Dance Club Patrons Describe Water Molecules

Written by Dave Sheldon, St. Clair County Community College

I approach the changing density of H2O by having students imagine a high energy dance club. They imagine the loudest and most energetic night club that they can, and describe it in detail. They focus on the intense energy, the motion of the people and the number of people on the dance floor. I include some techno music to get them thinking! Once focused on the high energy and rapid motion of the patrons, I modify the scenario. First I drastically reduce the energy by cutting the music, killing the strobes and bringing up the house lights. My students describe a ringing of ears and a much slower movement by the club patrons. Second, I describe every person as an H2O molecule with their arms outstretched in front of them at a 90° angle. Their hands represent two Hydrogen atoms and the middle of their back represents their Oxygen atom. Hydrogen bonding causes them to place their hands on the backs of two other people while two more people place one of each of their hands on your back. With low energy in the club, these bonds last for a relatively long time and the water molecules form a low density crystalline lattice. The people on the dance floor during the high energy rave would no longer fit in this low energy orientation. Some even note that they may actually be forced out of the club through windows and doors, which is what happens when water freezes.