What Is That Stuff? An Instant Snow Polymer Lab

Elaine Kotlerby: Elaine Kotler

I created a lab using the Instant Snow Polymer (Sodium Polyacrylate) from Educational Innovations that I use in my 8th grade Physical Science Class as well as Summer School Programs that I teach for grades 4-9.  This lesson incorporates concepts of Conservation of Mass, Properties of Matter, Metric Measurement and Conversion, and Observation Skills.  The lab, as I give it to the students, is listed below.

Each student receives an empty baggie to be used for comparison, a baggie containing 12 grams of Instant Snow Polymer, use of a balance and a graduated cylinder.

I have already explained the Law of Conservation of Mass, and Density (they need to remember that the density of water is 1 g/ml, or look it up) prior to introducing this lab activity.  However, they do not know the terms exothermic, endothermic, hydrophobic or hydrophilic.  My students are allowed to look them up, but unless they make careful observations as they are conducting the experiment, they won’t be able to answer the questions later.

The final question “What is That Stuff?” garners some interesting answers. Some recognize a use for it as snow for ski slopes; others have suggested material for ice packs.  One suggestion was to use the powder to help clean up and absorb spills. Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Observation Skills with a Science Journal

Matthew Campbellby:  Matthew Campbell

One of the more important traits a scientist can have is the ability to observe.  Helping our students become better observers can be tricky.  Observation is a soft-skill and can be difficult to teach directly.  In my experience I also find that students tend to rush through labs to obtain the answer quickly.  This desire for speed is contrary to the pace required for careful, precise observation.

My solution for helping students become better observers is the science journal.  The purpose of the science journal is to encourage students to observe the science happening all around them.  The scope of the project allows for careful observations to be made which can then proceed into conclusions and validations of hypotheses. As an added bonus, the journal integrates literacy into the science classroom.  I encourage my students to select topics that appeal to them to increase investment in the project. Read the rest of this entry »