University of Virginia
Physics Department


A Physical Science Activity

Student Activity

Activity 3 - Elements, Mixtures, and Compounds


  • Safety goggles
  • Plastic bag
  • Paper (filter paper works well)
  • Test tube
  • Balance (digital or triple-beam)
  • Test tube clamp
  • Sulfur powder
  • Bunsen burner
  • Iron powder
  • Striker
  • Scoop
  • 250-mL beaker
  • Hand lens
  • Forceps
  • Magnet


  1. Place a piece of paper on the balance and observe its mass. Scoop out sulfur powder onto the paper until you have added 3 g of the powder. Remove the paper and sulfur powder from the balance.
  2. Use the hand lens to help you observe properties of the sulfur (color and size and shape of the particles). Record your findings in the data table.
  3. Put the magnet inside the plastic bag (so that any particles attracted to the magnet can be easily removed). Run the magnet over the top of the sulfur powder to see if there is any interaction. If any particles are attracted to the magnet, hold the particles over the paper and carefully remove the magnet from the plastic bag so that the particles will fall back onto the paper. Record your findings in the data table.
  4. Keep the sulfur powder on the paper and place it to the side.
  5. Place a new piece of paper on the balance and scoop out 5 g of iron powder. Remove the paper and iron powder from the balance.
  6. Use the hand lens and the magnet to repeat steps 2 and 3 with the iron powder. Record all observations in the data table.
  7. Make a mixture of the two powders together on one piece of paper. Use the scoop to mix them up and make sure that the particles are evenly distributed.
  8. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the mixture of iron and sulfur particles. Again, record observations in the data table.
  9. Put cold water in the beaker until it is about half-full and then place the beaker to the side.
  10. Carefully pour the mixture of iron and sulfur powders into the test tube.
  11. Light the Bunsen burner and make sure you get a nice flame. (Have your teacher check it if necessary.
  12. Hold the test tube with the test-tube clamp and place it in the flame. (Make sure the mouth of the test tube is not pointed at you or anyone else.) Move the test tube around in the flame to make sure all of the contents are getting heated evenly. Continue this for approximately 2 minutes or until no more changes are occurring in the test tube.
  13. Shut off the gas to the Bunsen burner and quickly place the test tube in the beaker. The cold water should cause the test tube to break. If the test tube does not break, call your teacher over and have her break it for you.
  14. Do not touch any of the pieces in the beaker. Use the forceps to pull the substance from the test tube out of the water and place it on a piece of paper.
  15. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the compound that was made from the sulfur and iron powders. Record all observations in the data table.


Data Table

Physical Properties

Sulfur Powder

Iron Powder

Iron-Sulfur Mixture (prior to heating)

Iron-Sulfur Compound (after heating)






Shape of particles





Size of particles





Interaction with magnet