We just wrapped up a unit of study on the three states of matter. As their final assessment, my students had to create these matter flipbooks. I gave the students the headings (Solid, Liquid, and Gas), a white sheet of paper (we make flipbooks alot), and some fruit loops. *I must note that I am not a fan of having the students use any food item as art, but these fruit loops were stale and three years old. I was going to throw these away.
Anyway, the instructions were as follows:
Assemble the fruit loops as particles of that particular state of matter. The idea was to see if they would glue the solid particles closely packed together, the liquid particles should be a little more spread out and so on. Under the front flap, they were to write the properties of each state of matter–all of them. And finally, the students had to find pictures of a solid, liquid, and a gas in magazines to cut out and glue in the appropriate spot.
All in all, I’d say the kids had a good time and for the most part seemed to understand the basic concepts of the three states of matter.
Warning: I’ve done this project for the past couple of years and never encountered a problem with ants, except for this year. This is why some students ended up simply drawing the particles with markers..the ants were on the attack! Be careful.
This year I made a firm decision that no matter what happens, I would include science experiments in my instruction. It is my belief that we are not truly teaching science, if we are not conducting science experiments in our classrooms. How else will the students begin to genuinely think like a scientist and understand the scientific method without actually experimenting in class? The answer is simple. They won’t.
I’m happy to report on our second experiment–Skittles Science! I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Runde’s Room, and she mentioned this experiment. I immediately went to teacherspayteachers.com to purchase this product. (That’s right. She’s that good. Every recommendation from her has been quality.)
This particular product has more than just the science experiment in it, but I just used the PPT to explain the key points I wanted students to focus on i.e. how to record observations.
The question to be investigated was: Do Skittles dissolve faster in hot water or cold water?
Once the question was posed we went to work through the scientific process. Each student had to form their own hypothesis based on their prior knowledge of the effects of different temperatures of water on certain items. It was very interesting to hear the students’ reasoning to support their hypothesis. Most of the students predicted that the hot water would dissolve the skittle faster due to the fact that items are dissolved in hot water more often than cold. (For example, hot tea, coffee, cleaning dishes.)
The following are pictures of the students conducting their experiments. I chose to leave the procedure part open to each group to decide the steps they needed to take. I simply told them the materials and tools that would be available to them (pretty much like the diaper experiment). And might I add, the procedural steps were SO MUCH BETTER than the first experiment. Yay, they are learning from their mistakes! Just look at how engaged these kids are. I love it!
As far as some teacher tips….here goes:
1. I heated water from home and brought it to school in a large thermos. I also have a Keurig in the classroom and was prepared to use that if we needed more water.
2. Each group needs to have a stopwatch or timer of some sort to record timed data. (Cell phones worked well for this.)
3. Set aside at least an hour of time for this lesson. On average, skittles were dissolving in 8-10 minutes and the experiment calls for 3 trials. Personally, I thought this was a good lesson on patience and persistence. They are used to conducting school experiments in which the “reaction”, whatever that may be, happens pretty quickly. The students struggled tremendously with having to wait and watch the changes in the skittle because it occurs slowly. I used this as a teaching moment to explain how meticulous and patient real scientists need to be in order to obtain reliable data. Scientists do not dismiss experiments simply because “something” doesn’t happen after a minute. Reliable data is usually gathered over long periods of time.
Overall, the students had a great time being scientists. Once we finish recording all the data on their lab sheets, I’ll post some pictures of the final product.
Like many first time moms, after having my son, I kept trying different diapers to see which one worked the best. At the same time, I was searching for a fun way to introduce the scientific method with my students. Suddenly, I read something that sparked this lesson idea: “Keep experiments simple for students. Answer a real life question you have.”
Too often, we teachers, try to bring science experiments into the classroom (with not help from schools or our curriculum) that are frankly just too difficult. Whether we don’t have the materials necessary or even the knowledge of why this chemical reacted a certain way, etc. These obstacles have always made bringing true experimentation into the classroom pretty much non-existent. I hate this. So, then my diaper problem seemed like something my kids could handle.
I was honest with my students and told them that we were going to create an experiment so that it could benefit me and my son. The students were totally into it! I’m sure working with diapers had a little something to do with it as well. *Tip: You might want to give the rules on inappropriate toilet humor before you begin.*
The first thing I did was show the kids a video (found on youtube.com) about the scientific method. It’s pretty cheesy, but it did it’s job of getting the kids excited and in a great mood. I then passed out the scientific-method.docx (as seen below): steps of the scientific method to be glued in their notebooks, a lab write-up sheet for the experiment, and diaper data. The last one is a sheet listing the three diapers to be tested with some basic information which was taken straight from each brand’s website.
After students looked over all the data and discussed at their table groups any prior knowledge they might have, each group had to agree on a “team” hypothesis.
**Please note: I purposely threw a wrench in this experiment so as to teach the importance of variables later on. One of the diapers to be tested was Huggies Overnights. Last year, one student questioned the validity of the experiment, but this year…NOT A ONE. I do this to see if they notice that all the diapers are not the same and that they should be. The overnights even state they are specifically made for 12 hours of absorption.*
After each team has a hypothesis, THEY design their experiment and record all the necessary steps on the form. I simply tell them the materials they will have at their disposal and they plan the rest. Of course, I walk the room and monitor their discussion, but I do feel the best results occur if they are left alone on this first attempt. They learn SO much from their mistakes. For example, only 4 out of my 6 teams felt it was necessary to EQUALLY MEASURE the amount of water to be added to each diaper.
The next day the students conduct their experiments and record their observations in their notebooks. It’s pretty awesome how into it they all are. The experiment probably took about 30 minutes to complete and results were then discussed as a class.
Every group, except one, found Huggies Overnights to hold the most water (of course!). We then began evaluating each team’s process and determining whether our results were valid. Finally, I exposed my secret about the overnight diaper. I immediately showed them a Bill Nye video on the importance variables and precise measurements in a science experiment.
We also ended up cutting the diapers open to reveal how in the world the diapers held so much water. This is another reason why I love this experiment. It fosters so many more questions the students have that lead to more investigation. Inside the diapers is a crazy gel like substance that starts off looking like cotton, but when it comes into contact with liquid has a chemical reaction which changes the entire look and feel of their material.
I finish up this lesson with a student journal reflection about what we would do differently if I let them do this again. Also, a homework assignment to research and find out what the material is inside of a diaper.
Every year our grade level team chooses to begin science with the water cycle. Why? Because it’s honestly so fun to teach. There are so many different activities and lessons that go with it, I just can’t get enough. After watching videos and researching it in our textbooks, I love showing the students Mr. Parr’s video. If you haven’t looked him up on youtube, I highly suggest it. He puts current songs with the lyrics to different educational concepts. The water cycle one is awesome!
All you need for this flipbook is white construction paper, some glitter, tissue paper, cotton balls, and the headings included in the pdf below.
Behind each flap the students wrote the exact definition for each process (found in their textbooks). Then as a class we added more detail and explanation to the steps of each process. The class is going to be writing their first informational summary on the water cycle so I told them this information would help them and be sure to do a quality job.
The center section of the book is changed up every year. Some years they have drawn a diagram, others they have written their summary right there, but this year I printed out a diagram from enchantedlearning.com and the students simply labeled it.
For the section below the diagram, I tried something new. I gave the students a sheet of paper with 10 important facts regarding Earth’s water (the chapter of study). The students had to circle what they believed to be the five most important facts. Then, they had to rank the facts in order–#1 being “most important” to “least important”. I asked the students, “If you were going to teach about Earth’s water, what are the 5 things that we HAVE to know?” and “What’s the most important thing you learned about Earth’s water?” The students then had to be able to justify why they picked certain facts over another….always very interesting to hear their reasoning.
Here is the pdf of headings and the diagram. (The 10 important facts are on my flash drive at school—so sorry!)