This activity is intended to introduce students to the difference between physical and chemical changes in matter.
This lesson is intended to introduce students to the difference between physical and chemical changes in matter. When two or more materials are combined, either a chemical or physical change may occur. Chemical reactions are often indicated when materials: give off heat or cool as they take in heat, give off light, give off gas, or change colors. In a chemical reaction or change, materials are changed into new substances. In a physical change, a new substance is not formed. It is important for students to continually use observation skills during this investigation. The teacher should continually check for student observation.
This activity involves the use of Alka Seltzer tablets. Stomachs can become upset as a result of excessive acidity levels. Alka Seltzer tablets contain sodium bicarbonate and citric acid. When the tablet is dropped into water, sodium citrate and carbon dioxide are formed. Sodium citrate is a weak base and neutralizes stomach acid (mainly HCL) Bromphenol blue is an acid base indicator. It turns yellow in the presence of an acid, in this case vinegar, and blue in the presence of a base, in this case the sodium citrate created from the Alka Seltzer reaction. Sometimes it is easier to locate bromothymol blue. Bromothymol blue can be used in the place of bromphenol blue. The pH range of bromothymol blue is not as sensitive to bases as bromphenol blue. When substituting with bromothymol blue, it is necessary to add one Tablespoon of baking soda with the Alka Seltzer tablet to the water. This will make the solution a stronger base, allowing solution color to return to blue once the acid is neutralized.
The Physical or Chemical Change? checklist will be used for all of the lessons. It includes the indicators for physical and chemical changes as outlined in the Core Curriculum. To help students make real life connections and practice determining the difference between the two types of changes, it is helpful to keep a large copy of the checklist on display. It is also helpful to have a visible writing space reserved for keeping an ongoing list of various chemical and physical changes the students observe in and outside of the classroom. Encourage students to look for physical and chemical changes in their environments and discuss the changes as a class.
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
5. Understand the Nature of Science
Invitation to Learn
Read the scenario below to the students. Encourage them to take notes to determine if the incident was an accident or deliberate act.
Your class returned from lunch recess to find their teacher's favorite glass bell broken and shattered on the floor. You wonder if the broken bell was the result of an accident or a deliberate act. You decide to use careful observation and a review of the facts to determine if the bell was broken by way of an accident or on purpose.
This is what you know:
Two of your classmates have been not been getting along since the beginning of the school year. Violet thinks that Matilda is always trying to copy her. Violet is currently very upset with Matilda. One week before the teacher's birthday, Violet had told Matilda that she was planning on buying the teacher a glass bell for her birthday. The next day, Matilda told Violet that she had gone to the store and bought the glass bell as a birthday present for the teacher. Matilda gave the teacher a glass bell for her birthday. The teacher's birthday was two weeks ago. Since that time, Violet got in trouble for hiding Matilda's Science Fair Project on the day it was due.
The following events took place on the day the bell was broken:
Violet announced that she forgot her lunch money in the classroom. The teacher gave her permission to leave the lunch line and return to the portable classroom, alone, for her lunch money.
A group of third graders got in trouble at recess for playing wall ball on the side of your portable classroom -- the side of the classroom where the shelf hangs. The glass bell had sat at the end of the shelf, the end of the shelf that was tilting down.
The morning of the accident, Melvin wanted the model airplane he had brought for Show and Tell to be kept safe. He asked the teacher if she would put it on the wall shelf. As the teacher lifted the model airplane onto the shelf and set it next to the bell, she said to Melvin, "Your plane is much heavier than it looks."
This is what you observe:
The wall shelf where the bell once stood has a loose screw and is slanting down. The end of the shelf where the bell once stood is lower than the rest of the shelf.
Melvin's model airplane is teetering on the end of the shelf where the bell once stood.
Aside from the glass shards on the floor, there are two pieces of glass from the bell on top of the file cabinet that sits just below the shelf.
Give students time to think about the information and ask clarifying questions before asking them if they think the described accident was an accident or a deliberate act. Discuss their conclusions.
Relate their responses to scientific observations. Scientists use observations and knowledge to make the best possible conclusions. This will be valuable when helping students as they determine whether observed changes are chemical or physical. Sometimes a reaction or change can have characteristics of a physical and chemical reaction, leaving scientists to weigh the evidence.
Burns, M. (Nov 2005). Looking at how students reason. Educational leadership,63 (3), pp.2-6
This activity uses a lot of classroom discussion. In this article, "Looking at How Students Reason," the author investigates the benefits of formative assessments such as small group discussions to provide insight into student thinking. She mentions specific strategies to get the most out of classroom and small group discussions. Among these strategies are: giving opportunity for whole group, small group and partner discussion and asking students to explain their responses. "Science Detectives" was designed to maximize the benefits of classroom discussion.
Leahy, S., Lyon, C., Thompson, M., & William D. (November 2005). Classroom assessment minute by minute, day by day. Educational leadership (63) (3), pp 21-22
This research-based article discusses the positive correlation between quality assessment and student learning. Specific strategies to integrate assessment and instruction are presented. Many of the assessments suggestions are formative in nature and require teacher flexibility. In other words, a teacher must be willing to shift gears mid instruction to meet the needs of his or her students. "To gauge understanding of the whole class, the teacher needs to get responses from the students in real time." One of the strategies used to check for student understanding in real time involves having each student write their individual responses to teacher's questions on small student whiteboards. The activity Science Detectives introduces what can be a difficult concept -- the difference between physical and chemical changes in matter. It is important that the teacher continually gauges student understanding and modifies instruction accordingly throughout the activity. For this reason, the use of student whiteboard responses is used throughout the activity.
Marzano, R., Pickering, D., Pollock, J., (2001) Classroom instruction that works, Alexandria, VA.ASCD
This text covers multiple research based strategies for increasing student learning and achievement. Explicitly teaching similarities and differences in relation to what students are learning "enhances their learning and ability to use knowledge." As encouraged in this text, this activity was designed to include both teacher and student directed opportunities to identify similarities and differences in chemical and physical changes. Research indicated that classifying is a "highly effective" form of comparing similarities and differences. Students use the Physical or Chemical Change? checklist to help guide them through the comparison process and eventually classify the reactions they observe.