Properties of Matter is part of the 8th grade science curriculum. It includes labs, written assessments as well as performance assessments. The focus of this module is the physical and chemical properties that characterize matter. Properties of Matter Module is part of the Science and Technology Concepts for Middle Schools curriculum. It was developed by the National Science Resources Center. The modules are based on the principle that students become motivated and learn best when they have first-hand experiences with scientific phenomena. The program develops students' ability to make predictions, explore causal relationships, discover patterns, and generate explanations based on their observations. The teaching strategies built into the program allow students to work both independently and cooperatively on challenging, carefully structured tasks. All the while, students learn and review lab skills and lab safety skills for high school science. The goals of this program are to:
  • make available a sequence of learning activities that fully address the Next Generation Science Education Standards
  • engage students directly with natural phenomena, the tools of science, real-world problems, and technological design challenges
  • build on students' prior knowledge and experiences and to allow them to apply problem-solving strategies in new contexts
  • provide opportunities for students to test procedures, collect and analyze data, use data to support conclusions, and communicate findings
  • develop in all students the skills and knowledge necessary to open paths to careers in science and technology

Vocabulary Properties of Matter Part 1
Definitions for Vocabulary Properties of Matter Part 1

Lesson 1:

What are all the current states of matter? (
  • solid
  • liquid
  • gas
  • plasma
  • Bose-Einstein condensate
  • fermionic condensate

What is an aerogel? (
An aerogel is an extremely low-density material, considered a solid because the liquid in the gel has been replaced with a gas. It is semi-transparent and a very good insulator. Aerogel was invented by an American chemist in 1931 and has been used on the Stardust spacecraft to collect space-dust. It is also used to help insulate the Mars Rover and the NASA's space suits.

What do we mean when we talk about "phase changes"? (
A phase change is a change in the physical properties of a substance. It usually involves the substance changing its state between a gas, liquid, and solid. Phase changes are most often caused by changes in temperature, and can also be brought on by changes in pressure. Here are the six main types of phase changes:
1) Something going from solid to liquid (increasing heat) is said to be melting.
2) Something going from liquid to solid (decreasing heat) is said to be freezing.
3) Something going from liquid to gas (increasing heat) is said to be either boiling or evaporating.
4) Something going from gas to liquid (decreasing heat) is said to be condensing.
5)Something going from solid straight to gas (increasing heat, skipping the liquid stage) is said to be sublimating.
6) Something going from gas straight to solid (decreasing heat, skipping the liquid stage) is said to be deposing.

Lesson 2- 4:

Students investigate the relationship between mass, volume, and density. They determine that the density of a pure substance remains constant regardless of the quantity of the substance. They make measurements and use math to calculate the approximate density of solids, liquids, and air. They also use density to predict the behavior of solids and liquids in a density column they make. Characteristic properties of matter are introduced. Labs include: Density of Regularly-Shaped Solids, Irregularly-Shaped Solids, Density of Liquids, and Density of Gases. To find density, students must get the mass and the volume of the objects (solids, liquids, and gases). Volume can be found by multiplying the length times the width times the height or by using a graduated cylinder- (depending on the objects state of matter). In our lab, volume will be measured in units of cubic centimeters- (cm3) with a ruler, or milliliters- (ml) with a graduated cylinder. Mass is measured in grams- (g) on an electronic scale or balance. Density is found by dividing mass over volume- grams per centimeter cubed or grams per milliliter- (g/cm3 or g/ml).

Determining Density:

Lab 2.1:

In this lab, we determined the procedure to find the mass of 50 ml of water as a class discussion and lab:

1) Mass an empty graduated cylinder and record
2) Fill the graduated cylinder with 50 ml of water, mass, and record
3) Subtract the empty container out of the equation and record the mass of 50 ml of water (in grams!)

We then applied the same procedure to 25 ml of water. After finding the mass and realized that the volume was already done- 25 ml or 50 ml, we calculated the density of water (mass over volume) as 1 g/ml. The class then went through the questions under data table 1 as they realized that is doesn't matter if you have 1 ml of water or 1,000 ml of water (which would be 1 liter!!!), the density is still the same. By changing the volume, you don't change the mass of 1 ml of water!

Lab 2.2:

Density of Regularly-Shaped Objects:

In the lab, students measured the length, width, and height (in centimeters) of 4 objects. From this data, they calculated the volume by multiplying the 3 measurements together (cm3). Students then found the mass of each of the 4 objects by massing them on the scale (grams). After finding the volume and mass, students took the mass over the volume to find the density (g/cm3). They answered the questions by realizing that the different substances have different densities. They also figured out that density could be used to identify what an object is made of. (density is a characteristic property). The following is a sample of the data collected. Measurements can be slightly different depending on which scale was used and how precise the measurement was.

Plastic block Volume 50cm3 Mass 49 g Density 0.98 g/cm3
Wax block Volume 46cm3 Mass 46g Density 0.89 g/cm3
Clear block Volume 20cm3 Mass 24 g Density 1.2 g/cm3
Aluminum block Volume 8 cm3 Mass 21 g Density 2.6g/cm3

Density of Irregularly-Shaped Objects:

In the lab, students drew a picture of how to calculate the density of 3 objects- a copper cylinder, galvanized screw, and a black spacer. The class figured out that water displacement was the best way to find the volume of irregularly-shaped objects by placing them in a graduated cylinder which already has water in it to measure how many milliliters the water goes up when the object goes in. Massing the objects is done like the others- on a scale (g). The density can then be calculated with the formula- g/ml. (remember 1 ml = 1 cm3)

Black Spacer: Volume 4 ml Mass 6.4 g Density 1.6g/ml
Galvanized Screw: Volume 9 ml Mass 56.5 g Density 6.3g/ml
Copper Cylinder: Volume 6 ml Mass 55.5 g Density 9.3g/ml

Students discovered that non of the solids were made out of the same substances because they all had different densities. They also compared the densities of the solids with the density of water- some had a higher density and some had a lower density than water.

Mass or Weight? Article:
We read this article in class, learning that weight is really the measure of the force of gravitational pull on an object from Earth- the weight of anything would be different if we went to the moon or another planet. Mass, on the other hand, is the amount a material in the object, so that never changes, no matter where you are in the universe!

Reflection Questions posed include definitions of mass, volume, density, and the units used for all 3. Mass is the amount of matter, volume is the amount of space something takes up, and density is how much matter there is divided by how much space that matter takes up. Mass is measured in our lab in units of grams, volume is cm3 or ml, and density is labeled with units of g/cm3 or g/ml.

Archimedes Article:
We read this article in class also and discovered the idea behind water displacement to find volume and then calculate volume is an old one. Archimedes was problem-solving to see if the King's crown was made of pure gold or if the jeweler mixed other, less expensive metals with the gold. His control for his experiment was a piece of pure gold with the same mass as the crown. He compared their individual volumes using water displacement and found that the crown was less dense because its volume was higher, so it was a fake!

Density as a Characteristic Property:

We read this article together and found that there are several characteristic properties of matter- one being density. We can identify an objects make-up by comparing its density to known densities.

Lab 3.1

Using Density to Make Predictions:
In Table 1, students wrote densities of solids found in Lab 2.2, then they predicted if those objects would float or sink in water. We tried each solid out to find out if they sank or float in water. Our results proved a relationship between density and floating and sinking in water- if the objects density is greater than 1, it will sink. If the objects density is less than 1, it will float.

In Table 2, as a class, students measured and calculated the density of vegetable oil and of corn syrup.

Vegetable Oil- Volume 25 ml Mass 20 g Density .8g/ml
Corn Syrup- Volume 25 ml Mass 30 g Density 1.2g/ml

Students then predicted what would happen if we put all 3 liquids in a large graduated cylinder together- and then we tried it out. The 3 liquids separated out to form layers with Corn Syrup on the bottom (most dense), water in the middle, and Vegetable Oil on the top (least dense).

The words IMMISCIBLE and MISCIBLE were introduced in this lab- immiscible means forms distinct layers and miscible means the liquids mix together!

Homework for Lesson/Lab 3:
There are 4 questions to answer at the end of Lab 3- The densities of 6 substances are listed on a table.
1) What is the mass of 1 cm3 of gold?
To solve this problem, think about how to find density- mass over volume = density, if density of gold is 19.3 and the volume is 1, then the mass has to be 19.3 grams.

2) What would be the mass of a piece of copper that had a volume of 10 cm3?
To solve this problem, think about how to find density- mass over volume = density, if the density of copper is 8.9 and the volume is 10, then the mass has to be 89 grams.

3) Mercury is a silver, shiny liquid at room temperature. It is used in some types of thermometers. Draw what you would observe if you placed blocks of aluminum, iron, lead, and gold into a pan of mercury.
The aluminum, lead, and iron would all float in the mercury. Those blocks have densities that are all less than mercury. The gold block would sink because its density is greater than mercury.

4) Describe how you could use a density column to separate mixtures of different solids. There are several ways to answer this question- one way is to have the solids of the same size in a tube (not full)- shake the tube- the least dense solids will come up to the top and the most dense will go to the bottom!

Take-Home Lab:

Students took home a test tube with a lid, instructions, and a baggy. Have fun investigating common household liquids by looking up their densities and making a density tube. We made large density tubes in class, now students can make small ones in their test tubes. Or students could make large ones too with a vase, bowl, etc. Take a photo and email to me or bring the tube into class (carefully!). I can't wait to see your creations!!!

Lab 4.1

Density of Air:

The class problem-solved how to find the density of air and decided on the following procedure (students wrote this down on their lab sheets):
Procedure for finding the density of air:
1. Mass the bottle, stopper, and air and record
2. Take out air with hand-pump vaccum and mass the bottle and stopper and record
3. Use water to find the amount of space the air takes up in the bottle- fill the bottle with water and add the stopper
4. Measure how many ml of water are in the bottle with a graduated cylinder and record
5. Divide the mass by volume to find the density of air and record

The class results were very close to the actual density of air, which is 0.001225g/ml!

Sources of error for this lab include how many times students pumped air out of the bottle and how accurately students measured the ml of water with the graduated cylinder.

Density Review for Composition Notebooks


Why Do Things Float- An Easy Lesson
Why Do Ships Float?
Interactive "Float or Sink" Density Practice
Density in the News?!
Density in the News Again!
7-Layer Density Tube
Density Review Video
Buoyancy and Density
Why Did the Titanic Sink?
Density of Gas- Chlorine
Mythbusters: Buoyancy

Definitions for Part 1 of Properties of Module
Study Guide for Properties of Matter Part 1
Vocabulary Properties of Matter Part 2
Properties of Matter Part 2

Lesson 5:

Students design, construct, and calibrate a liquid-filled thermometer. The class then tries to do the same with a gas-filled thermometer. Students then watch a bi-metal strip exposed to heat to see how different metals have various properties. They also have an opportunity to design a solid thermometer. Different styles are discussed with the class. Students conclude the lesson describing the effect of temperature on the volume of matter and relate that to the effect of temperature on the density of matter. Real-world examples are studied. These include engineering challenges in building the Alaska Pipeline, hot-air balloons, railroad tracks, roads, bridges, power lines, space shuttle tiles, composite materials, etc.

Building a Thermometer Lab

Getting Started-
this part of the lab allows students to become more familiar with thermometers. Thermometers measure the average kinetic energy of the molecules - heat energy will increase the average and the absence of heat energy will decrease the average. Most of the liquid in the thermometer is stored in the bottom called a bulb. This is the part of the thermometer that should be placed into the substance when you need to know the temperature of the substance. Thermometers will al have their own ranges, but the ones in our lab usually measure temperatures from -20 to 110 degrees Celsius. The units used are degrees Celsius for our labs. (some of the thermometers have Fahrenheit on one side and Celsius on the other) When you read a thermometer you should focus on the top part of the liquid to get an accurate temperature. In our lab, most of the thermometers have every 10 degrees numbered, with lines for every degree. (the 5th degree is usually longer) There are a few which indicate every 2 degrees with a line however, so make sure you always check before recording temperature. When you hold a thermometer with the bulb in your hand the red liquid will usually go up because your hands are warmer than the air. Room temperature of the air is around 20 degrees Celsius and your hands might bring the temperature of the thermometer up to around 30 degrees Celsius. If you hold the thermometer on the top part (opposite the bulb), the red liquid goes down, indicating the thermometer is now recording the temperature of the air again. The liquid moves up or down because when heat energy is added, the liquid's volume increases or it expands. When there is not as much heat energy, the liquid's volume goes down or it contracts.

Liquid Thermometer-
Students designed sketched their liquid thermometer before calibrating or putting a scale on it. To build their thermometers, student filled their test tubes half-way full of red water. Then they put the stopper on the top with the plastic tube already inserted into the stopper. The top of the red liquid is marked with a Sharpie as the room temperature mark. Students take the actual temperature of the red liquid as well and record in their lab at step A. They then put their thermometers in an ice water bath for 3 minutes before marking the red liquid line with a Sharpie. This is the ice water mark. Student record the actual temperature of the ice water bath on step C in their lab. Finally, the thermometer is placed in a hot water bath for 3 minutes (hotpot). Students mark the red liquid line after time is up- this is the hot water mark. The actual temperature is recorded for the hot water bath in the lab at step E.
At step G, students record the difference between the actual temperature of the hot water bath and the ice water bath. - they will use the difference between the actual room temperature and the actual ice water bath later in the lab too
Students measure and record the distance in millimeters (mm) between the ice water mark and the hot water mark on step H. Under that measurement, students measure and record the distance from the ice water mark to the room temperature mark in mm also.

For step I, students calibrate their thermometers. To do this, take a long strip of calculator paper- long enough to draw your thermometer. Make a straight line the length of the ice water mark to the hot water mark- usually between 500 and 600 mm. Using your distances (mm), label the ice water, room temperature, and the hot water marks on the paper strip. Also label the actual temperatures for the ice, room temperature, and the hot water. (students temperature data was around 0-5 degrees Celsius for the ice water bath, 19-22 degrees Celsius for the room temperature water bath, and 87-100 degrees Celsius for the hot water bath. To compare student thermometers with an actual thermometer, take the distance (mm) from the ice water bath mark on the calculator paper to the room temperature water bath divided by the difference in actual temperature of the room temperature water bath and the ice water bath. That number will be equal to the distance in mm on the calculator paper (which represents the student thermometer) equal to 1 degree Celsius. Multiply the number by the actual room temperature bath and that will give you the distance in mm from the ice water bath to the actual room temperature water bath- make a mark and you can see how close the mark is to your room temperature mark!

Gas Thermometer-
Students design and sketch their ideas from a gas thermometer. The real challenge is to think of a way to track the gas expansion and contraction as the gas is heated or cooled. Students do end up using a small amount of liquid to "see" the gas rising or sinking in the tube. Students quickly realize that the tube simply is not long enough to make an accurate gas thermometer- they also see that is responds to changes in temperature very quickly.
Gas thermometers are more sensitive to changes in temperature than liquid ones because the gas molecules start out farther apart and move faster when energy (heat) is added- so the volume of the gas increases, but the mass remains the same. This accounts for gas's low density. Liquid, however starts out with its molecules a little closer together and doesn't move quite as fast as gas molecules when heat is added. The volume of the liquid increases (not as much as the gas), but again the mass stays the same. This results in a lighter density when heat is added.

Heating the Metal Strip-
This demonstration illustrates the idea of thermal expansion/contraction. The strip of metal is actually a bimetal strip with one side expanding with heat and the other contracting. When the metal strip cools, it goes back to its original position.

Real-World Examples & Readings:

Lesson 6:
Students continue to explore the effect of temperature change and heat on matter by observing what happens when several substances are heated and the allowed to cool. Thermal expansion, contraction, chemical reaction, reactants, and products are introduced. Students are also introduced to Bunsen burners, alcohol burners, and safe heating techniques. Insulators are discussed and the pros and cons of asbestos is explored. Students design a device which will be the best insulator.

Lesson 7:
Students focus on the effect of changing temperature on water by measuring the temperature of ice as it is heated. They graph their results and use the curve they obtain together with their own observations to discuss how heat affects the temperature, phase changes, and melting and boiling points of water.

Lesson 8:
Phase change is also discussed in this lesson. Students predict the effects of melting and freezing on the mass of a sample of ice and water. They then discover that mass is conserved during phase change. They use their class results as the basis of a discussion on sources of experimental error. Students will use their understanding of sources of error when designing their experiments for the science fair also.

Lesson 9:
This lesson is the assessment for the first part of the module. It consists of a performance assessment and a written assessment. In the performance assessment, students measure the mass and volume of objects and figure their density. They also compare a mystery objects density with known density. By comparing this data, students can identify the substance from which the object is made. Most of the written part of this test requires students to apply their skills and knowledge to interpret data.

Real-World Applications for Engineering with Chemical Properties in mind!!!!!
Glory: The Rough Road to Space
Making Space Shuttle Tiles
Composite Materials for Space
Alaska Oil Pipeline
More information on the permafrost layer & global warming
Engineering Career
Pathways to Technology: Careers & Training
Strong & Light- New Metal!!!

What's The Temperature?...Does It Really Matter?
NOVAs Making Stuff Colder
Making Stuff Colder Discussion Questions
Discovery News: Nano-Kelvin Thermometer Raises the Accuracy Bar- video
Why- Tell Me Why? Discovery Video on Body Temperature
Frozen Wood Frogs

Nova's Making Stuff Smaller
Nova's Making Stuff Smarter
Nova's Making Stuff Stronger
Nova's Making Stuff Cleaner

Check out the latest in robotics, earthquake detection, cars, electric grid, & Nebraska native genetically altering
bacteria to produce malaria medicine, and the future of algae fuel!!!!
Nova Science Now: The Next Big Thing
NOVA: Hunting The Elements

This lesson is an introduction to the Anchor Activity. The project requires students to combine the knowledge they gain during the course of the module with information collected from texts and online. Over the course of the next few weeks, they develop a presentation relating to the function and history of a simple manufactured object to the properties of the materials used to make it.

Anchor Activity Requirements

How It's Made Video Clips:
Bicycle Chains

"Launching a satellite as complex as Swift takes hundreds and hundreds of people, and not just scientists and engineers, but business people, funders, and project managers, too. It can’t be done as a small enterprise. This video segment from Swift: Eyes through Time explains how cooperation is the core of modern science." Click on the link to find out more about the teamwork it takes to make this technology successful!

Swift Telescope
teamwork for Swift

Lesson 11:
Students focus on pure substances and mixtures. They explore properties of eight different samples of matter and identify criteria used to make determinations as to which category they put it in. Terms heterogeneous and homogeneous mixtures are introduced. There is a gradation from the obvious heterogeneous mixtures found in rocks (granite) to homogeneous mixtures (salt water) found in solutions.

Lesson 12:
Students study what happens when substances are mixed with water. New terms, solvent, solute, dissolving, solubility, soluble, and insoluble are explored. Students reach usable definitions for these in lab. Solutions are classified as gaseous, liquid, and solid solution. Real-world applications are studied including acid rain.

Lesson 13:
Students examine the concept of solubility more closely in this lab. They calculate the solubility of sodium chloride and sodium nitrate. Students make saturated solutions and observe how to make a super-saturated solution. Exothermic and endothermic reactions are compared and demonstrated in the lab. Real-world applications include cold and heat packs.

Lesson 14:
In this lesson, students look at what happens to the mass and volume when substances are in solution. They take a quantitative approach, using the concept of the conservation of mass and applying it to the process of dissolving a solute.

Lesson 15:
In this lesson, students apply their knowledge of the properties of solutions, solubility, and phase change to the separation of a mixture containing a soluble and an insoluble substance. They examine crystals before and after evaporation, and then learn how to filter solutions. The last lab of this lesson provides students an opportunity to to clean salt from a sample of raw rock salt. Real world applications included treating waste water, and desalination.

Waste Water Treatment Plant: "What Happens When You Flush?"
How Stuff Works: Dry Salt Mining & Desalination Plants

Lesson 16:
Students will investigate substances that do not dissolve in water. They may have encountered it when dealing with stain on their clothes. Lesson 16 deals with different solvents. Students design and conduct their own inquiry to determine the effectiveness of different solvents at removing stains. Students will create their own data table and scoring rubric.

Lesson 17:
Students learn that solutions can contains more than one solute. Chromatography is a process which can be used to analyze solutions that contain several solutes. In chromatography, the characteristic properties of each solute determine the way in which that solute separated from a mixture of solutes in a solution. In lab, students separate several solutes from a solution that contains a mixture of solutes and apply chromatography to perform a comparative analysis of solutions.

Lesson 18:
Students look into how the properties of a mixture differ from the properties of the individual components of the mixture. They investigate by changing the concentration of solutes and see how it affects the properties of the solutions. Solutions and other types of mixtures can have unique chemical and physical properties that are different from the properties of the individual substances from which they are made. Adding substances to a pure substance or changing the compostion of a mixture has technological applications. In lab, students will observe the effect of adding different quantities of salt to ice and boiling water and measuring the temperature changes. They will also determine the effect of concentration and composition on the melting point of a tin alloy. Finally, students will discuss the technological applications of mixing substances to produce new materials.

Secrets of the Samurai's Sword