March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Switching Lab Materials Gives 8th Grade Teachers Options

Posted: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

by Lisa Hegdahl

Recently, I was setting up a series of labs for Open House.  I became aware of how many labs have evolved over the years and how I’ve made changes to better suit my teaching situation. For example, I never prepared the Destroying Water Lab because I had only seen it using a huge battery, large beakers, and wires.  After attending a workshop at the California Science Teachers Conference, though, I started preparing the Destroying Water Lab using a small 9V battery, metal thumb tacks, 2 test tubes, and a 3 ounce condiment cup.  This lab has amazed my students every year since. Below, I offer some other lab variations for you to try.  I am sure there are countless other lab material options out there – you can add your favorites to the comment section below this article.

  • Changing the density of water:  As an introductory demonstration to density, I used to float an egg that had been sunk in water by adding salt.  A colleague mentioned that students could do the experiment by substituting the egg with a piece of carrot.  Last year, I substituted the carrot with a golf ball.
  •  Buoyancy Boats:  Instead of using clay, I now use foil (washers for the passengers).  When the students are finished, I have them flatten out the foil to dry, and then I recycle it with my aluminum cans.
  •  Building Towers:  As an introduction to balanced and unbalance forces,  my students build towers using limited amounts of straws, tape, and time. Replacing the straws with pasta makes the lab more environmentally friendly.
  •  Making Atoms:  My students use large blue and white beads twisted together with string for the nucleus and tiny green beads on wire for the electrons and electron orbitals.  They attach the orbitals to the nucleus by tying the left over string from the nucleus to them.  (I recycle the beads for use each year.) I have also seen atoms constructed from candy, Styrofoam balls, and paper.  You may also decide to have students choose their own suitable materials.
  •  Raisins rising and falling in soda water can be done with grapes as well.  A peeled grape changes the results.
  •  Density Columns:  Students find the masses and volumes of 3-7 liquids (there are many suggestions for the liquids on the internet), calculate the densities, predict how the liquids will stack in a column, and then test their hypothesis.  When I don’t have the time or resources, I give the students a list of masses and volumes for some stackable liquids.  Students calculate the densities, and then draw the columns instead.   Solids can be added to either option.

 

 

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

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For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

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