Investigation Sequence



Written by:

Mari Mackling and Tina Thiele



Focus Questions

What is liquid? What are the properties of liquids?


Content: Earth, Physical, & Life

Solids are matter; occupies space and has weight. Solids maintain their own shape.
Liquids are matter; occupies space and has weight. Liquids have many properties; pour and flow, take the shape of the container, the surface of the liquid is level to the ground and have different densities.

Cross cutting concepts

System is a group of related objects that works together for a particular purpose.
When parts are put together they can do things they can't do alone.
Creating knowledge through observation of different variables’ influence on objects and events helps create better explanatory models.
Objects and systems can be organized in groups with similar properties.

Science Practice

Observations are used to help make explanations.
When doing science it is helpful to work with other people.
I should be skeptical of any claim that is not based on verifiable observable data and reason not presented in a logical manner.

Personal, Social, Technology, Nature of Science, History

People have always had questions about their world.
Science is one way of answering questions and explaining the natural world.
Science will never be finished.

Background information

All matter occupies space. Liquids poured into containers take the shape of the container and the surface is flat and level with respect to the ground. Some solids can become liquids with the addition of energy and some liquids can become solids with the removal of energy. The properties of liquids are transparent, colored, opaque, viscous, translucent, bubbly, and foamy. Each liquid has weight and different densities.


Activity Sequence

1. Solid or liquid?
2. The shape of liquids
3. Surface level
4. Properties of liquids
5. Density
6. Oobleck, solid, or liquid?

Activity Descriptions

Activity 1: Solid or liquid?
Materials: assorted solids and liquids (blocks, water, paint, book, juice, shoe, etc.)
1. Ask students to look at all the objects on display.
2. Ask what items are similar? What items are different?
3. How can we categorize the objects?
4. Make a list on the board recording all of their ideas.
5. Write properties above the list and ask students if everything in the list is a property.
6. Have the students select one of the categories on the list and have them sort the objects by that category. As each object is put into the category ask why it belongs there and how do they know (observation of a particular property).
7. If the students didn’t chose to classify by solids and liquids you can suggest to do so or you could group them into those two categories and ask students to guess what property you used to classify them.
8. Have the students discuss what they know about solids and liquids.
9. Have the students explain why each object is classified as a solid or liquid.
10. List properties of solids and liquids on a chart or board. Don’t worry if students don’t get a lot of them at this time as the list can be added to during the rest of the activities.
11. Ask what are some examples of other solids and liquids we use everyday?
12. Ask why would scientist want to group objects by common properties. Ask if they can think of other such groupings.
13. Ask how important observation is for scientists.
14. Ask if there was a time today that they were skeptical about another person’s or their own ideas. Ask if they think it is important for scientists to be skeptical. Why or why not?

Activity 2: The shapes of liquids
Materials: different shaped pans, cookie cutters, water (or other liquids), paper towels
1. Ask students: Do liquids have a shape? How do you know?
2. Display the materials and have students create their own experiment to test if liquids have shape.
3. Make sure the students record their observations.
4. What happened when the liquid was poured into the cookie cutter?
5. Describe what happened to the liquid when they lifted the cookie cutter.
6. Discuss their results and explanations.
7. Ask how what they did in activity two fits with activity one. What properties does water have? Did they learn anything today that they could put on their solid and liquid chart, or is there something already there that today’s activity would add more evidence?
8. Why is this important to know?
9. How did they work like scientists today? How did they use observation?

Activity 3: Surface level of liquids
Materials: a clear bottle approximately half full of water for each student
1. Draw pictures of bottles on the board with an impossible water surfaces.
2. Challenge the students to make the water level in their bottle look like the pictures on the board. The water must be motionless.
3. After the students have experimented for a while, have them share their results.
4. Discuss why the challenge is impossible.
5. Change the picture on the board and challenge the students to represent what is drawn on the board with their bottle.
6. Discuss why this challenge worked.
7. Continue to draw pictures that the students can represent in their bottles.
8. Students will conclude about the surface level of liquids and create a chart with different categories of surface levels.
9. How can we use this information in daily life?
10. Have the students draw their own picture of an impossible water level and explain why it’s impossible.
11. How do scientists use charts to organize information?

Activity 4: Properties of liquids
Materials: water, food coloring, hand soap (white), dish soap (blue or green), fabric softener, corn syrup, cooking oil, seven clear bottles.
1. Display the seven bottles of liquids.
2. What are some ways we can investigate the liquids without opening the bottles? (shake, roll, tip, etc)
3. Have students explore the liquids and record their observations for each action You may need to provide a chart with the action written in each cell so that they can draw a picture and write an explanation for each action.
4. Have the students share their observational data with the class.
5. Have them classify them by their observations and provide reasons for each.
6. Introduce vocabulary: transparent, translucent, viscous, opaque, foamy, and bubbly.
7. Have them label their examples and explain their reasoning.
8. Ask students if a liquid could be placed in more than one category?
9. Add properties of liquids to the property chart.
10. Think of other examples of liquids and classify them accordingly.
11. Ask what are some properties of liquids?

Activity 5: Density
Materials: six clear cups for each group, paper towels, cooking oil, corn syrup, colored water
1. What happens when two liquids are poured into the same container?
2. Discuss the possible combinations of the liquids using only two at a time.
3. Predict what will happen in each combination.
4. Allow student to experiment with the combinations of liquids and record their observations.
5. Discuss the results.
6. Have the students predict what would happen if all three liquids were poured in the cups in various combinations.
7. Allow students to experiment with the liquids and record observations.
8. Discuss the results and explanations for the reactions.
9. Why is this important to know about liquids and how we incorporate them into everyday life?

Activity 6: Oobleck, liquid or solid?
Materials: 1 _ cups cornstarch, _ cup water, paper towels
1. Ask students if cornstarch is considered a solid and why; what is water considered and why?
2. Predict what will happen when the two are combined.
3. Have the students combine the ingredients to make Oobleck.
4. Discuss whether Oobleck is liquid or solid.
5. Justify and explain their reasoning.
6. What other objects or systems can be organized as a combination of liquids & solids? Ex: Jell-O, cake batter, glue, etc.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes