Hands-on Activity: Solid, Liquid or Gas?
Educational Standards :
Pre-Req Knowledge (Return to Contents)
Students should be able to make basic measurements of length, height and width.
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
For groups to share:
Bring in a selection of the assorted materials below (each has different properties). You will need enough materials so that when the class is broken up into groups of two, each group can have a different material to examine. Some suggestions:
For each group:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Welcome to the Imagination Engineering Laboratory. The lab is full of all sorts of various bottles and different-sized beakers with unknown items inside. Some of them are gooey, some look solid, some look empty, and some of them are dripping all over the place! There is equipment everywhere: scales, weights, electrical components, tools, monitors and meters, you name it — equipment of all types scattered on every free inch of space. You imagine all the clever things that are developed in this lab, and your interest is immediately piqued.
Certain types of engineers study materials science. They work with materials to decide which material is best suited for a certain product. Different materials have different characteristics or properties that make them the best material for a specific use. For example, what are some characteristics that would be necessary when designing a raincoat? Most importantly, raincoats need to be waterproof, but they should also be lightweight, durable and comfortable. So it might be a good idea then to create a raincoat out of a tarp-like material, instead of a metal sheet. All materials have properties that can be identified. One of the first things you can identify is whether the object is a solid, liquid or gas. Next, you can use your five senses to learn more about the material. Who knows what your five senses are? They are: sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. What can our senses help us learn about materials? (Answer: How big, heavy, smelly, rough, smooth, flexible, soft, hard, colorful, loud, quiet, etc. a specific material is.)
In this activity, you sort through some of the containers in the Imagination Engineering Lab and identify some of the properties and characteristics of each material you find. Engineers need to know all about the properties of a material that they are going to use, so that they can tell if it is going to be strong enough, flexible enough or lightweight enough for their purpose. Can you think of some more reasons why engineers need to know all about the materials they use? (Answer: Safety concerns, cost — is there another material that does the same job for less money, aesthetics and availability) You will be engineers today as you investigate different materials by using all of your five senses.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Give students clear guidance on which items they may and may not eat. Be especially aware of allergy issues.
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
Some of the materials may be messy, so use caution with your selections and how you distribute materials such as peanut butter and glue.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Discussion Question: Solicit, integrate, and summarize student responses. Ask the students to list the five senses. Ask how they can be used in scientific investigation, and why engineers need to be able to gather information using the five senses. Ask what information each sense can provide. (Explain that, for example, sight not only tells what an object looks like, but can also be used to measure an item.)
Activity Embedded Assessment
Student Observation: Observe students as they work with the different materials and help them as needed. Students may need assistance in measuring the height, length and width of their materials. As they work, review with students how our five senses help us learn about materials, and why engineers need to know about the properties of materials.
Show and Tell: Have each group tell the class what they discovered about one of their materials. Ask them to go over what they learned using each of their five senses. Ask the students to think of a way that an engineer could use that material for a product or invention.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Have the students act as engineers and select two or three of the materials to create an invention. Allow students to design, then build, their invention. Have students present their inventions to the class.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
For upper grades, use more difficult materials where there is more to observe and record. Have students observe up to 10 different items, and record their weight using a three-beam balance. Have students chart their results and make a table of characteristics for solids, liquids and gases.
For lower grades, use more basic supplies and have them observe only two or three items. Younger students may also not be comfortable with measuring yet.
ContributorsKatherine Beggs, Denali Lander, Abigail Watrous, Janet Yowell
Copyright© 2006 by Regents of the University of Colorado
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder
Last Modified: March 7, 2014