Marie Curie Math And Science Center


Elementary Science, Second Grade

This unit addresses the area of Physical Science. These are activities that can be used in conjunction with teaching students about the states of matter. As a result of the following activities, the students will be able to define matter and identify the characteristics of matter. They will find out about three states of matter--solids, liquids, and gases--and they will learn how matter changes from one form to another.

Commencement content standard:

Standard 1: Analysis, Inquiry, and Design -- Students will use mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design, as appropriate, to pose questions, seek answers, and develop solutions.

Standard 2: Information Systems Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.

Standard 4: Science -- Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

Benchmark standards
Standard 1:

Elementary Scientific Inquiry 1:
The central purpose of scientific inquiry is to develop explanations of natural phenomena in a continuing, creative process.

Elementary Scientific Inquiry 3
The observations made while testing proposed explanations, when analyzed using conventional and invented methods, provide new insights into phenomena.

Standard 2:

Elementary Content 1
Information technology is used to retrieve, process, and communicate information as a tool to enhance learning.

Elementary Content 2
Knowledge of the impacts and limitations of information systems is essential to its effective and ethical use.

Standard 4:

Elementary Content 3
Matter is made up of particles whose properties determine the observable characteristics of matter and its reactivity.

Performance standards:

  • The students will ask "why" questions in attempts to seek greater understanding concerning objects and events they have observed and heard about.
  • The students will question the explanations they hear from others and read about, seeking clarification and comparing them with their own observations and understandings.
  • The students will develop relationships among observations to construct descriptions of objects and events and to form their own tentative explanations of what they have observed.
  • The students will organize observations and measurements of objects and events through classification and the preparation of simple charts and tables.
  • The students will share their findings with others and actively seek their interpretations and ideas.
  • The students will adjust their explanations and understandings of objects and events based on their findings and new ideas.
  • The students will use a variety of equipment and software packages to enter, process, display, and communicate information in different forms using text, tables, pictures, and sound.
  • The students will understand that computers are used to store personal information.
  • The students will begin to observe and describe properties of materials using appropriate tools.
  • The students will describe chemical and physical changes, including changes in states of matter,

 Content outcomes:

The students will:

  • identify a substance as a solid or a liquid.
  • describe changes in the color, shape, size, and state of samples of matter.
  • investigate the change in state from gas to liquid by condensation.
  • observe chemical change in a demonstration using three states of matter.
  • demonstrate that air occupies space.
  • observe that two pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
  • identify things that are not matter and do not take up space.
  • compare some characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases.
  • demonstrate that solids have their own shape.
  • demonstrate that liquids and gases do not have their own shape.
  • describe how matter changes from one state to another.
  • form a hypothesis that is a generalization about a set of circumstances.
  • identify properties that can be used to classify.
  • use observed properties to classify substances.
  • create an imaginary character that changes from one state of matter to another, write a story about that character, and create an illustration.
  • employ a word processing software program for creative writing.
  • create illustration using computer software paint program such as HyperStudio.
  • utilize electronic networks to share information.
  • record data on simple charts.

 Enabling Activities:


Tell the students that you are thirsty and that you are going to have a drink of water. Display the ice cube in the glass and pretend to drink from the glass. Ask the children why you are having trouble getting a drink. The children will indicate that the ice cube will have to melt before you can have water to drink. Have the children discuss whether an ice cube is really water. Suggest that ice cubes might be made of "smush," a clear solid that changes to water. After some discussion of ways in which they could check to see if there is such a thing as "smush," begin the activity.

Activity 1: (Approx. 30 minutes)
Materials: For each child or group

One ice cube

One paper towel

One cube of modeling clay about 1 inch on edge

One cube of butter the same size as the cube of clay

Three saucers

Paper and pencil

Have the children heat each plate under the hot water faucet and then place the cube of butter, the cube of clay, and the ice cube on them. Have the children make comparisons of the size, shape, and color of the substances. The children should keep a record of the changes that occur. After the butter and ice cubes have changed in form, commence a class discussion of the states of matter, using the following questions to focus the children's thinking.

Key Questions: Which cubes were solid when you started the activity? What changes did you observe? Did the color or shape of the cubes change? What would happen if we put the saucers in a freezer before the activity? How would the changes have been different? What do you think caused the changes?

Activity 2: (Approx. 30 minutes)

Materials: For each group

Crushed ice
Shiny metal containers

The students can observe the change in state from gas to liquid by causing water in the air to condense. Each child or learning group will need a supply of crushed ice and a shiny metal container. They should polish the outside of their container with a towel and observe the surface. Then have the children add crushed ice to the containers and again observe the outside surface. In a short time, a thin film of water will appear on the can. This phenomenon occurs because the cold can lowers the temperature of the surrounding air to the dew point. The dew point is the temperature at which water vapor in the air condenses.

Key questions: What is the container made of? What do you think will happen when you put the ice into the metal container? What happened to the ice? The container? Would the same thing occur if we used a different container? Why or why not?

Activity 3:. (Approx. 30 minutes; extra adult necessary)

Materials: For each group

Empty 2-liter soda bottle
A round party balloon

White vinegar

Baking soda


The students will see three states of matter in this demonstration. Prior to the demonstration inflate and deflate the balloon a number of times to weaken the rubber. Using a funnel, pour vinegar into the bottle. Stop pouring when the level of vinegar rises above the bottle's plastic base. Remove the funnel and set the bottle aside. Wipe the funnel clean; then use it to pour baking soda into a large balloon. When the balloon is half-full of baking soda, remove the funnel. Walk around the room and ask students to feel the lower half of the balloon-verifying that the matter is a solid. Then, being careful not to spill the baking soda into the bottle, secure the neck of the balloon over the bottle's mouth. When the balloon is securely attached to the bottle, lift the rest of the balloon over the bottle, causing the baking soda to drop into the two-liter bottle and the vinegar. The gas (carbon dioxide) that is produced during the reaction will partially inflate the balloon.

 Activity 4: (Approx. 30 minutes)

Motivation: A. The teacher will inflate a balloon and knot it securely, Place a piece of clear cellophane tape firmly over a 3-in. square in the middle of the balloon and smooth any air bubbles. Ask: What is in the balloon? What will happen to the air when I poke a hole in the balloon? Stick a metal skewer into the taped area of the balloon and withdraw it. Ask: What happened to the air? Why didn't the balloon pop? Explain that in this activity the children will try other ways to show that air is matter that takes up space.

Or: B. Capture some air inside a plastic produce bag; then seal the bag with a twist tie. Ask questions such as: What do you see inside the bag? How do you know something is inside the bag? To further illustrate that air takes up space, place the inflated bag on a table and balance a book or other solid object atop it. Ask students to describe what is keeping the object from touching the table,

Materials: (For each group)
Deep bowl

Plastic cup

Paper towel



Have the students predict what will happen to paper in a cup that is placed upside down into water. Record responses. Fill the bowl one-half full with water. Wad the paper into a ball and push it to the bottom of the plastic cup. Turn the cup upside down. The paper wad must remain against the bottom of the cup, Make the paper ball a little bigger if it falls. Important: Hold the cup vertically with its mouth pointing down. Push the cup straight down into the, bucket filled with water. Do not tilt the cup as you lift it out of the water. Remove the paper and examine it. What happened to the paper? Poke a hole in the paper cup with a pencil. Place the cup into the water in the same manner as above. What happened to the air? Discuss.

(Using anecdotal notes on student participation, the teacher will assess the degree to which the student can hypothesize and articulate other ways to demonstrate that air takes up space.

Responses will vary, but they may include examples of space taken up by air in tires, in cracker or breakfast-cereal bags that puff out with air before being opened, in soap bubbles, in sponges,and in bread.)

Activity.- (Approx. 30 minutes)

Materials: (For each group)
A permanent marker

A golf ball

A large plastic cup half-filled with water

This small-group activity makes it clear that not all things take up space. Give each small group of students the supplies noted above. Ask one student in each group to draw a line on the outside of his group's cup to mark the water level. (This reading should be taken at eye level.) Then ask each group to predict what will happen when a golf ball is placed in the cup. When the predictions are made, have one student from each group gently drop a golf ball into the group's cup. Then ask another student in each group to mark the new water level. Discuss how this activity proves that a golf ball is matter, then ask students if they think light is matter. In turn, shine a flashlight on each cup of water. Allow time for the groups to check their water levels, then take a vote--is light matter? Students will see firsthand that because light does not take up space, it is not matter. (Examples of other things that are not matter are sound, shadows, thoughts, feelings, and dreams.)

Activity 6: (Approx. 30 minutes; extra adult necessary)

Let students smell some cologne and become familiar with its odor. Establish that the cologne in the bottle is a liquid. Tell students that the liquid cologne changes to a gas that mixes with the air around it. Have students close their eyes as you walk quietly around the room holding the open cologne bottle. Then let them explore with their sense of smell to determine where you are standing with the open bottle. Repeat this procedure several times from different places. Emphasize that the gas from the cologne does not have a shape of its own but will spread throughout the space available to it. (In this case, the gas will spread throughout the classroom.)

Materials: (For pairs of students)
small, sealed, heavy-gauge plastic bags partially filled with colored water (make sure air is squeezed out of bag before it is sealed) 2 differently shaped containers

Assorted shaped blocks (triangles, circles, squares, rectangles)

 Have students place various blocks in containers. Ask if the shape of the block has changed. Have students identify the shapes of the blocks. Note that the shape is the same in the container as it is out of the container. Allow students to roll and squeeze the plastic bags in order to explore how the shape of the liquid changes as the shape of the plastic bag changes. Have students describe the movements of the water and its changing shape in the plastic bag. Then have the students fill one of the containers with the water. Then pour the water from this container into the other container. Emphasize that the students do it carefully to keep from spilling if possible. Be sure students understand that, although the water looks different because it has taken the shape of the other container, the amount of water has not changed.

Key questions: Which form of matter changed shape when it was put into a container? Why are all of these objects solids? What is the difference between a solid, a liquid and a gas? Which form of matter can be poured? Which forms of matter can take the shapes of their containers? Which form of matter cannot be seen?


Activity 7: (Approx. 1 hour)

Challenge students to list liquids they have frozen. (Ice pops made with juice, yogurt soups) Have students tell what happens to the liquids after being put into the freezer, and what happens after they are taken out of the freezer. What makes things freeze or melt? What happens to an ice pop in the sun? Draw how it changes. Discuss how changes in temperature affect melting and freezing.

Materials: (For each group)
drawing paper

crayons, markers



chocolate bars broken into pieces



aluminum foil squares

1. The teacher will light the candle and carefully have the children observe the candle wax change from a solid to a liquid and back to a solid. Ask: "What is making the candle wax change from a solid to a liquid?" " What happens to the liquid when it cools?"

2. In small groups, the students will take small pieces of chocolate, butter, and gelatin. They will place them on the aluminum foil near the sunny window. Each group will discuss and compare the melting rates of the three foods and record their observations in a log for a later whole class discussion.

Activity 8: (Approx. I hour)

 The students will make two different mixtures that have properties of both solids and liquids. Lead the students to understand that these types of matter are very difficult for scientists to categorize, After each recipe is made, have students conduct a series of tests on the resulting mixture to see if they can determine whether each substance is most like a liquid or a solid. Have the students make the mixtures in pairs, however, conduct the testing in small groups.

Materials: (For each pair)

a paper-covered work space

a 9-oz plastic cup

4 tablespoons of cornstarch

2tablespoons of water

wooden craft stick

paper-covered work space

9-oz. plastic cup

tablespoon of liquid starch

tablespoons of white glue

food coloring (optional)

a wooden craft stick

 For Solquid- Combine the cornstarch and the water in the plastic cup. Stir the mixture with the craft stick. The mixture should appear to be solidifying. If it does not, stir in a bit more cornstarch; then remove the craft stick. When the stick is removed, the substance should appear to be a liquid. But when the mixture is poked, stiffed, or handled, it has properties of a solid.

For Goop: Combine the liquid starch, glue, and food coloring in the plastic cup. Stir until well mixed; then let the mixture stand for approximately five minutes. Stir the mixture again and let it stand for five more minutes. Repeat the stir-and-stand process once more; then handle the Goop and enjoy its properties.

The students will now test the two mixtures to see if they can determine whether each substance is most like a liquid or a solid. How can the matter be tested? Have the students pour the mixture from one hand to another. What happens? Have the students poke the mixture with their fingers or the craft stick. What happens? Roll the mixture into a ball; then try to hold the ball. What happens? What do you think will happen if you leave the matter overnight? Encourage the students to use these methods and others of their own to test the properties of Solquid and Goop. Are these substances solids or liquids or both? Tell why you think matter is a solid, a liquid, or a gas.

Activity 9: (Approx. 5-7 Language Arts periods)

Given a word processing program, have the students write a story about an imaginary object that can change its form. Tell students that during the course of the story, their object should take the form of a solid, a liquid, and a gas. The students must tell what causes their object to take different forms. The students will then illustrate their story by using a paintbrush tool to create pictures of the various scenes of the story. The students will utilize the 5-step writing process including peer and teacher conferencing. With teacher help, the students will place their stories and illustrations on the Internet.

Performance Measures:

Assessment techniques of each individual activity will be varied. Teacher observation, questioning strategies, and anecdotal notes will be used throughout this unit during class discussions, experiments, and guided practice. The following will also be employed:

 I.Classification Chart.

The students will, with 85% accuracy, identify and categorize examples of matter on a classification chart entitled Forms of Matter in the Kitchen, For example: spoon--solid; juice-liquid; air--gas.

2. Journal Reflections
The students will write journal reflections after each activity.

3. Rubric for Class Participation

4. Rubric for Content and Creative Writing Activity.

5. Student Editing Checklists

4. Rubric for Content and Creative Writing Activity.


Skill Amateur Novice Proficient
Defines matter and identifies the three states With difficulty Partially correct Can explain clearly and in detail
Describes changes in color, shape, size and state With difficulty Partially Correct Can explain clearly and in detail
Assignments Did not follow Assignment Develops the assigned topic using an acceptable plan of organization Demonstrates a logical plan of organization and coherence in the development of topic
Spelling Many spelling errors Uses standard and temporary/phoenetic spelling Uses predominantly standard spelling
Grammer/Usage Incomplete or run-on sentences;incomplete thoughts Expresses complete thoughts although may not use standard sentences Writes several sentences with correct use of capitals and punctuation
Appearance Sloppy, careless, unattractive Mostly neat, more care could have been put into it Neat, careful, attractive appearance
Illustration Sloppy, no effort, did not relate to topic Good use of computer software programs; relates to topic Proficient use of computer software programs; accuracy in depiction of character


 Editing Check List

Does your title tell about your story?

Did you begin each thought with a capital letter?

Did your thoughts end with punctuation marks?

Did you put spaces between words?

Did you circle the words that you think are misspelled?

Student Editing Checklist

(This is the criteria for a 5 for our writing scale)


Story Title:

 All sentences begin with capital letters.

Names of people and places begin with capital letters.

Each sentence ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.

Quotation marks are used when someone is speaking.

Final copy is very neat.

Spelling on the final copy has been checked with the corrected first draft.

The story makes sense.

I have checked my work for errors.



Teaching Children Science, J. Abruscato (Bacon and Allyn, 1992), Mailbox Magazine, Oct./Nov. 1995

Chemistry for Every Kid, J. VanCleave Science Horizon, (Silver Burdett & Ginn, 1993)

The Curriculum Bridge: From Standards to Actual Classroom Practice, . Solomon (Corwin Press, 1998)


St. Thomas Aquinas College, 125 Route 340, Sparkill NY 10976-1050