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Teachers will learn about the properties of matter, including mass, volume, density, and chemical properties. Activities to be conducted include separating objects by physical means, solubility and temperature, making a fire extinguisher, and many others. Other investigations include classifying substances as elements and compounds, observing chemical changes, and classifying compounds by their reactions. Many lecture demonstrations and videos will be used to improve teacher understanding of the properties of matter.



Each student will be expected to purchase a reading booklet at the time of registration or at the first class. This booklet contains material that should be read before the beginning of the second class.
Between the two classes, each student is required to research and build a project having to do with matter. The primary consideration is your understanding of the project, your ingenuity in producing it, and your description of how other teachers could also use it. A short typed description (perhaps only 2-3 pages) must be handed in giving resource material, instructions for building and using the item. A short discussion of how this project might be useful in the classroom would be appropriate. Also during the second class you will give a short (5-8 minutes) presentation to the class. A list of possible projects is given in this booklet, but each student is expected to do further research to improve on the ideas presented here. Do not just copy what is given here. Try to improve it. The handout is only a beginning. You are expected to do additional study and improve on the handout.



Because this is a graduate level class, only passing grades of A and B (with + and - possible) are given. A C grade is failing. It is also possible to audit the class, but ALL the work must be completed, including the project. Grades will be primarily assigned by the local adjunct professor and will depend on class attendance and participation as well as the presentation of the homework project. This presentation includes the oral one before the class as well as the document handed in describing the project. See the discussion above in Assignments.


Reading booklet:

A reading booklet will be prepared for class members that includes useful information on matter as well as possible homework projects and teacher applications. This booklet will be available at the first class. The booklet contains descriptions for the hands-on teacher activities we will perform during the class. The booklet also contains a set of hands-on experiments on the nature of matter from the American Association of Physics Teachers project: Powerful Ideas in Physical Science. We will use these experiments as our primary learning tool. Before the second class please read the Focus on Science sections.


Instructor Contact:

Contact the local adjunct professor during the first class for her/his address and office hours. Professor Thornton may be contacted as described on the previous page. He will try to respond and will inform the adjunct professors of any decisions concerning the class.


Lesson Plan

1st Class Day (full eight hour class)

8:30 - 9:20 a.m.

Videotape of philosophy and outline of course, and introduction.

9:20 - 9:40 a.m.

Video Tape on Matter.

9:40 - 12 noon

Investigation M1: Measuring Mass and Volume and Calculating Density

12:00 - 12:30 p.m.


12:30 - 1:45 p.m.

Investigation M2: Thinking about Densities of Solids, Liquids, and Gases

1:45 - 3:30 p.m.

Investigation M3: Separating Mixtures into Component Parts

3:30 - 4:20 p.m.

Investigation M4: Observing and Explaining Physical Changes ( through M4.2)

4:20 - 4:30 p.m.

Do evaluations. Sign up for homework projects.

2nd Class Day (full eight hour class)

8:30 - 10:20 a.m.

Present homework projects. Do teacher activities if finish early.

10:30 a.m. - 11:40 a.m.

Finish Investigation M4 Observing and Explaining Physical Changes

11:40 a.m. - 12 noon

Video titled "Properties of Liquids and Gases, The Kinetic Theory of Matter"

12:00 - 12:30 p.m.


12:30 - 2:25 p.m.

Investigation M5 Observing Chemical Changes

2:25 - 3:50 p.m.

Investigation M6 Classifying Substances as Elements and Compounds

3:50 - 4:20 p.m.

Investigation M7 Classifying Compounds by their Reactions

4:20 - 4:30 p.m.

Fill out evaluations.



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Teacher Activities

 The following is a list of Teacher Activities that are available in the course. We have attached several of the activities. Click here to see some TEACHER ACTIVITIES.


The Floating Cork


Can Metal Float on Water?


Floating Things


Floating or Not?


Drops That Don't Move


Separating Objects by Physical Means


A Mixture or a Solution?


The Liquid Disappears


A Full Glass?


A Molecular Model - Can The Beaker Hold More?


Invisible Gas


The Disappearing Water


Alka-Seltzer Bubbles


The Disappearing Liquid


Solubility and Temperature


Invisible Ink


Using Litmus Paper


Making Salt


Finding Carbon Dioxide


Making a Fire Extinguisher


Changing Colors


Can You Pour Water Along a String?

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Teacher Projects

Only one person in a class can do a project unless otherwise indicated below. Some reference material is contained in the Teacher Project folder that your Instructor has, but we do not have copyright permission to make copies. A list of references used follows this list of Teacher Projects.

1) Electrolysis of Water. Experiment M6.2 in booklet, but too complex to do as class activity. Someone should do this experiment even though I will videotape it as a lecture demo. Use a DC power supply if you can find one, but 6V batteries will work.

2) Copper Plating a Nail. Ref. 9, p. 151.

3) Making Milk from Water and Oil. Investigate emulsions. Ref. 9, p. 101.

4) Make a Penny Glow. You will need acetone for this experiment. Ref. 9, p. 153.

5) Make an Erupting Volcano. Uses baking soda and vinegar. Suitable for lower grades. Ref. 7, p. 52.

6) Test for Acids and Bases. Experiments using red cabbage. Test for as many items on page 17 as you can. Demonstrate to the class. Ref. 6, p. 15-17. Show that colors change with vinegar and baking soda. Ref. 1, p. 26-27.

7) Changing Colors. Experiments with red cabbage. Changing colors using lemon juice, red cabbage, and baking soda in water. Ref. 12, p. 34-37.

8) Turmeric Spice Test. Use turmeric spice to test for acids and bases. Ref. 6, p. 19. Use turmeric spice to test for bases. Do both #119 and #120. Ref. 7, p. 65.

9) Climbing Water. Why does water climb? Experiments on adhesion. Three different experiments, 2-O, 2-P, 2-Q. Ref. 10, p. 23-25.

10) Separating Colors. Chromatography using paper towels, water. Make sure you try different brand name markers and report on their behavior. Make sure you try different colors including black. Ref. 1, p. 23; Ref. 3, p. 57-58; Ref. 4, p. 16-17.

11) Rainbow Pies. More chromatography using coffee filters folded up. Ref. 4, p. 20-21. See also Ref. 7, p. 61. Make lots of different diagrams. Show us how to do it. Try different brands of marking pens and give results.

12) Wet and Wild Colors. Uses markers, alcohol and water. Sort of like chromatography, but it discusses solvents. Good experiment for kids. Ref. 4, p. 18-19.

13) Let's Play Detective! Testing different black pens using chromatography. Ref. 4, p. 21-22.

14) Cookies and Yeast. What makes yeast grow in cookies? Which ingredients are necessary? Ref. 14, p. 33-38.

15) Corn Starch Putty. Examine the unusual properties of corn starch putty. Make corn starch putty and investigate its properties. Ref. 14, p. 39-42.

16) Curdling of Milk. Investigate the curdling of milk. What makes milk curdle? Ref. 14, p. 63-66.

17) Surface Area and Dissolving Rate. Investigate how surface area affects the rate of dissolving a solid like sugar. Suitable for lower grades. Ref. 14, p. 83-86.

18) Household Density Column. Make and investigate a density column out of easily available items from the supermarket. Ref. 14, p. 115-118.

19) Density Water Fountains. Make colorful water fountains by immersing hot water in cold water. This looks neat. Ref. 14, p. 133-138.

20) Fire Extinguishers. Use carbon dioxide to make a fire extinguisher. Use all three methods of producing carbon dioxide: a) baking soda and vinegar, b) Alka-Seltzer tablets, c) dry ice (from a diary or ice company, for example). Ref. 14, p. 25-28.

21) Splitting Colors. Do this chromatography experiment for both felt-tip pens and candy. Find out what colors are contained in the M&Ms. Ref. 12, p. 28-29.

22) Making Colorful T-shirts. Using chromatography to put colorful designs on T-shirts. Try the variations and show the class how to do this. This is a great experiment to do with kids. I very much want someone to do this project. Ref. 13, p. 29-35.

23) Making Glue from Milk. Make glue from nonfat dry milk powder and other home materials. Glue paper and wood together. Ref. 13, p. 77-80.

24) Making Gooey Gluep. Use borax and white glue to make a fun polymer that is stretchy and slimy. Ref. 13, p. 81-88.

25) Superabsorbent Polymer. Investigate how disposable diapers can hold so much water. You will need to get Water Grabber(TM) at a gardening section/store or sodium polyacrylate powder from a science supplier. Ref. 13, p. 95-99.

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1. Diane Willow and Emily Curran, Science Sensations (Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass., 1989).

2. George Barr, Science Projects for Young People, (Dover, New York, 1964).

3. Robert W. Wood, Where? Experiments for the young scientist, (Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 1995).

4. Linda Allison and David Katz, Gee, Wiz! (Brown, 1983).

5. Dave Prochnow and Kathy Prochnow, Why? Experiments for the Young Scientist. (Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA , 1993) .

6. Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams, Science Wizardry for Kids, (Barron's, Hauppauge, New York, 1992).

7. Janice VanCleave, 200 Gooey, Slippery, Slimy, Weird & Fun Experiments, (John Wiley, New York, 1993).

8. Marvin N. Tolman, Hands-On Physical Science Activities, (Parker, West Nyack, New York, 1995).

9. Tik L. Liem, Invitations to Science Inquiry, 2nd ed., (Science Inquiry Enterprises, 14358 Village View Lane, Chino Hills, CA 91709, 1987).

10. Alfred E. Friedl, Teaching Science to Children, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1991).

11. Julia H. Cothron, Ronald N. Giese, and Richard J. Rezba, Science Experiments and Projects for Students, (Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1996).

12. Angela Wilkes, My First Science Book, (Knopf, New York, 1990).

13. Fun with Chemistry, Vol. 2, (Institute for Chemical Education). Order from 608-262-3033.

14. Fun with Chemistry, Vol. 1, (Institute for Chemical Education). Order from 608-262-3033.


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Teacher Investigations:

The following is a list of Teacher Investigations that are available in the course. We have attached a few of the investigations to illustrate the format of the investigations and the course. Click here to see some TEACHER INVESTIGATIONS.

Investigation M1:Measuring Mass and Volume and Calculating Density


Activity M1.1

Will it sink or float?

Activity M1.2

How is the mass of a liquid related to its volume?

Activity M1.3

How can density be found from a graph of mass and volume?

Activity M1.4

How is density related to floating and sinking?

Activity M1.5

Does the beverage sink or float?

Activity M1.6

Does the can sink or float?

Activity M1.7

How are size and shape related to floating and sinking?

Activity M1.8

When is it appropriate to average densities?

Investigation M2: thinking about Densities of Solids, Liquids, and Gases

Activity M2.1

Which liquids are thicker?

Activity M2.2

Are thicker liquids denser?

Activity M2.3

Do various gases have different densities?

Activity M2.4

Which egg is cooked?

Investigation M3:Separating Mixtures into Component Parts

Activity M3.1

How can heterogeneous mixtures be separated?

Activity M3.2

Is margarine a substance or a mixture?

Activity M3.3

What happens when water boils?

Activity M3.4

How can you determine whether a liquid is a substance or a mixture?

Activity M3.5

How can homogeneous mixtures be separated?

Investigation M4:Observing and Explaining Physical Changes

Activity M4.1

How are linear dimensions, surface area and volume related?

Activity M4.2

Are mass and volume conserved while dissolving a solid in a liquid?

Activity M4.3

Are mass and volume conserved while dissolving a liquid in a liquid?

Activity M4.4

What variables affect the rate of dissolving?

Activity M4.5

What happens during dissolving?

Activity M4.6

Are particles of matter equally far apart in solids, liquids. and gases?

Investigation M5:Observing Chemical Changes

Activity M5.1

What is the evidence that a chemical change has occurred?

Activity M5.2

What chemicals produced the changes? Were all of them necessary?

Skip Activities M5.3 and M5.4

Activity M5.5

Why are some reactions faster than others?

Activity M5.6

How can rates of reactions be explained using the particulate nature of matter?

Investigation M6:Classifying Substances and Elements as Compounds

Activity M6.1

What happens when heat and energy is added to a substance?

Activity M6.2

What happens when electrical energy is added to water?

Activity M6.3

How do scientists distinguish one element from another?

Investigation M7:Classifying Compounds by their Reactions

Activity M7.1

How do blueberry juice and cabbage juice react with common household items?

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SOLs Covered:



Grade 1

1.1, 1.3

Grade 2

2.1, 2.3

Grade 3

3.1, 3.3

Grade 4


Grade 5

5.1, 5.4

Grade 6

6.1, 6.2, 6.6, 6.7

Physical Science

PS.1, PS.2, PS.5

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