Questions and Important Vocabulary:

What is Silly Putty?
What do you think it is made out of?
Do you think it was an accident or was something trying to make a cool new toy?
Data: individual facts, statistics or items of information
Invent: to produce something useful for the first time using imagination and/or experimentation
Serendipity: means of finding valuable/helpful things without intending to

What you need to know

Silly Putty was invented because the government needed a new product to use on airplanes tires and soldiers boots in the 1940s during WWII. However, the problem was that there was not enough natural rubber that they can use so they decided to come up with a synthetic, or man-made, rubber. This is were Silly Putty came into play.

The government was determined to find the right material to use for their needs. They believed that the right substance to use was silicon which happens to be something that is found in sand. They asked lots of large companies to have their engineers look into using silicon to make the synthetic rubber they were after.

Lots of people came close to coming up with the perfect concoction for the substance. James Wright was doing research with silicon oil. During one of his experiments he added boric acid, however, he ended up with something gooey that did not work. A hole five years went by when Peter Hodgson decided that there was a use for the gooey substance that James Wright experimented with, he thought it would make a great toy!!! He put the gooey substance inside a plastic eggs and called in Silly Putty. SERENDIPITY!

Discussion Questions

Although not just a toy, can you come up with some different uses for Silly Putty?
What would use Silly Putty for?
Do you think you can make your own Silly Putty?

What you will need:

White School Glue
Liquid Laundry Starch (32oz or smaller)
Measuring spoons
Cups and Stirrers
Food Coloring
Data Chart

What to do next:

Experiment with different amounts of glue and starch to try and find the right combination to get the Silly Putty just how you want it. Use the data chart to record the measurements and change them each time until you get it just right. If you want, add some food coloring to make it your favorite color.

Using the data chart:

Why is the data chart important?
What can you learn from using the data chart?

Using the data chart is important because it allows you to record the information so you can either change it for a different outcome or so you have the right ingredients and amounts to make it again. Use the data chart to record your data.


Chicago Childrens Muesum, Teacher Resources

State Standards:

  • Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations
  • Estimate, make and use measurements of objects, quantities and relationships and determine acceptable levels of accuracy
  • Understand the processes of scientific inquiry and technological design to investigate questions, conduct experiments and solve problems