It’s a very simple lab experiment, but a good one. Place an M&M candy in a shallow dish of water and make your observations. I found this activity on the American Chemical Society website, Inquiry in Action. Students will see how the colored candy shell dissolves and creates a pattern in the water.
There are so many ways that this activity can be differentiated for students. It is an excellent lab for practicing the scientific method and can be used when discussing physical properties and physical changes.
The M&M Lab is also a great introductory lab for students to use when designing their own experiments. After completing this lab, students begin to think of additional experiments that could be tested:
- Does the temperature of the water affect the rate that the candy shell dissolves?
- Does a frozen candy produce the same results as a candy at room temperature?
- Does the color of the candy have an effect on the dissolving rate or pattern?
- What happens when other types of candy are placed in water?
Give your students the opportunity to perform the M&M Lab and see what experiments they can come up with.
Whenever I start a new unit in my science classes, I like to give students an opportunity to have a hands-on experience right away. Doing this helps to grab their attention and make connections to real life.
I was struggling with how to introduce the chemistry unit a few weeks ago. I wanted students to realize that scientists had to figure out so much without actually being able to see individual atoms or subatomic particles.
I came across an activity in an older Glencoe Science textbook that would allow the students to realize that sometimes scientists are limited in how they can gain knowledge. However, they may be able to use clues to help them figure out those things that are not easily seen.
Prior to class, I stuck one metal object (a hexnut, screw, washer, etc.) into lumps of clay. Students were instructed to determine what object was in each piece of clay (no hints were given). Each group was given only a toothpick to obtain information. They were also told to make a drawing of the object hidden in the clay.
Students were engaged, frustrated, involved, and even annoyed at times. By poking the clay with the toothpick, they soon realized that they could gain information about what was inside each piece of clay without actually pulling it apart and seeing the inside. It gave them just a glimpse of how scientists had to discover unconventional ways to learn about the atom and its parts.
This activity was a great way to introduce the 8th grade chemistry unit. It could effectively be used for a wide range of grades and would also be a great problem-solving or group activity. I will definitely be using this activity with future classes!