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.
This year, my 6th grade students are using a monarch to practice the scientific method. Two of my own children volunteered to search through some milkweeds near our house so I would have a caterpillar for my classroom. (Note #1: The monarch will be released outdoors following our experiment.)
I started by showing the students a live monarch caterpillar that was placed in a jar with ventilation holes in the lid. (Note #2: The holes are punched from the inside of the lid with the sharp edges on the top of the jar lid. This allows for a smooth surface on the inside of the lid for the caterpillar, but the jar must be handled carefully to prevent injury. I placed red tape with the word SHARP on the top of the lid.) A stick and some milkweed were placed in the jar. A couple of the students could identify the caterpillar by its characteristic stripes. Others commented that it would become a butterfly. Some mentioned that it would make a chrysalis. Since my students understood that the caterpillar would go through steps to change into a butterfly, I was ready to continue.
Students got out their science notebooks and I introduced the problem we were attempting to solve: How many days will it take for the caterpillar to emerge from its chrysalis as a butterfly? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I always remind students that they are not allowed to share their hypotheses yet. I then asked the students to record their hypotheses in their notebooks by completing the following sentence: I think that the monarch will emerge from its chrysalis as a butterfly on Day # _____ because . . .
After I checked their notebooks, each student shared his/her hypothesis with the class and explained why they made that prediction. I love hearing my students’ ideas!! There was a wide range of guesses (12-64 days) since students were not sure how long the caterpillar had been in the larval stage, how big it would actually get before beginning to make the chrysalis, or how many days it needed to be in the chrysalis. Students then made Day 1 observations and recorded their findings in their notebooks. Observations are recorded daily until the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis.
This lab experiment can be differentiated for all ages and abilities. Watching a caterpillar become a butterfly is fascinating for students at any age and is an engaging way for students to practice using the scientific method to solve a problem.
To introduce the scientific method, I have my students perform an experiment that answers this question: How many water drops fit on a penny? Before reading on any further, make your own hypothesis. After you have done that, continue reading!
I came across this activity years ago and have used it successfully many times. This lab activity is quick and easy which makes it a great introductory experiment. Students are able to make hypotheses, perform an experiment, collect data, analyze results, and begin drawing conclusions. To perform this experiment, you will need the following materials:
- pennies (1 for each student or group depending on class size)
- droppers (1 for each student or group)
- small cup of water
- paper towels or tray to set penny on
- notebook and pencil to record results
Before announcing the question to be answered, I always remind students that I do not want them to announce their hypotheses. I don’t want their guesses influencing others’ ideas.
I then ask the question that we are attempting to answer and students record their hypotheses in their lab notebooks. (Some students will ask how big the drops are, so you may need to show them the dropper and squeeze a few drops out onto a paper towel or into a cup so they can make an educated guess.) If needed, divide students into groups and then distribute materials.
Students then place the penny on a paper towel or tray, fill the dropper with water, and count the number of drops that can fit on the penny before the water runs off. Record results from each trial. Repeated trials make results more reliable so allow students plenty of time to repeat the experiment. Just make sure they start each trial with a dry penny.
Students are usually very impressed with the number of water drops that fit on a penny. I have found that this one simple experiment often leads students to begin asking more questions. What happens with other liquids on a penny? Does it matter if the penny is turned to heads or tails? How many drops would fit on a dime or quarter? There are so many ways to extend this project if time and interest allow. Use this as an introductory experiment or a lab during a study of water molecules. Either way, it is an easy, engaging activity that students really enjoy.
As students begin their study of science in junior high, I like to introduce commonly used lab materials and equipment. To complete the Lab Materials Identification activity, I set each lab material or piece of equipment on a desk or counter. Next to it, I place a numbered index card that is labeled with the name of that piece of lab equipment. Students move throughout the room and copy the name of each piece of lab equipment into their lab notebook. They also make a drawing so they can easily identify it later. Below are some of the items I include in the Lab Materials Identification activity:
- graduated cylinder
- triple beam balance
- microscope slide
- petri dish
- stirring rod
- hot plate
- test tube
- spring scale
Seeing some of the materials and equipment that will be used helps to build anticipation about experiments that we will be performing throughout the year. It also makes the students feel like “real” scientists!
Let me know if you plan to try this in your classroom. Also, feel free to give suggestions for items you would add to the list.