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Last October I taught a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) class for a fun group of homeschoolers ranging in age from kindergarten through eighth grade. One of the classes was focused on Halloween science, and during that class the kids made their own flying tea bag ghosts.
This activity was a HUGE hit!
So if you are looking for a Halloween science activity that your kids will be screaming about, make some flying tea bag ghosts and you won’t be disappointed!
Read on for directions to make your own flying tea bag ghosts.
Note: For more kid-friendly Halloween activities, see my Halloween activities for Kids page.
Caution! This activity involves the use of fire. As such, this activity should only be performed under adult supervision in a safe location far away from buildings, furniture, trees, or other objects than can catch on fire.
For this activity, you will need tea bags. I have heard rumors that not all tea bags work equally well. We used Tazo brand tea bags and they worked very well. I cannot say how well this activity will work with other brands of tea.
Start by cutting the top off of the tea bag. Try to make as straight a cut as possible. Throw the top away.
Empty all the tea out of the bag. Then, unfold the bag and lay it flat.
Draw a ghost face on your tea bag.
Then open up the tea bag to make it into a hollow cylinder. Stand it on a non-flammable surface.
(If the tea bag won’t stand up, you may need to re-cut the bottom so it is straighter across.)
At this point, you need to make sure your flying tea bag ghost is in a safe location, far away from anything that could catch on fire. (Do NOT follow my lead and light your flying tea bag ghost on fire under the eaves of your home. These ghosts float much higher than you might expect!)
Now for the fun part. Use a lighter to light the top of the tea bag ghost on fire.
The fire will quickly burn down the ghost, and just before it reaches the bottom of the bag, your ghost will lift off.
And there it goes!
The flying tea bag ghost may go much higher than expected. Look at the photo below that shows how my ghost reached the eaves of my roof. That was not smart on my part! Do yourself a favor and do NOT make the same mistake I did.
Light your ghost on fire in a wide open space where it will not come in contact with anything that can catch on fire.
Watch this 22 second video to see our flying tea bag ghost in action:
What makes the tea bag ghost fly?
There are three different forces at work that allow the tea bag ghost to fly.
First, as the cylindrical tea bag burns down, the air inside the bag heats up. When air heats up, it becomes less dense. And when air becomes less dense, it rises. So, as the air inside the cylinder becomes warmer and less dense than the air outside the cylinder, it rises.
Second, as we’ve established, the hot air inside the burning cylinder will rise as it becomes less dense than the cool air outside the cylinder. As the hot air rises, cool air rushes in to take its place, creating a convection current. In this case, the convection current pushes upwards from the bottom of the bag.
Finally, as the tea bag burns the smoke rises and leaves behind a very delicate and very lightweight frame of ash. The ash framework is so lightweight that it is easily carried into the air by the hot rising air and convection current.
More Halloween resources
More Halloween posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Books about Halloween
- Mason jar jack-o-lantern
- Candy experiments
- Halloween Montessori activities
- Toilet paper mummies
- Pumpkin decomposition experiment
- Describe a pumpkin using all five senses
- Jack-o-lantern Printables Pack
- Halloween Bingo
- Halloween do-a-dot printables
- Halloween Sudoku
- Pumpkin outlines