Teaching Diffusion - Making T-Shirts

Super Teacher Ideas  : Diffusion T-Short Activity
Activities & Lesson Ideas
Teaching Diffusion: T-Shirt Activity
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Super Teacher Ideas
Learning About Diffusion and Making T-Shorts
Submitted by Jessica in North Carolina
Third Grade Teacher

Diffusion - movement of a substance from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration.


  • enough white T-shirts or white or light-colored pieces of cloth for the entire class
  • rubbing alcohol (70 or 90% isopropyl)
  • eye dropper or medicine dropper
  • sharpie markers (other markers will work, but will not be permanent)
  • a cup for each student
  • rubberbands

1.  Students place the cloth or shirt tightly over the cup and secure it with a rubberband.

2.  Next they draw a pattern of dots around the circle made up of the secured cloth covering the cup using colored sharpies. Make sure to do the dot pattern around the edges of the cup, leaving a white area in the center.

3.  Once students are finnished with their patterns, they drop 7 or 8 drops of rubbing alcohol right in the center of the circle.

4.  They then observe the pattern spreading from the 'highly concentrated' places where the dots are, to the 'lowly concentrated' places where there are white spaces. This process creates a neat tie dye effect.

Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate and you have a really cool design. If you used sharpies, the T-shirts can be washed and worn and the design will not wash away. You can do several circles to completely design T-shirts. Have students throw their T-shirts in the dryer for 10 minutes when they get home, to 'set' the design.

Another lesson you could tie into this diffusion activity would be understanding solvents. If you use sharpies, you could first have the students place a few drops of water in the middle of their design. They will notice that nothing happens because sharpies are permanent and do not dissolve in water. Then go ahead and have them try the drops of rubbing alcohol, and they will observe that the sharpies do dissolve in the alcohol. Make sure to first let the water dry before adding the alcohol, or just let them design another spot on the cloth while that one dries, and then perform the 'alcohol experiment' on the new pattern.

Super Teacher Ideas - Science - Diffusion

Webmaster note:   Wow, Jessica!  And I bet the kids LOVE waring their cool new shirts to school too!  Thank you for sharing this idea.