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Exploring Changes in Matter January 30, 2014

Posted by Sean Musselman in Science Center.
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Mrs. Visocchi’s fourth graders took on an ambitious new challenge from the Science Center over the past week. Students were asked to explore a variety of physical and chemical changes and determine if new substances of matter had been created or whether the matter there had simply changed form.


Students were first challenged to share what they knew about changes in matter around their home and school. From there, investigations were underway as students observed what happened when different types of matter such as ice, chocolate, salt water, and kool-aid were heated up. Many students realized these changes did not create new substances, but others were less sure and curious about the mysterious gases rising from some of the different pans of melting material.


More investigations were run the next day as groups of students moved from station to station exploring the changes in color between cabbage juice and many home cleaning fluids, the “reaction” between alka-seltzer and water in a rapidly expanding plastic baggie, and the observable decomposition of an apple left out for several days.

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All the while students recorded their observations and shared evidence with one another of whether new substances had been made or not. For a grand finale, students observed the change in sodium polyaclorate and water to form “instant-snow” and designed experiment to see if a new substance had been made or if the water could somehow be extracted from the powder again. A few experiments were put to the test, with some powder left out by the window sill over the weekend and others put to the test by Mr. Musselman and his closed system of pipes and graduated cylinders designed to capture the mysterious gases rising from the snow (which were discovered to be water!)



All in all the week long investigation was a huge success, with student performing hands-on investigations, using persuasive evidence to support their claims of new substances being made (or not) and digging deeper into matter, its forms, and its properties. We thank Mrs. Visocchi for allowing her class to be a “guinea-pig” for new lessons from the Science Center we hope to bring to other schools in the future!


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