Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Sign up now for tons of free lessons like this one!

Chemical Magic    Mystery 1

Mystery 1 image

In this Mystery, students meet the alchemists, a historic group that used “potions” to try to transform materials. In the activity, students test what substances change the appearance of copper.

LESSON REVISED 1/11/18. If you prepped before then, use the previous version.
Beginning Exploration (1 of 10)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (2 of 10)

DISCUSS (1 of 2):

Do you think there could really be a potion that does something amazing or valuable? (Do you think there are really liquids or mixtures that can transform things?) Why or why not?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (3 of 10)

DISCUSS (2 of 2):

If you could make a potion, what would you want it to do?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (4 of 10)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (5 of 10)

GET A SUPPLY:

Everyone get 1 dull, brown penny. Then:

DISCUSS:

Suppose you wanted to make this dull brown penny bright and shiny. Can you think of any liquids in your house that might do that?

Why do you think those liquids might work?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity Prep
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (6 of 10)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (7 of 10)

DISCUSS:

Do you think oxygen turns the penny dark brown all the way through, or just on the surface? How could you figure it out?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (8 of 10)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (9 of 10)

DISCUSS:

How could you figure out which of these three ideas is true? Wind Map

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (10 of 10)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Test Like An Alchemist
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

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

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.
Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Readings

Learn more about the alchemists and how their work laid the foundation for the science of chemistry with these readings:

  • “Can You Turn Iron into Gold?” from Wonderopolis, a website dedicated to curiosity and imagination, created by the National Center for Families Learning.

  • From Alchemy to Chemistry from Newsela, a free service for teachers. (Reading includes comprehension questions and can be adjusted for reading level.)

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

# Activity: Zinc Inside

Try this experiment with a US penny made after 1982. These coins have a center made of zinc, a silvery metal that reacts with vinegar and salt.

  • Rub the penny's edge with sandpaper until you see silvery zinc. Do the same on the other side of the penny.
  • Mix 1-½ tablespoons salt and ½ cup vinegar in a clear container.
  • Drop in the penny and watch. What do you notice? Leave the penny in the mixture overnight.

In our experiment, the center of the penny dissolved leaving behind a thin shell of copper. What happened in your experiment?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

# Video: Rusty Steel in Vinegar

Watch this time-lapse video, then discuss:

  • What do you think happened to the rust that was on the steel?
  • Do you have any ideas about why putting oil on the steel might keep it from rusting again?

To find out more about what happens to rust and tarnish in vinegar, watch the next Mystery, "Could you transform something worthless into gold?"

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen