream that matters

Makes 2 servings...or 1...

Ingredients and supplies

  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups ice
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 pint-sized zipper top plastic bag
  • 1 quart-sized zipper top bag
  • towel or gloves


Carefully put cream, sugar and vanilla in the smaller bag. Squeeze out the air and seal completely. Place small bag inside larger bag and add ice and salt to large bag. Squeeze out the air and seal well. Protect hands with towel or gloves and shake bag for 5-8 minutes or until mixture freezes. Add more ice if needed.


  1. At the beginning of the experiment, the sweet milk mixture is which state of matter?
  2. At the end of the experiment, the sweet milk mixture is which state of matter?
  3. To create a phase change, what did you remove? How? What happened to it?

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