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

Science curriculum for K—5th grades.

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90 sec
  • Hands-on lead students in the doing of science and engineering.
  • NGSS-aligned and Common Core make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards and support Common Core.
  • Less prep, more learning prep in minutes not hours. Captivate your students with short videos and discussion questions.

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Material Magic

Properties & Phases of Matter

  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Mystery 1: Material Properties, Engineering

Mad Hatter

Step 1: Get supplies.

Each student will need:

  • a paper towel
  • a paper plate (a cheap, flexible one is best)
  • a paper lunch bag
  • a piece of aluminum foil (about 9”)
  • a 3-foot piece of thick string, yarn, or ribbon
  • two clothespins (if you don’t have clothespins, you can substitute hair clips or binder clips)
  • a pencil (for writing on the worksheet)

For each table of students, you’ll need a cup of water and a few spoons.

For the class, it’s useful to have a few hand mirrors, so students can see their hats as they work on them. If you want to take a group photo of all the students with their finished hats, make sure you have a smart phone or camera.

Step 2: Prepare supplies.

Cut a 3-foot length of string/yarn/ribbon and tear off a 9” piece of aluminum foil for each student.

Step 3: Print worksheets and Inspiration sheets.

Print a Mad Hatter’s Worksheet for each student.

We also created additional instructions for students who are stumped and frustrated by the task of making a hat. We suggest letting students try on their own, providing these Inspiration Sheets only to those who need the help. Print as many Inspiration Sheets as you think you’ll need for your group.

Mystery 2: Material Properties, Classifying Materials

Feel the Heat

Step 1: Get supplies and print worksheets.

For each pair of students, you will need:

  • a pair of socks (Have each student bring in a pair. You’ll still be OK if half the students forget!)
  • 2 aluminum foil squares torn off the roll (about 12” square)
  • 2 styrofoam cups (available at grocery stores or through Amazon)
  • a Feel the Heat worksheet

For the teacher:

For each table of students, you will need:

  • 2 plastic bottles — one filled with hot/warm water and one filled with cold/cool water

You’ll also need a source of hot water. You can fill bottles an hour or two ahead of class if you have a cooler (or a cardboard box and a bath towel) to keep the water bottles hot.

Step 2: Filling the bottles with hot and cool water.

The difference in temperature between the hot water and the cold water has to be enough to feel easily with bare hands. You can use ice water and warm water or you can use very hot water and cool water. You just need to make sure there is a definite difference.

You can keep your hot bottles hot (or your cold bottles cold) for a couple of hours if you put them in a cooler or a cardboard box with bath towels as insulation. The insulation keeps the heat from escaping the hot bottles (or the outside heat from warming the cold bottles).

Mystery 3: Material Changes & Phases of Matter

Candy Melt

In this activity, students work in pairs to test the melting points of different candies.

Step 1: Get supplies and print worksheets.

Each student needs:

Each pair of students needs:

  • a container with a lid (We use plastic food storage containers like these or these. You may be able to get some at your local deli.)
  • a styrofoam plate or thick paper plate (used for insulation to keep the water hot longer. Craft foam will also work, but a thin paper plate will not work.)
  • a dozen chocolate chips or a square of milk chocolate

You’ll also need:

  • a source of hot water
  • a small bag of candy with a high melting point, such as jelly beans, gumdrops, OR Swedish fish
  • a small bag of candy with a low melting point, such as gummy bears (our favorite), Life Savers Gummies, OR gummy worms. Look for gelatin in the ingredient list.
  • a small bag of candy with an intermediate melting point, such as Starburst, caramels, OR butterscotch chips
  • (Optional — see below) a cooler (or a cardboard box and a bath towel)

Step 2: Prepare before class.

You need to fill baggies with candy for your students before class. (Once you have the supplies, this will take about 20 minutes.) Here’s what you do.

  1. Count out one baggie per student.
  2. In half those bags, put 12 chocolate chips or a small square of chocolate.
  3. Divide the remaining bags into three groups. Put high melting point candy in one group, low melting point candy in the second group, and intermediate melting point candy in the third group.
  4. When you hand out the bags to your students, make sure that each pair of students gets a bag of chocolate and a bag of some other candy.

Your students will melt their candy in containers of hot water. You need one container of hot water for each pair of students. When students do the activity, the water needs to be hot to the touch — a little above body temperature.

If you want to fill containers with water up to 3 hours before you do the activity, here are some tips:

  1. Start with water that’s hot enough to make a cup of tea (about 180° F or 82°C).
  2. Put the containers in a cooler (or line a cardboard box with 2 thick bath towels and wrap the containers up to keep them warm).

Mystery 4: Material Inventions, Engineering

Bouncy Glass Inventions

In this activity, your students will come up with ideas for inventions that use an exciting new material: glass that bounces and stretches like rubber. We encourage students to think “outside the box” and think of crazy ideas.

To prepare yourself to lead the class discussion, we suggest you watch this short video of a creative team coming up with ideas.

For the activity itself:

Each student needs:

Each class needs:

  • a board where you can write student ideas

Mystery 5: Materials, Properties, & Engineering

Paper Towers

In this activity, each student will build two towers using 3" x 5" index cards and paper clips. First, students build tall towers. Then they take those towers apart and build towers strong enough to support a hardcover book.

Step 1: Get supplies

Each student will need:

  • ruler
  • scissors
  • 20 3" x 5" index cards
  • 16 standard size paper clips
  • a hardcover book (If you only have a few books available, students can share.)
  • Paper Towers worksheet

Step 2: Think ahead

Each student will need a flat, level area where they can build a tower without bumping into someone else. Desktops and tables are great. Floor space works as long as you have a hard surface. (We don’t recommend building towers on a carpet.)