Tag Archives: states of matter

Water and Fluids

A had a few goals for this week.  I wanted to look more at states of matter and changes in states of matter.  I wanted the kids to get how matter changes state.  I also wanted to present some basic information about water: how important it is for life, how it’s both plentiful and scarce, how it’s the only substance we find as a solid, liquid and gas in nature.


There are so many children’s books about water, it boggles the mind.  I feel like I could list twice as many as I’m about to and still leave out dozens of amazing gems.  All of these were great and unlike some science editions where the books are merely decent conveyances of information we need, this time the books were great children’s literature.

First of all, we enjoyed the book One Well by Rochelle Straus and Rosemary Woods, which talked about water mostly in a cultural context.  It laid out really nicely how we have so much water and so little, as well as how connected water is and how endangered clean water is.  In that same sort of context, the National Geographic book A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley was also really nice.  The photos were amazing.  There’s very little text in the book, but there’s a nice little bit about each photo’s origins at the end.  The book Water Cycle by Thomas Locker was another great book that included poetry and science, especially of the water cycle, as the title implies.  However, our favorite was the book One Drop of Water by Walter Wick, who also created the I Spy books.  Here, he uses his excellent cameras to capture water in some amazing moments.  The text aligned nicely with our unit, explaining molecules and changes in state in vivid terms.

For experiment books, I had a few things, including the Kingfisher book I drew from the week before and a New True Book of simple water experiments.  However, overall, there was no great stand out title for water experiments that I found and many of the things we did were simply common sense.


Yet again, there are many good ones for this topic.  Bill Nye brings us a couple of episodes about this topic.  First of all, there’s Fluids, which goes nicely with our continued states of matter exploration.  Secondly, he has a whole episode for the Water Cycle.  The Magic School Bus has “Wet All Over” about water.  For a quick introduction, here’s the subscription service BrainPop’s video about water.

I found a lot of good YouTube options for this topic.  Here’s a National Geographic video about water use that has an environmental bent.  And here’s another one from Good Magazine that’s very similar in content (if different in style).

Here’s Veritasium’s cute video about states of matter and water.  And here’s a quick video about the Water Cycle by NASA.  Our favorite, which we watched several times over was this beautiful video of a single drop of water, which I found on The Kid Should See This:


We began by reviewing what we knew about the three main states of matter.  I told them we had explored solids a good but but were going to look at liquids more this week.  I told all the kids to go find two liquids.  They came back with a nice assortment of oil, water, maple syrup, soap, yellow paint and so forth.

Next, we did a couple of activities to explore how different liquids have different properties, just like solids.  This site has a more sophisticated version of what we did.  We began by doing a simple one we had not done in awhile, by piling different liquids on top of each other in a glass.  We tried it a couple of times with different things in different orders.  The kids definitely got that oil was the least dense and that the maple syrup was surprisingly dense.

Next, we did a fluids race.  I just set up an old pan with a starting line and a finish line.  Each kid got to pick one of his liquids to put a dollop on the start line and then I lifted the pan to see which one would run the fastest.  BalletBoy was disappointed because one of the times we did it, he tried toothpaste, which was the only thing that didn’t run at all.  It turned out it’s a colloid.  Oh well.

Next, we turned our attention to water.  We began with some notes and vocabulary words, such as condense, evaporate and water vapor.

The experiments were simple.  We froze water, then checked to see how it had gotten bigger.  We melted ice to see it change state.  We boiled water to turn it into vapor.  Then we “caught” the vapor and turned it into water on a cool glass and then by setting containers high above the steam coming out of the boiling pot.  We also checked on some evaporating water from a couple weeks back and found, excitingly, the water had completely evaporated.  Also, that our “salt flats” had formed and you could see their cubic shape very clearly.  We compared them with the pointy ones from the epsom salts again.

We finished by talking about all the things we’ve already learned about water and all the past experiments we did.  Some they didn’t remember very well, but others they did.  We referenced many of the experiments we did for temperature, floating and sinking, waves, and pressure last year.  Mushroom remembered that water conducts electricity (something the kids have tested with the Snap Circuits many times) and BalletBoy remembered about the water cycle that all water is connected.  They all remembered learning that water molecules cling together.  Overall, it was a nice ending to the lesson and nice to bring together a number of topics.

States of Matter

First of all, I updated the Science Without a Net link above to include this year’s posts and reflect a little more about what we’re doing.  It’s been getting a small but steady stream of hits on the blog, which is pleasing to me.  I hope that means people are making use of what we’re doing, using it as a springboard or borrowing it however you like.

We moved on to states of matter and enjoyed ourselves greatly in this lesson (perhaps because it involved a lot of destruction and a lot of chocolate).  The main ideas I wanted to convey were that matter has three “main” states that we refer to: solid, liquid and gas.  I also wanted them to understand what characterized each one.  I decided that we would focus on water and states of matter more next week, so I didn’t dwell too much on water yet.



This is such a straightforward topic that we didn’t use a huge number of books.  I found that the Let’s Read and Find Out title, What is the World Made Of? by Kathleen Zoehfeld was pretty sufficient.  If you’re looking for others, there’s a Q&A Science book called States of Matter.  Also, Rookie Read Aloud has a title called Solids, Liquids and Gases and we had out a set of three tiny easy readers called What is a Solid?, What is a Liquid? and What is a Gas? by Jennifer Boothroyd.  They were simple enough for even my slower reader to read with ease.

For experiment books, I had a few options out and found the book Young Discoverers: Solids and Liquids from Kingfisher to be useful.  We had a few more out as well, including an older title that I got a few ideas from, but I’ve embarrassingly lost my notes and can’t find them.  D’oh.  None of the books I looked at were stand out amazing though, so you’re not missing much.


There’s a huge number of great video resources on this topic.  First up there are some introductions.  Here’s a super quick video but with a nice visual on the structure of solids, liquids and gasses.  Here’s another one, a funky little video about states of matter and glass.  The video quizzes you as it goes along.  And here’s Brainpop’s video on States of Matter.  As always, Brainpop requires a subscription.

Now for more solid resources (see how I punned there?).  Bill Nye has an episode called Phases of Matter.  Here’s the intro and here’s the song (can you name the 90’s song it’s taking off on!).  Also exciting as I think it’s for the very last time this year (they don’t cover anything we’re covering!), Eureka! is here with two episodes on this topic.  First, we have Molecules in Solids and next, we have Molecules in Liquids.  Best of all though, They Might Be Giants have a song about states of matter:


We began with our notebooks and divided a page into three sections.  Then, everyone cut out pictures to illustrated solids, liquids and gases.  There were a lot of clouds and bits of blue sky in the gases section, but there were some interesting solids and liquids.  Continuing in that vein, everyone ran off to find examples of one solid, one liquid and one gas.  There were legos and sticks, juice and water, and several cupped hands holding air, plus one set of lungs filled with oxygen.  The best part was that Mushroom unexpectedly combined his finds.  He asked for help to get from the kitchen baking soda (a solid) and vinegar (a liquid).  Then, he combined them and made, as he put it, “some kind of a gas.”  But hey, he was right!  They do release carbon dioxide when combined.  I was a little blown away, let me tell you.

After that, we talked a little about solids.  There are lots of different types of solid materials, but we looked at a few of them – wood, plastic, and metal for example.  We talked about how solids don’t change shape and volume unless something changes them.  Well, that’s just an invitation, right?  So we all began working to change the solids.  We bent the metal jar ring, snapped a crayon, and squashed some modeling clay.  In the end, we couldn’t make a change on the wood block or the hard plastic play lettuce, so we talked about how to change them and a tool was suggested, so we went outside and smashed them with hammers.  The block was pretty easy.  Within a couple of bangs, we removed a small bit of it, thereby changing its volume and distressed it, changing its shape.  The hard plastic play lettuce was insane though, I must say.  It completely resisted our attempts, which just made the kids more determined to break at least a little off it.  I wish I had pictures, but supervising 4 boys and a hammer really didn’t allow me to take snapshots!  In the end, we managed to crack it and distress it, but we never got a piece off.

We talked then about how all the changes we had made were physical changes.  Not only that, none of them changed the state of the solid matter.  So I asked if we could change their state.  Immediately every kid knew how.  Burn it or heat it.  So out came the lighter (wielded only my yours truly) and we set fire to the block and melted the plastic, though each for just a moment.  Finally, the plastic saw a small change!  We talked a little about changes of state and how the plastic wanted to become a liquid but the wood did not.  However, the kids immediately surmised that the wood didn’t disappear when it burned away, it must turn into a gas.  Excellent.

We headed inside and went back to that snapped crayon.  We melted it in the microwave and watched it turn into liquid, then back into a solid.  I used that as a jumping off point to think about what applications melting then reforming substances had.  It took them a shockingly long time to get to the idea of molded materials like cast iron or plastic toys, but we got there eventually.  That made them think of Legos (which is only important because of what happened next).

I suggested that we melt and reform something more fun, like chocolate.  I had old molds all set to use, but before I could even get there, the kids immediately went to the idea that they wanted Lego molded chocolate.  So, that’s what we made.  We melted the solid chocolate into a liquid, then cooled it in a small pan filled with Legos.  It yielded a cool result that we broke into chucks and ate.

I had a million other activities planned for the day, including a bunch of things about liquids and viscosity and some more science journal things.  However, this was an enthusiastic day where we went with what the kids were into.  And who wouldn’t be into burning things and making Lego chocolate?  So I was happy with that.

Mmm…  Lego chocolate.