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Impact II: Projects & Lesson Plans: Mystery Powders

HOW IT WORKS
The Mystery Powders enables students to demonstrate their knowledge of physical science, the scientific method, and technology in a cooperative learning environment. They explore the chemical and physical properties of matter, study the periodic table of elements, and consider atomic number and mass, chemical symbols, electron configuration, and bonding power. They work in pairs on the Interactive Periodic Table program, which is designed to reinforce their knowledge of chemical symbols, atomic number, bond types such as covalent and ionic, and characteristics that the families of elements share. 

Next, the students work in groups of 3 to 4. Each group gets a lab kit containing goggles; lab coats; 5 cups (labeled A-E) of white substances such as baking powder, baking soda,  starch, gelatin, and salt; 5 spoons; 4 dropper bottles filled with vinegar, water, biuret solution, and iodine; neutral litmus paper; and a laminated test mat. Lab safety rules and procedures are reviewed. Each group has one researcher, one recorder, and one data entry person. All students perform all the tests on the substances. They are given the chemical formulas and hypothesize about what powder is in each cup. They record their hypotheses on lab worksheets. 

The students begin by placing a spoonful of powder A in each of the four boxes on the test mat. They record all test results on a data chart provided on the worksheet. The first box is for observation of physical properties (color, texture, and whether it is a crystal or powder). The next three boxes are for chemical properties (pH and whether or not it contains protein, starch, or carbon dioxide). Students wipe the test mats clean and begin again with powder B and so on. When all powders have been tested, the data entry person enters the results on a computer spreadsheet setup. The researcher uses the Interactive Periodic Table program to match the chemical and physical properties of the powders to the elements. They research the individual elements that make up each compound and look for information on how the elements are used in compounds. Students use the research and experiment results to identify the substance in each cup, answer critical thinking questions, and write a lab report. 

THE STUDENTS 
Over a hundred seventh grade students in classes of 30-32 with various technology backgrounds use an interdisciplinary approach to identifying The Mystery Powders. During daily science classes, they work cooperatively to perform tests, and record data and research. This project can be adapted to various achievement levels and used with small or large group instruction.

THE STAFF
Janice Dalton has been teaching science for seven years and currently teaches seventh grade physical science at the Bay Academy for the Arts and Sciences. She is chairperson of the leadership team for the school, and has been using The Mystery Powders in her class for two years with highly successful results. 

WHAT YOU NEED
The project requires either a classroom or lab room if one is available, a minimum of two  computers, word-processing and spreadsheet software, encyclopedias and the Interactive Periodic Table software. The program also requires laboratory worksheets that list materials  and procedures, and a test mat. 

OVERALL VALUE 
The Mystery Powders is an interdisciplinary project that encourages interdependence. All group members have a stake in the success of their group. Through research and experimentation, the students enhance their knowledge of chemicals, chemical equations, compounds, and their common uses. Students utilize computer technology to facilitate each step of the project. Critical thinking, report writing, and cooperative learning are emphasized. 

 

CURRICULUM AREAS
Technology
Science

GRADES
7 - 8

MORE INFORMATION
Janice Dalton
The Bay Academy for the Arts
and Sciences
1401 Emmons Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11235
JLD176@aol.com
Principal
Marian Nagler

IMPACT II Catalog 2000-2001
(pdf file: requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

 

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