Vernier Science Education - June 2024


Forums / Chemistry / Matter and Change


Matter and Change

Author Post
Tyler Huckstep Tyler Huckstep 30 Points

Hi! I'm planning a unit that covers matter, properites, and change and I need some creative ideas for some demonstrations and problem based lab activities! What are some fun demostrations that I could to do get students engaged and interested in the material? Also, what are some fun labs or activities that I could do to get students to think critically and explore the material for themselves? Lastly, what topics (related to matter and change) do you feel students tend to struggle with the most and need to be emphasized? Thanks for your help! Tyler Huckstep

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Tyler,
Wow - you packed a lot of questions into your post. I know many of us who would like to respond would feel we could be more helpful if you could tell us what grade levels you are addressing and what state standards. That way we can provide more relevant useable materials/resources based on some of those parameters. In the meantime, there is an advance search feature in the NSTA Learning Center that you might use to begin searching for some useful activities available there. You can use some of the filters on that page to narrow your search. For example, under Type of Learning Resource, you can filter for lesson plans. There is a grade level filter as well. Good luck and please let us know what grade you are teaching this year.
Here is one resource I found using the advance search feature: Science Shorts: All That Matters

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Tyler The ACS educational page has what you need Everything you see and touch has the ability to change. Sometimes substances change to form new substances. This is called a chemical change. Other times substances change but keep the same identity. This is called a physical change. Try these activities to learn more about chemical and physical change.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Tyler, I read your posting and the responses. Like one person said, use the Advanced Search feature that can be found on left side of your home page for the Learning Center. I typed in "matter" and hit the search button and found a wealth of journal articles, etc. Good luck.

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

Middle school teachers, check into the American Chemical Society (AMS) for some of their Middle School Chemistry lesson. There are also archived web seminars here in the NSTA Learning Center that demonstrate some of the lessons that can be used. Matter (Lesson 1) and Change (Lesson 2-Changes of State) and (Lesson 6) Chemical Change are in the following web site. Check it out, you will love it. All lessons are in the 5E model, extremely well designed, and teacher/user friendly! If you teach Middle School have to visit this site. It is from the American Chemistry Society (AMS). There are also several archived web seminars for 6 of the chapters. I loved it. Especially the way the lessons were set up in the 5E set-up. Very easy to use, nice sequence, and great activities.

Angel Chan Man-Wai Chan 2585 Points

Thanks for the helpful website! I may just use it as well!

These last few days in class, I've been going over topics related to matter. Just to get the students into the idea of everything is matter, I use a density demo called "Does it sink or float?". I fill up a large plastic clear bin and fill it up half way with water, then pick up some random "safety" items to put into the water. During class, I ask the students what are all the ways we can describe a specific object. Then I tell them we can also identify objects by their density. Next I go into telling them we are going to play a game, the Does it sink or float?". With class participation, students pick the first one, then I use questioning to guide them into talking about density. "How can we predict the density of the next object?" We also talk about recording mass and volume of each item. Finally, we work as a class, to find out two mystery items in black film canisters, "What are their density's?"

I just recently got done completely a lab about physical and chemical, properties and changes. Warning, this lab was a large challenge for my freshmen students; I recommend that this lab be done for a full chemistry class.

Student objectives:
-Make accurate and detailed observations throughout the lab
-Practice lab safety
-Write connections between the background information and lab observations collected

Lab set up: I set up my students into table pairs, each pair had a 4x6 well tray. I set up one chemical out of four on each pair table. Students would fill up their wells in a column direction. Before the next rotation, students practiced closed back their containers and trashed their pipettes. Then followed a rotation map posted.
One all teams collected their chemicals, students work down their observation as a class, as I facilitated which well we were on. *Their are some errors to this lab, missed placed chemicals in the wrong well, missed instruction of what mix to follow. *Solution for error- students would follow the data collected written on the board.

Students were about to verbalize their observations. I was able to guide them into relating their observations to the physical and chemical properties/changes. This lesson could also be used for teaching basic chemical reaction parts, double displacement reactions and solubility.

*Attached is the student lab worksheet I constructed.
Physical vs. Chemical lab-Student worksheet

Rudi Luna Rudi Herrera 2200 Points Floating Bowling balls!!! Density demonstration!

Angel Chan Man-Wai Chan 2585 Points

That's awesome! Thanks!

Christina Au Christina Au 2470 Points

Hi Tyler, I think that making a density column would be interesting if you are doing a lesson on density. Density Column Demonstration I did a density demonstration for my class before, but I think that it can also be changed into a lab activity. -set up three unknown liquids (I used water, corn syrup, and vegetable oil) -give students the mass and volume of each liquid or have students measure the mass and volume of each liquid -have students calculate the density of each liquid -have students make a prediction on which liquid would be on the bottom, middle, and top layer -pour the liquids in a clear plastic cup one at a time -add a drop of food coloring to the cup (ask students to predict what would happen before doing so) -the food coloring should mix with the water -add Alka-Seltzer to the cup (ask students to predict what would happen before doing so) -The Alka-Seltzer would produce gas. Since gas is less dense than the liquids, it would float up to the top of the cup. This will create a lava lamp effect. Hope this helps!

Angel Chan Man-Wai Chan 2585 Points

This seems like a really cool lesson, Christina!

Linda Ngo Linda Ngo 2775 Points

I just watch the video and I think it looks like a fun way to learn about the matter and change. I am sure high school students would love to do the activity.

Elisa Lorenz Elisa Lorenz 130 Points

Hi Tyler! Thank you for the question, I am an upcoming chemistry teacher (almost done getting my cert.!!!), all of the responses seem very helpful. I can't wait to get a classroom of my own!!

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

An extension on the Density Column that I came across this year is sort of an inquiry based lab. I can't find the actual lab that I found online...but I have attached my power point where I put the instructions up. Basically you make 5 different salt or sugar solutions of varying concentrations. They get samples of the different solutions and then they have to figure out what the order of density is of the solutions. From least dense to most dense so that they can put all 5 solutions in the straw at the same time and have them stack on top of eachother. They do this by testing all of the waters 2 at a time and determining the relative density of each solution.


Linda Ngo Linda Ngo 2775 Points

I think putting up the powerpoint is a better idea. You can also make copies of the handouts for student as well.

Jessica Pacheco Jessica Pacheco 1370 Points

Hi. I was looking at some experiments and ways to teach matter to the students. I found this website and think it can be effective.

Linda Ngo Linda Ngo 2775 Points

The website is very helpful. I like the idea of using a soda can as one of the experiment.

Robin Willig Robin Willig 5625 Points

Thank you for sharing this link for properties of matter. My students are going to love it!

Samantha Coyle Samantha Coyle 2245 Points

I'm not sure what grade you are working with, but there are a ton of demonstrations and activities on Pinterest that you could use to get students engaged in the materials. Doing a quick little search, here are a few I found that might be good to use: Root Beer Float ( ) -This would work great for keeping students engaged and even gives them a special treat -Has them make predictions so it works on more than one skill -This could be a lab for the students or done as a demo Balloons ( ) -Students could see how much space is taken up in each by different properties. -Could experiment with dropping them & looking at the impact Balloon + Gas Property ( ) -Students watch a reaction cause the balloon to inflate with air (gas property) Three Phases ( ) -This one will take more than just one lesson to see the changes -Freeze a liquid (solid) -Melts over a time period (liquid) -Evaporates as time goes on (gas) The Root Beer Float is probably my favorite out of all these, and I think any age students would love it, and could be adjusted for any age level!

Robin Willig Robin Willig 5625 Points

I teach 5th grade. Thanks, Samantha! These resources are great!! Robin

Elizabeth Cooke Elizabeth Cooke 7245 Points

These are great resources. Thank you. I will try the root beer float.

Elizabeth Cooke Elizabeth Cooke 7245 Points

Here are a few activities that I tried with my 5th grade students to demonstrate chemical reactions: Combining lemon juice and baking soda to create gas, Vinegar and baking soda - should be done outside because of the odor. Creating a bouncy ball using borax, cornstarch, and warm water. Combining yeast, hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and hot water - decomposition of of hydrogen peroxide. This still works even if you do not have access to hot water. The American Chemistry Society is a great resource -

Daniel Carroll Daniel Carroll 18610 Points

You can also type the same thing in youtube to see demos that people do.


I agree with the Youtube comment. The students benefit from watching the videos as well.

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