Physical Science

Challenging Inquiry Based Labs for Third Grade

Any great suggestions for inquiry based labs in Physical Science that are more challenging for third grade?

Brenda Hornaday
Brenda Hornaday
760 Activity Points

Hi Brenda!

I found an article from Science Scope titled “An Inquiry into the Phases of Matter” by Sarah Young. In this article, students explored the phases of matter in a new and improved way driven by inquiry. In the beginning, the author states how her students tended to complain that when she introduced the topic of solids, liquids, and gases, immediately losing their interest and motivation for her lesson. However, author Young has devised a genius way to hold student’s interest through inquiry stations and investigations. Students are first broken up into groups and asked to brainstorm the qualities or characteristics that define the states of matter on the board. Then, she provides them with the following inquiry prompt: there is an alien life form named XOD that has arrived on earth who is trying to understand the differences between solids, liquids, and gases. Three stations are set up around the room with three different activities, one specific to each state of matter. For each station, the students must convince the alien with evidence why certain substances are categorized as solids, liquids, or gases by making observations with their five senses to support their exclamations. 

At the first station, students find three test tubes. One with a nail, one with water, and one with salt inside. The general scenario is that since liquids flow and take shape of their container while solids do not, then the salt must be a liquid. Students must convince the alien why the salt is not a liquid but instead a solid. In the second activity, students must explain to the alien that gas is easily compressed while water is not because it is a liquid. This scenario proposes that since a sponge can easily be compressed, then it must be a gas. For the final activity, students are expected to create more thorough definitions regarding each phase of matter. Students will find three more test tubes, one with salt, one with water, and one that is empty. Students are asked to add a few drops of air freshener into the empty tube (check for allergy restrictions) to explain to XOD how they know that there is gas in the empty tube. Students must use their sense of smell to provide concrete observations. Overall, this activity not only allows students to gain a strong understanding of the phases of matter in a fun and exciting way, but it can also be used as an introduction activity for other lessons such as atomic structure, physical and chemical change, or the cycle of matter and energy matter through phases between molecules and atoms. 

 

Young, S. (2010). An Inquiry into the Phases of Matter. Science Scope, 038 (02), 60-63. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/nstacontent/ss1010_60.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIMRSQAV7P6X4QIKQ&Expires=1573161674&Signature=BeQbcc%2fjUrPNJUSswzyJ%2fisAB3s%3d

Kelsey Schulz
Kelsey Schulz
995 Activity Points

Hello! I found a really interesting lab for teaching weathering versus eroding that could definitely be inquiry. You would need to pre-make some 'mountains' using rocks, dirt, and gelatin in order to do this experiment. You essentially create two separate 'mountains', one out of rocks and gelatin and one out of dirt and gelatin. The students can create hypothesis for what they think will happen when you pour hot water on each 'mountain' and then record what actually happened after the hot water is poured (rocks stay in place but there are gaps now-weathering and the dirt mountain got smaller as dirt was moved away-erosion). You could have them draw before and after pictures, or the students could try to guess which mountain will represent weathering and which one will represent erosion. I am including a link to the site I found it on, but make it your own! https://www.thenaturalhomeschool.com/erosion-vs-weathering-awesome-science-stem-activities.html

Christine Gadbois
Christine Gadbois
660 Activity Points

Hi!  This  is a great resource for weathering and erosion because the students often times get the two confused.  It provides a visual that will help the students determine similarities and differences between the two.

Toneka Bussey
Toneka Bussey
1928 Activity Points

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