Structure and Properties of Matter

Cooking Up Colors from Plants, Fabric, and Metal

In this Activity, students dye fabric squares with two plant dyes: aqueous extracts of tea leaves and of marigold flowers. They investigate how the addition of iron to a dye bath affects the resulting color and fastness of the dyed fabrics and observe that the type of fabric affects the results. This Activity can accompany a discussion of the impressive array of chemicals produced by plants.

Checkerboard Chromatography

In this Activity, column chromatography separations are simulated using a grid, colored paper squares, and a six-sided die. Students observe the effects of changing flow rate, column length, and mobile phase composition. As squares come off the grid, the separation (or lack thereof) of the colors is noticeable.

Colorful Lather Printing

In this Activity, students marble paper with shaving cream and food color while exploring water, polarity, and hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials. Although the Activity is familiar, it contains a new twist—exploring how a colored shaving cream mixture behaves when a drop of water is added. This Activity can be used to introduce the concepts of polarity, soaps, and surfactants.

Bowling for Density!

In this Activity, students predict whether a given bowling ball will float or sink in tap water. Students design a procedure to collect radius and weight measurements to calculate the density of their ball. They then test their prediction by placing the ball in a large container of water, which yields the surprising observation that some bowling balls do float.

Fluorescent Fun: Using a Homemade Fluorometer

In this Activity, students investigate the fluorescence of highlighter marker ink and the principles employed in studying fluorescent molecules using a homemade fluorometer and different colored filters.

Calories - Who's Counting?

In this Activity, students determine how many calories are released per gram when marshmallows and cashews burn and then compare the quantity of energy available from carbohydrates versus fats. Students burn the food items beneath a metal soft drink can containing water and measure the resulting change in temperature of the water.

A Candle in the Wind

In this Activity, students investigate physical changes that occur in a candle to learn how a candle functions and how you can blow it out. This Activity is based on a series of lectures presented by Michael Faraday in the 1850s.

A Magnetic Meal

In this Activity, students make slurries of breakfast cereal and water and use a magnetic wand to collect elemental iron filings that are present in some cereals. They determine the mass of iron collected and then calculate the "recommended daily allowance" (RDA) in each cereal. An extension uses qualitative tests to confirm that the material collected is actually iron.

Fun with Fingerprints: Cyanoacrylate Fuming

In this Activity, students develop fingerprints using the cyanoacrylate fuming method on different types of surfaces. They investigate the technique’s effectiveness and test the effects of changing the temperature and humidity of the fuming chamber.

A Cool Drink!: An Introduction to Concentrations

In this Activity, students investigate concentration levels by using serial dilution to prepare several solutions of presweetened powdered drink mix. Students taste the solutions to determine at which concentration they first discern the sweetness. A connection is also made to the concentration of pollutants in air.