Student teams identify and categorize various objects using their senses of touch and sight. One student chooses five objects for his/her blindfolded partner to describe and identify based solely on touch. Then they switch. Both students record their observations, describing the objects as: human-made or natural, living or non-living, as well as any other physical/sensory characteristics. Students become familiar with different classification systems and sharpen their vocabulary to describe the physical characteristics of different objects. They learn why engineers have a need to categorize materials.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Massachusetts: Science
- 1. Sort objects by observable properties such as size, shape, color, weight, and texture. (Grades -1 - 2)  ...show
- 1.1 Identify and describe characteristics of natural materials (e.g., wood, cotton, fur, wool) and human-made materials (e.g., plastic, Styrofoam). (Grades -1 - 2)  ...show
- 1.2 Identify and explain some possible uses for natural materials (e.g., wood, cotton, fur, wool) and human-made materials (e.g., plastic, Styrofoam). (Grades -1 - 2)  ...show
- 6. Recognize that people and other animals interact with the environment through their senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. (Grades -1 - 2)  ...show
- 2. Differentiate between living and nonliving things. Group both living and nonliving things according to the characteristics that they share. (Grades -1 - 2)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties. (Grade 2)  ...show
- Build observation skills by using tactile perception to describe and distinguish objects.
- How to categorize and sort objects in a logical fashion.
- blindfolds, enough for half the class; alternatively: use small lidded containers such as ice cream containers, tissue boxes or shoe boxes so that students can put their hands inside to feel the objects without seeing them
- a selection of objects, enough quantity and variety so student teams have their own sets of objects so that each partner identifies different objects. Example objects: rocks, pinecones, leaves, seashells, wood, plastics, pens, pencils, paper, Styrofoam, fabric, leather, wool, cotton, corks, sponges (sea and artificial), fruits, vegetables.
- Touch and Discover Worksheet
|categorize:||To arrange or describe by labeling or giving a name to a group of things that have some quality or qualilties in common.|
|characteristic:||A distinguishing feature or quality.|
Before the Activity
- Gather materials and make copies of the Touch and Discover Worksheet.
- Put all the objects in a box or on a table out of view of the students.
- Prepare enough blindfolds (or small containers) for each group.
- Discuss with the children different methods for grouping objects.
- Discuss the difference between natural and human-made, and living and non-living.
With the Students
- Blindfold partner A. Have partner B go to the table and choose five objects.
- Without letting partner A see what was chosen, categorize the objects using the worksheet.
- Have partner A hold each object one at a time, examining it thoroughly with his/her hands. Then have partner A describe the object to partner B.
- Partner B records the data on the worksheet.
- After all five objects are described by partner A, repeat the activity, this time let partner B be blindfolded, and partner A choose the objects to be identified.
- Once both partners have had a chance to identify objects using only touch, explore how the 10 objects identified can be grouped. Think about how they are related or similar to each other, and their different uses.
- Conclude with a class discussion, as described in the Assessment section.
- See the Activity Extensions and Activity Scaling sections for ideas on how to continue the activity further.
- Make sure not to include any objects that may be sharp or dangerous.
- How can different objects be categorized and described using only your sense of touch?
- Why is it important to be able to categorize different objects?
- How do engineers use information like this to help them?
- How did each group categorize the different objects?
- Is there only one right way to group the objects?
- Which ways are better? What are the best characteristics to use when grouping objects?
- How easy (or hard) was it to identify and describe objects using only touch? Why?
- Why is it good to practice using different observation skills?
- For younger students, expect them to sort according to shape and color. Provide simple, easily distinguishable objects.
- For more advanced students, expect them to sort according to uses and material. Provide more variation in the objects.
- As students develop their skills, challenge them to use more descriptive words and more sophisticated methods of sorting.
- Make it more challenging by requiring that students brainstorm uses for the objects and materials, instead of just physical characteristics classification.
- For more advanced students, have students pick out five objects that they grouped in a certain way and have their partners identify the objects and the logic for the grouping.
Gutierrez, Charles. The Touch n Feel Box Lesson. Academy Curricular Exchange Columbia Education Center Science. Accessed October 24, 2011.http://ofcn.org/cyber.serv/academy/ace/sci/cecsci/cecsci153.html
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last modified: July 2, 2015