This module is currently being field tested and is not yet available for purchase.

How Can We Identify Materials Based on Their Properties? is part of Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, a curriculum series developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. It is designed to address a bundle of grade 5 physical science and engineering standards. In this module, students:

  • Design a tool that can be used to identifying unknown solids based on their physical properties.
  • Develop models showing particles of matter to describe sugar dissolving in water and a sugar solution evaporating.
  • Carry out investigations to determine what causes gas to be released when baking soda and vinegar are mixed.
  • Construct an explanation that the gas released from mixing baking soda and vinegar is a new substance that is the result of a chemical reaction.
  • Plan and carry out an investigation to determine the ingredients of a bath bomb and recreate one that can be tested in the classroom.

Below are digital resources that support teaching of this module.

Lesson 1: Kitchen Crisis

Family Letter
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Before starting How Can We Identify Materials Based on Their Properties?, share the Family Letter with students’ caregivers. Indicate how they should submit responses to the letter.

Kitchen Crisis
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This slideshow introduces students to the first problem in the module. It will be used in both Lesson 1 and Lesson 6.

Six Solids
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This file shows an image of six jars of unknown solids that were found in Chef Ana’s kitchen. This image will be used throughout the first 7 lessons.

Lesson 2: Using Our Senses

Flow Chart
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This image shows students an example of a flow chart that is used in biology.

Lesson 6: Lesson Testing Our Solution

Testing Our Solution
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This file contains a slideshow containing sample numbers that will be used by groups as they test their solution to the problem. It also includes a description of the information students will use when they present their solutions to the rest of the class. It is used in both Lesson 6 and Lesson 7.

Lesson 9: What We Can’t See

Particle Models
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This slideshow provides supporting information and instructions that will be essential for creating particle models of the sugar and water investigations.

Sugar Simulation
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This simulation shows what happens to particles when sugar dissolves in water and water evaporates. It works best in Firefox or Chrome. If your default browser is not one of these, copy the URL and paste it into either Firefox or Chrome. It is recommended that you use this simulation on a computer, as it may not work on all mobile devices. Start by adding water, and then add sugar. Evaporate to see the amount of water in the air change. Evaporate so there is no water left in the beaker to see the particles of solid sugar.

Lesson 10: Figuring Out the Bubbles

Balloon Inflating
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This video shows a balloon being inflated with gas that is released when baking soda and vinegar are mixed. 

Lesson 12: Something New

Indicator Strips
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The first image should be used as a key for students to identify the acidity level of the substances they test. The second slide shows an example.

Lesson 13: A Fizzy Phenomenon Part 1

Bath Bomb
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This video introduces the phenomenon that students work to figure out throughout the Science Challenge. It is used in both Lesson 13 and Lesson 14.

Kit Tips & Tricks