Students find the volume and surface area of a rectangular box (e.g., …

Students find the volume and surface area of a rectangular box (e.g., a cereal box), and then figure out how to convert that box into a new, cubical box having the same volume as the original. As they construct the new, cube-shaped box from the original box material, students discover that the cubical box has less surface area than the original, and thus, a cube is a more efficient way to package things. Students then consider why consumer goods generally aren't packaged in cube-shaped boxes, even though they would require less material to produce and ultimately, less waste to discard. To display their findings, each student designs and constructs a mobile that contains a duplicate of his or her original box, the new cube-shaped box of the same volume, the scraps that are left over from the original box, and pertinent calculations of the volumes and surface areas involved. The activities involved provide valuable experience in problem solving with spatial-visual relationships.

To display the results from the previous activity, each student designs and …

To display the results from the previous activity, each student designs and constructs a mobile that contains a duplicate of his or her original box, the new cube-shaped box of the same volume, the scraps that are left over from the original box, and pertinent calculations of the volumes and surface areas involved. They problem solve and apply their understanding of see-saws and lever systems to create balanced mobiles.

Students conduct a simple experiment to see how the water level changes …

Students conduct a simple experiment to see how the water level changes in a beaker when a lump of clay sinks in the water and when the same lump of clay is shaped into a bowl that floats in the water. They notice that the floating clay displaces more water than the sinking clay does, perhaps a surprising result. Then they determine the mass of water that is displaced when the clay floats in the water. A comparison of this mass to the mass of the clay itself reveals that they are approximately the same.

With the help of simple, teacher-led demonstration activities, students learn the basic …

With the help of simple, teacher-led demonstration activities, students learn the basic concepts of heat transfer by means of conduction, convection, and radiation. Students then apply these concepts as they work in teams to solve two problems. One problem requires that they maintain the warm temperature of one soda can filled with water at approximately body temperature, and the other problem is to cause an identical soda can of warm water to cool as much as possible during the same thirty-minute time interval. Students design their solutions using only common, everyday materials. They record the water temperatures in their two soda cans every five minutes, and prepare line graphs in order to visually compare their results to the temperature of an unaltered control can of water.

Using the same method for measuring friction that was used in the …

Using the same method for measuring friction that was used in the previous lesson (Discovering Friction), students design and conduct an experiment to determine if weight added incrementally to an object affects the amount of friction encountered when it slides across a flat surface. After graphing the data from their experiments, students can calculate the coefficients of friction between the object and the surface it moved upon, for both static and kinetic friction.

In the first part of the activity, each student chews a piece …

In the first part of the activity, each student chews a piece of gum until it loses its sweetness, and then leaves the gum to dry for several days before weighing it to determine the amount of mass lost. This mass corresponds to the amount of sugar in the gum, and can be compared to the amount stated on the package label. In the second part of the activity, students work in groups to design and conduct new experiments based on questions of their own choosing. These questions arise naturally from observations during the first experiment, and from students' own experiences with and knowledge of the many varieties of chewing and bubble gums available.

Students are introduced to the important concept of density with a focus …

Students are introduced to the important concept of density with a focus is on the more easily understood densities of solids. Students use different methods to determine the densities of solid objects, including water displacement to determine volumes of irregularly-shaped objects. By comparing densities of various solids to the density of water, and by considering the behavior of different solids when placed in water, students conclude that ordinarily, objects with densities greater than water sink, while those with densities less than water float. Then they explore the principle of buoyancy, and through further experimentation arrive at Archimedes' principle that a floating object displaces a mass of water equal to its own mass. Students may be surprised to discover that a floating object displaces more water than a sinking object of the same volume.

This lesson introduces students to the important concept of density. The focus …

This lesson introduces students to the important concept of density. The focus is on the more easily understood densities of solids, but students can also explore the densities of liquids and gases. Students devise methods to determine the densities of solid objects, including the method of water displacement to determine volumes of irregularly-shaped objects. By comparing densities of various solids to the density of water, and by considering the behavior of different solids when placed in water, students conclude that ordinarily, objects with densities greater than water will sink, while those with densities less than water will float. Density is an important material property for engineers to understand.

In the first of two lessons of this curricular unit, students are …

In the first of two lessons of this curricular unit, students are introduced to the concept of friction as a force that impedes motion when two surfaces are in contact. Student teams use spring scales to drag objects, such as a ceramic coffee cup, along a table top or the floor, measuring the frictional force that exists between the moving object and the surface it slides on. By modifying the bottom surface of the object, students find out what kinds of surfaces generate more or less friction. They also discover that both static and kinetic friction are involved when an object initially at rest is caused to slide across a surface. In the second lesson of the unit, students design and conduct experiments to determine the effects of weight and surface area on friction. They discover that weight affects normal friction (the friction that results from surface roughness), but for very smooth surfaces, the friction due to molecular attraction is affected by contact area.

Students randomly select jelly beans (or other candy) that represent genes for …

Students randomly select jelly beans (or other candy) that represent genes for several human traits such as tongue-rolling ability and eye color. Then, working in pairs (preferably of mixed gender), students randomly choose new pairs of jelly beans from those corresponding to their own genotypes. The new pairs are placed on toothpicks to represent the chromosomes of the couple's offspring. Finally, students compare genotypes and phenotypes of parents and offspring for all the "couples" in the class. In particular, they look to see if there are cases where parents and offspring share the exact same genotype and/or phenotype, and consider how the results would differ if they repeated the simulation using more than four traits.

Students conduct experiments to determine what environmental factors favor decomposition by soil …

Students conduct experiments to determine what environmental factors favor decomposition by soil microbes. They use chunks of carrots for the materials to be decomposed, and their experiments are carried out in plastic bags filled with dirt. Every few days students remove the carrots from the dirt and weigh them. Depending on the experimental conditions, after a few weeks most of the carrots have decomposed completely.

In this lesson and its associated activity, students conduct a simple test …

In this lesson and its associated activity, students conduct a simple test to determine how many drops of each of three liquids can be placed on a penny before spilling over. The three liquids are water, rubbing alcohol, and vegetable oil; because of their different surface tensions, more water can be piled on top of a penny than either of the other two liquids. However, this is not the main point of the activity. Instead, students are asked to come up with an explanation for their observations about the different amounts of liquids a penny can hold. In other words, they are asked to make hypotheses that explain their observations, and because middle school students are not likely to have prior knowledge of the property of surface tension, their hypotheses are not likely to include this idea. Then they are asked to come up with ways to test their hypotheses, although they do not need to actually test their hypotheses. The important points for students to realize are that 1) the tests they devise must fit their hypotheses, and 2) the hypotheses they come up with must be testable in order to be useful.

Kindergartners measure each other's height using large building blocks, then visit a …

Kindergartners measure each other's height using large building blocks, then visit a 2nd and a 4th grade class to measure those students. They can also measure adults in the school community. Results are displayed in age-appropriate bar graphs (paper cut-outs of miniature building blocks glued on paper to form a bar graph) comparing the different age groups. The activities that comprise this lesson help students develop the concepts and vocabulary to describe, in a non-ambiguous way, how height changes as children get older. The introduction to graphing provides an important foundation for both creating and interpreting graphs in future years.

Students plant sunflower seeds in plastic cups, and once germinated, expose them …

Students plant sunflower seeds in plastic cups, and once germinated, expose them to varying light or soil moisture conditions. They measure growth of the seedlings every few days using non-standard measurement (inch cubes). After a few weeks, they compare the growth of plants exposed to the different conditions and make bar comparative graphs, which they analyze to draw conclusions about the needs of plants.

Students find the volume and surface area of a rectangular box (e.g., …

Students find the volume and surface area of a rectangular box (e.g., a cereal box), and then figure out how to convert that box into a new, cubical box having the same volume as the original. As they construct the new, cube-shaped box from the original box material, students discover that the cubical box has less surface area than the original, and thus, a cube is a more efficient way to package things.

Students conduct an experiment to determine whether or not the sense of …

Students conduct an experiment to determine whether or not the sense of smell is important to being able to recognize foods by taste. They do this by attempting to identify several different foods that have similar textures. For some of the attempts, students hold their noses and close their eyes, while for others they only close their eyes. After they have conducted the experiment, they create bar graphs showing the number of correct and incorrect identifications for the two different experimental conditions tested.

Students conduct a simple test to determine how many drops of each …

Students conduct a simple test to determine how many drops of each of three liquids water, rubbing alcohol, vegetable oil can be placed on a penny before spilling over. Because of their different surface tensions, more water can be piled on top of a penny than either of the other two liquids. However, the main point of the activity is for students to come up with an explanation for their observations about the different amounts of liquids a penny can hold. To do this, they create hypotheses that explain their observations, and because middle school students are not likely to have prior knowledge of the property of surface tension, their hypotheses are not likely to include this idea. Then they are asked to come up with ways to test their hypotheses, although they do not need to actually conduct these tests as part of this activity.

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