Structure and Properties of Matter

The Sweeter Side of Density

In this Activity, students determine the density of different sugar solutions (0-50%). They then dye the solutions and devise a method to combine the solutions to make a multi-colored, layered heterogeneous mixture. This Activity could be used in units dealing with measurement or density.

The Nature of Hydrogen Bonding

In this Activity, students build models of polarized water molecules using K’nex toy components and adhesive Velcro. Students investigate hydrogen bonding by shaking the models in various ways. They observe the resulting interactions and relate their observations to physical states of water and the difference between strong bonds and weak attractions.

That's the Way the Ball Bounces (or Is It?)

In this Activity, students investigate the physical properties of different balls that may look similar, but have very different rebound properties. Students also investigate how the rebound properties change when the balls are subjected to near freezing and near boiling temperatures. This Activity could be used at the beginning of the school year as an exercise in making observations.

Colors in Liquid Crystals

In this Activity, students investigate the relationship between temperature and composition and the reflected and transmitted colors of a common nanoscale material, the cholesteric liquid crystal.

Clip Clues: Discovering Chemical Formulas

In this Activity, students use their deductive reasoning skills as they identify formulas of unknown elements and compounds modeled by paperclips. Each color of paperclip represents a different element, with linkages between different paperclips in appropriate ratios representing 20 unknowns.

Memory Metal

In this Activity, students compare the properties of nitinol metal wire (known as "memory" metal) and ordinary wire. Using the observed properties, they design (and possibly make) a toy that would use memory metal to operate. This Activity connects toys with science, and allows students to become inventors as they design a toy of their own.

How Heavy Is a Balloon? Using the Ideal Gas Law

In this Activity, students explore buoyancy with helium-filled Mylar balloons. They use the ideal gas law to predict the mass of the balloon if it were empty, compare it to the actual mass of the empty balloon, and discuss experimental sources of error. This Activity demonstrates the ideal gas law and introduces students to the concept of buoyancy.

Soil Testing: Dig In!

In this Activity, students collect soil samples and characterize them by examining their physical appearance, water holding capacity, sedimentation, and pH. Based on their observations, they can see that different samples of something as universal as soil can be quite different from each other. This environmental chemistry Activity can be used to complement a celebration of Earth Day.

Nanopatterning with Lithography

In this Activity, students learn the general principles of serial and parallel nanofabrication techniques. Students use nylon spheres, contact paper, and talcum powder to form patterns. Using this macroscale analogy, students explore the parallel fabrication technique known as nanosphere lithography.

Popcorn: What's in the Bag?

In this Activity, students investigate microwave popcorn, the process of microwave-promoted popping, and the materials involved: water, vegetable oils, starch, and special packaging materials. This Activity supports discussion of thermal and electromagnetic energy, phase changes, intermolecular forces, patterns of solubility, and the structure of fats, oils and starches.