the Matter with My Jell-O?
I chose this inquiry because I needed something short and fun for my kids to do during proficiency week. I loved it! They loved it! It was great! We ran into a couple of problems, though. We got through the preliminary discussion/mini-lesson, filled out the think sheet, and prepared the Jell-O control and treatment. But then we ran out of time. I had set aside 2 hours, but third graders are pretty slow when it comes to measuring and filling out paperwork. Therefore, we were unable to do the testing during the refrigeration process, which really messed up a big portion of the lesson. But, next year, I will have a better gauge of time and will be more successful. The salt treatment presented another problem. I think we needed to add more salt, because 3 of 4 treatment cups solidified. I think that the sugar and salt need to be increased to 10 mL. I did not feel the need to modify the lesson at all. It is very age appropriate for third grade. Because of our timing and salt problems, my students are unable to answer all of the questions on the proficiency style assessment. Therefore, I modified the questions on it to fit our lesson. I also included a question about estimating liquid volume with pictures of bottles of liquid (I had to draw in the amounts of liquid). I have attached my modified proficiency assessment to this email as well as some pictures of students at work. My students did really well on this inquiry. I feel that they learned a lot and reinforced previously taught material. Next year, I will spend more time on the measurement aspects before and during the inquiry. This is an inquiry that I will definitely do again.
Tara J. Lawson
Thank you, Tara, for the suggestion on increasing the salt. I will make this change in the Lesson. Thanks also for the photos and modified Proficiency Assessment for third graders. Other teachers will benefit from your sharing.
The main reason I chose this inquiry is because it involved different variables. Earlier this year, our class did some investigations using the scientific method, which focused on the importance of independent and dependent variables. Our current unit of study is simple machines. I find it more difficult to do inquiries with this unit. I was concerned that we were getting away from inquiry science and designing experiments. The Jell-O activity seemed an easy way to refer back to and reinforce the concepts we learned earlier this year.
What Did I Like
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What Would I Change
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I chose this inquiry because we have had so much snow this year in our area. The students were interested in it and how we got rid of the all snow that was mounting daily. I only have my students for 48 minute periods each day, so I had to ask my team of teachers to help me flex the schedule to have the students for the extended amount of time necessary. This inquiry showed the students how the temperature needed to be a certain degree for the salt to work. They really were interested in the process of the lab and the findings of the experiment. The students were excited to hear that they were allowed to eat the lab at the end. This made their interest peek in the lab more than other labs this year. I made up a batch of "regular" Jell-O because with the control cups being used so much by the students I did not feel the experimental cups were very safe and sanitary to eat out of. In the future, when doing this experiment I would definitely plan on having parent help those days. This is a cumbersome lab, but very worthwhile.
I chose this activity to do in the days right before break. It was a good activity to review some concepts that were learned earlier in the year and to practice scientific procedures. I liked that this activity was high interest and gave a concrete explanation as to why the roads are salted in the winter time. The only thing I would have preferred is a little more of an explanation on the teacher pages on what was supposed to be done with the melting of the Jell-O. I was a little confused, but worked through it with the class. During the activity it made sense what to do, but if I were to give this to someone else I would explain a little more. This was a nice short activity for those days in between units.
I chose this inquiry while we were studying states of matter. We then went into chemical and physical change. It tied in nicely to both our curriculum topics. More than this, I discovered a true weakness in my students' observation and hypothesis writing that was easily missed with our book experiments. It provided me with a wake up call to pay closer attention to the experiments I chose, what I can do to enrich these learning experiences, and to make sure I am incorporating terms such as "control" and "treatment". I liked my students enthusiasm! I liked the data I gathered from their lack of data! The Jell-O was, of course, a huge hit! The supplies were very reasonable to purchase. The process and outcomes well worth the time put into preparing and exploring the concepts outlined. Another HUGE discovery was that "freezing points" don't have to be cold! (We applied this to metals, since we had been studying the peridic table.) I changed the lesson by dividing up the time blocks to accommodate our team's 50 minute instructional blocks. Although it worked reasonably successfully, I felt the time crunch 3 times (I have 3 science classes) in one day raised my anxiety level, and perhaps led to a rushed, limited data gathering time block on the first day's worksheet...Next time I will know to make the time for sharing of observations, and model some additional language to describe the Jell-O... I set up with my math teacher to allow them 5-10 minutes to do the second data gathering experience at the end of her class. In exchange, I offered the last 10 min of the next day for students to finish up math...she was very accommodating. Science and math are hand in hand anyway!...This experience was a wonderful transition between my states of matter review from 5th grade, into the chemical/physical changes unit. Thanks! I learned a lot about my students and their needs while having a great time with this quality lesson.
I picked this inquiry because it was a part of physical science that I had not already covered this year. I thought I could get all the supplies. So in other words, it was doable. I also thought the students would really like it. Food is always a hit. I also liked that it was a nice compact study on phase change... I like that the tests done on the Jell-O were very simple. Every kid, no matter what their level, could use the straw and understand how to find density and pressure. It was convenient to let each kid have his/her own set of Jell-O cups to investigate with. The concepts were easy for the students to understand because of the way they were written on the Thinksheet and Data Sheet. I would provide an extra box of Jell-O to be made up if a cup or two get spilled. I also had a couple of groups run a little short on Jell-O to put in their cups, so an extra batch might be helpful to fill in where needed. Something I did that worked well with my class was to draw the control and treatment chart from the Data Sheet on poster board. I put each treatment on a separate piece of poster board. We used them on the second day after the students had already filled out their own individual Data Sheets. Then I had all the kids that did the styrofoam treatment work together to fill out the poster board chart, and all the kids that did the salt treatment work together, etc. This helped stop kids from making up their own data and they could verify what happened with each other... I am going into a reading theme called The Balance of Nature. I think the discussion and possible research that comes from the impact of salt on roadways on the environment will tie in nicely. I liked the activity. So did the students. They could handle it. I also shared it with a fourth through sixth grade science teacher. She came and observed the lesson in part. She was impressed with the printout of the activity, especially enjoying the list of Ohio Proficiency Outcomes. Now that I have gathered the supplies, we can transfer them to her room, should she choose to do the inquiry.
My students loved learning about phase change and density with this unique Jell-O activity. I found that it helps to provide each team with a sponge at clean-up time.
We chose this inquiry because we felt that it would be a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the second grade on an exciting science investigation. The inquiry coincided with lessons about matter that the students were already studying in their science textbooks. They have already conducted experiments identifying physical and chemical changes. We had only touched on density so this was a good way to get more from the lessons. We liked the engagement of the students throughout the inquiry. Students were continuously discussing and exploring the properties of matter as demonstrated through their Jell-O. They were so engrossed that downtime was very minimal and their attention to their exploration was great. We decided to change the end of the inquiry by making new Jell-O for the students to eat. We felt that it would be confusing to the students if we allowed them to eat part of this science experiment because the food was not properly stored in the refrigerator in a manner consistent with a sterile environment. Therefore, we made new Jell-O cups for the students to eat after we finished our investigation. For second grade we thought it would be a good idea to modify the Data Sheet with control and treatment boxes. They needed something a little more concrete to describe their observations. This worked out so well that we modified this for use with the fifth grade also. They were able to readily describe their phase changes using that terminology and had a place to record their observation. Overall this was a great inquiry. We had great cooperation from the cafeteria staff as well as help from the special-ed teacher, principal and second grade aide. This was a great way to work cooperatively with two grade levels and pull all our resources to benefit more students.
My third grade students thought What's the Matter with My Jell-O was a really fun experiment. We began by reviewing all necessary vocabulary first and talked about the phase changes of water and where they had observed it in their every day lives. Then we reviewed the Scientific Method, controls and variables, and developed an experiment to measure the temperature change of 50 ml. of water when you add one ice cube. The next day we moved to the teachers' lounge in order to have immediate access to a refrigerator and microwave for the What's the Matter With My Jell-O lessons. (The students thought working in the lounge was a treat in and of itself!) The Thinksheets and teacher directions were very clear and easy to use. These lessons were a success. I left one cup of Jell-O sit in the room for the next few days. The students checked it each day and it kept discussion and interest going days beyond the lessons.
I chose this inquiry because it goes along with our third grade curriculum. One objective is that students need to be able to distinguish between solids, liquids, gases, as well as between chemical and physical changes. I did this activity as a precursor to our Matter Unit. There are many things I like about this inquiry. One being that it raises students' enthusiasm and interest level because they will get to make and eat Jell-O. Another is students will compare their test Jell-O to a control Jell-O, exactly how a "lab scientist" would design and implement. Moreover, it requires students to utilize a multitude of science, reading, and math skills, such as measuring accurately, observing, hypothesizing, following a "recipe", and generating conclusions... If I were to do this inquiry again, I would give my students a few specific questions to answer to help them realize what they know about the test objects (i.e., salt, sugar, Styrofoam, room temperature), and Jell-O (especially for Styrofoam and room temperature). Those two things were extremely difficult for my students to write about. I also would do this background building section in the classroom before moving into a cafetorium (where we had to make our Jell-O), which due to its size made it difficult to hear each other in a discussion. Another thing I would change, is adding more than 5 ml of salt and sugar to our test Jell-Os. For some reason, two of our salt Jell-Os did change to a solid. My only guess as to why that occurred was inaccurate measurement of either the salt or the Jell-O put into the cups. I believe that more than 50ml of Jell-O was put into the cups, and possibly less than 5mL of salt, although my students say they measured precisely. I think they were more interested in how much Jell-O they'd get to eat. If more salt is added, then my assumption is that even with a slight inaccurate measurement, the phase change will not occur. As we come to in our curriculum the unit dealing with phase changes, and chemical versus physical changes, I plan on tying in our Jell-O inquiry and what we discovered more concretely.
I chose this inquiry to expose my students more to a physical science concept. It was definitely a plus that my students were going to eat something when we were finished. They were excited to learn why salt is used on snowy roads. We did this inquiry in the cafeteria to be close to all of the things I needed access to for the experiment.