Discovery Bottles

I've just learned about Discovery Bottles and I'm feeling like my head is about to explode with all of the ways I can use these in our library centers! I had no idea you could have so much fun and learning with recycled plastic bottles! Observation skills, thinking, prediction, oh, my!

This page is a basic introduction. I've created separate pages with more specific instructions for each type. You begin with a clear sturdy bottle, like a Vitamin Water bottle.

Inside, you put something that students will be able to discover and a filler for things to move around in. The filler can be colorful or sparkly or it could be part of the science concept. You hot glue the lid on (a key step!). You also provide a place for students to record their observations.

To make discovery bottles, you need:

  • sturdy bottles like Vitamin Water (Squeeze the bottle to feel how thick the plastic is. Regular water bottles are too thin and won't last.)You can remove the labels with a soak in warm water, a hair dryer, or Goo Gone. If the bottle is still sticky, put clear packing tape over the sticky part.
  • Filler material: rice, pom poms, salt, glitter, pasta, confetti, beans, pieces of tissue paper
  • Here's how to color rice for your bottles!
  • glue gun to glue the lid on
  • labels to distinguish the bottles on the observation sheet

This photo comes from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits. This is where I first saw the idea. But once I saw the original concept, I could think of sooooo many ways to incorporate this in library learning! Here's what I'm thinking...

Fiction Genres
For my library displays and mini-lessons, I focus on one fiction genre each month. I'm gonna create discovery bottles for each genre, with words related to that genre in the bottle for students to find and record. For example, when you are focusing on mystery, you can include words like detective, clue, red herring, suspect, solve, and more. Right?

I Spy Bottles
I'm thinking that this could be a sneaky way to get some inferencing practice. Think of 10 small objects related to something. For example, have small planets and stars, all related to our solar system. You put all of the items on the copier, with a piece of paper behind them, to create your "I Spy" sheet, so they know what to look for.
Then you put all of those objects in a bottle with a filler. Students try to find each of the objects in the bottle, and try to INFER what all of the objects relate to!

Science discovery bottles include concepts like density, magnetism, static electricity, ocean, and more. I love that you can create such an interactive science center, but everything stays inside the bottle. Unlimited experimentation with zero mess!

Some Assembly Required 

Here is a video showing the assembly of several different bottles. This will show you how to put the components together. Remember, don't use the flimsy water bottles like she uses in this video. You want to use the thicker, sturdy bottles so that they'll last a few years!