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Chemical Magic Unit Share
Mystery 1 of 5
Could you transform something worthless into gold?
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Could you transform something worthless into gold?
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DISCUSS:

1) What is it called when metal changes appearance like this?

2) What do you think caused this?

Rust image

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DISCUSS:

Say that we gave you four different liquids to test. How would you experiment with them?

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Take your pennies out of the salt & vinegar solution, then

DISCUSS:

  1. Do you see any changes in the pennies?
  2. Do you see any changes in the liquid?
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ACTIVITY PART 2
(OPTIONAL, BUT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)

Now that you have the alchemist’s solution in front of you, you can put steel in the solution, just like the king did, and wait overnight to see the same results!

Advance to the next slide to begin this activity. It will take about 20 minutes to set up and discuss. Then you can come back tomorrow to see the results. Or, if you don’t have time to wait overnight, you can see our results when you get to Step 7.

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You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading, and extension activity in the extensions.

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Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.
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Readings

These readings on ReadWorks & Epic are free for teachers with registration.

The Penny Experiment is a story about a girl who learns why copper changes color. (grade 6, includes comprehension questions)

Why is the Statue of Liberty Green?, a picture book for younger readers (ages 5-7), is such a good story that older students will enjoy it too.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
wizard by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: James Steidl
boy wizard by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Kiselev Andrey Valerevich
wizard levitating feather by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Nadezhda Sundikova
potion bottle by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Dim Dimich
The Alchemist (painting) by Chemical Heritage Foundation Collection
alchmist working with assistants by Wellcome Library, London
Rhazes, Arab physician and alchemist by Wellcome Library, London
hand holding wand by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: S. Laing
The Alchemist (Pietro Longhi) by Public Domain
American Gold-Layered Silver Walking Liberty Half Dollar by Sears
Lady Liberty half dollar (silver) by Brandon Grossardt
Danish 20 Kroner Frederik VIII by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: jps
black hand isolated on white by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: photka
bolts by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Jiang Hongyan
Lincoln wheat penny by Rings n Things
hand holding gold by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Carolyn Franks
silver bracelet by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Dennis van de Water
aluminum foil by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Picsfive
copper wire by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: cyran
rusted nails by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Tei Sinthip
rusty pipe by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Ranquick
rusty pan by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Take Photo
rusty car by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Mikbiz
green penny by The Penny Project
Currier and Ives Statue of Liberty by Library of Congress
Statue of Liberty by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Darrelle Twyman
penny progression by Doodle Craft Blog
oil bottles by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: casanisa
hand holding penny by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Arvind Balaraman
gold crown by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Lomingo
man in medieval dress by Paul Mercuri
medieval man on throne by Paul Mercuri
stop sign by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: orangecrush
sword by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Viktorija Reuta
round glass jar by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Helen Cingisiz
Activity
girl thinking by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Samuel Borges Photography
wizard hat by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: djmilic
Overview
Grade 5th
Topic Chemical Reactions & Properties Of Matter
Focus Introduction to Chemistry
Print Prep
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, students are introduced to the alchemists, a historic group of people who were on a quest to transform something worthless into gold. In the activity, students experiment with various liquids in order to see if they can change the appearance of copper pennies.

Preview activity

Supplies you'll need for Part 1 ("Test like an Alchemist")

  • 4 plastic food storage containers, like these
  • labels for the containers
  • tape
  • liquid detergent (just a teaspoonful)
  • 1 cup of white vinegar (We suggest you get a quart since you’ll need it for future mysteries.)
  • salt (just a spoonful, but you’ll need more in future mysteries)
  • handout (Test like an Alchemist ) for each group of testers
  • 1 penny per student (or if you have only 1 student, you need at least 4 pennies)

This makes one set of test stations, enough for up to 24 students. For larger classes, we suggest you make two sets of stations, so you’ll need to double the first 6 supplies in the list.

Supplies you'll need for Part 2 ("The King's Sword")--Optional

  • more pennies so that you have at least 40 pennies altogether
  • a plastic spoon
  • 1 steel screw or nail and 1 steel washer (DON’T use stainless steel or galvanized steel. Just plain steel is what you need.)
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • a place to leave your experiment for a few hours or overnight

What you'll need to do before class

Label your containers. Then prepare the testing liquids by mixing the following liquids and putting them in the labeled containers:

  • soap and water (1 tsp of liquid detergent mixed with ½ cup of water)
  • vinegar (½ cup)
  • salty vinegar (2 tsp salt mixed with ½ cup vinegar)
  • salt and water (1 tsp salt mixed with ½ cup water)
Overview
Grade 5th
Topic Chemical Reactions & Properties Of Matter
Focus Introduction to Chemistry
Extensions