Inquiry Foam Activity:
What does the Inquiry Activity look like?

One group started by looking at all the materials on the table.

They decided to whip up batches of meringue because it was something familiar. They wanted to see what made a good meringue and they had heard that cream of tartar was supposed to help, so they tried making a batch with cream of tartar and one without.

They put both batches out onto paper towels and looked at them with a hand lens.

While looking, they noticed that the paper towel with the cream of tartar batch was soaking up water faster than the paper towel that had the egg-white- only batch on it.

This observation got the group interested in what cream of tartar does. While this observation took them away from exploring what makes good meringue, it focused them on a path that they could investigate and got them beyond the initial exploratory phase.

They mixed up batches of meringue with sugar, one with cream of tartar, and one without to see if the same thing happened. It did.

Then they mixed up a batch of shaving cream with cream of tartar, and one without. The shaving cream alone didn't make the paper towel wet at all, even after ten minutes. The shaving cream with the cream of tartar made the paper towel only a bit wet, but it turned the whipped shaving cream lumpy.

By the time they needed to start cleaning up they had concluded that cream of tartar causes any foam it is mixed with to lose water more quickly. How it did this on a chemical level, or why that might help to make a meringue better, was not something they could answer with the materials at hand. But they were able to use their observations to get them started on a path of investigation that allowed them to draw conclusions about a physical property of foam: namely, the effect of cream of tartar on how well the foam holds water.