In this Mystery, students investigate the alchemists’ claim of transforming ordinary metals into gold. In the activity, students coat a steel nail with copper and develop a particle model to explain what they observe.
THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JANUARY 11, 2018. If you've prepped prior to that date, we suggest using the previous version.
DISCUSS (1 of 3): Can you think of any tests you could do, that would help you figure out which idea is true?
DISCUSS (2 of 3):
Suppose we give you a scale, a tool that measures weight. Using a scale, is there a test you could do to figure out which idea is true?
DISCUSS (3 of 3):
If the vinegar and salt REMOVED the dull copper, then what should we find out when we weigh the penny before and after?
Why do you think the alchemist left, never to be heard from again? Was there something he didn’t want the king to figure out?
DISCUSS (1 of 2):
Why do you think we couldn’t we see little bits of copper in the liquid?
You've completed the Exploration & Activity!
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The Penny Experiment tells the story of a girl who experiments with pennies and vinegar and learns about why copper changes color. (Grade 6)
The Allure of Gold discusses why people have always valued gold. (Grade 6)
Vinegar and salt can make a penny bright and shiny. Can it change the copper of a penny in other ways?
If you read “The Penny Experiment” in our list of readings, you know the answer.
To try the experiment described in the story, follow these instructions from Buggy and Buddy to find out.
You’ve watched what happens to a penny in vinegar, a weak acid. What happens if you put a penny in nitric acid, a strong acid?
This experiment is too dangerous to try in your classroom, but it’s interesting to watch. In this video, scientist Wayne Breslyn demonstrates how to do the experiment safely.
The reaction creates a brown gas called nitrogen dioxide, which is dangerous to breathe. The humming you hear in the video is the fan of a fume hood. The fume hood removes the nitrogen dioxide so no one will breathe it.