« Return to AACT homepage

AACT Member-Only Content

You have to be an AACT member to access this content, but good news: anyone can join!


Need Help?

Crush's Dilemma (0 Favorites)

LAB in Observations, Density, Interdisciplinary, Scientific Method. Last updated November 5, 2018.


Summary

In this lab, students explore the concept of density. They will examine the density of a plastic sandwich bag compared to water. Students will create their own experiment and investigate factors that affect floating and sinking.

Grade Level

Middle or elementary school

Objectives

By the end of this lab, students should be able to

  • describe the factors that affect density.
  • explain density by particle proximity.
  • successfully design and carry out their own scientific investigation.

Chemistry Topics

  • Density
  • Observations

Time:

Teacher Preparation: 30 minutes

Lesson: 60 minutes

Materials

  • Water tanks (5 gallons) or small aquariums
  • Stop watches
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Coke and Diet Coke or golf ball and ping pong ball to show floating and sinking
  • Optional: Additional classroom materials or student materials from home may be used in Part 2 of the lab investigation.

Safety

  • Always wear safety goggles when handling chemicals in the lab.
  • Students should wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • When students complete the lab, instruct them how to clean up their materials and dispose of any chemicals.

Teacher Notes

  • I would do this lesson after Defining Density in the ACS Inquiry in Action Book.
  • According to mother nature network, sea turtles around the world are eating plastic at an unprecedented pace. This study reveals that some species are “downing twice as much as they did 25 years ago. This indigestible, potentially fatal diet is especially popular among young turtles in the open ocean, deepening concerns about the ancient animals long-term outlook.”
  • Other notable points from the research, “Plastic bags can bear a striking resemblance to jellyfish underwater, and scientists have long known they have a tendency to confuse hungry sea turtles. But the problem has exploded lately amid a historic surge in plastic pollution, which is forming giant oceanic "garbage patches" that are expected to continue growing for centuries. The new study is the first global analysis of the issue since 1985, covering more than a quarter century of research on green and leatherback sea turtles, both of which are endangered.”

Classroom Procedure
Students should use the student handout to answer questions and record results.

Part 1

  • Using the Coke and Diet Coke ask the students what they think will happen when the unopened cans are placed in the container of water. Will one float and one sink? Will both sink? Do the demo by putting the cans in the tanks of water. Why is there a difference between the two?
  • Students will watch this density animation. It is helpful to explain mass/volume and the common units for density g/ml.
  • After the pre-lab has been completed by the students, have a class discussion: Create two columns on the classroom board. In the first column write the density ideas from the students. In the second column write down what they think affects density (pre-lab question #3 a& b).
  • Now students will investigate “Flinking.” Flinking (make sure that students know this is not a proper scientific term, but a hybrid between the words “float” and “sinking”) is an object that doesn’t float or sink. Students will place their sandwich bag (opened) in the water and make sure to get any air out of the bag. When the bag is in the middle of the tank they will time how long it “flinks”. Make sure students are careful to not make a current with their hand.
  • Optional: Record the averages from each group on a classroom data table. Find the class average flinking time.

Part 2

  • Students should brainstorm how they can change the “flinking” time of the bag in the water. Record the ideas on the board. Students will choose an idea from the board or come up with a new idea to test (Depending on available time, teachers may want to have students test multiple ideas).
  • Students should complete part 2 of the lab handout while conducting their experiment.

Additional Extensions/Assessments

  • Ask students to bring in other cans of pop (soda) or other drinks to see if they float or sink. Create a chart with the can’s weight and volume and see if they can come up with an answer before they try to float or sink them. Write an investigation (lab report) with data table and graph.
  • Listen to questions the students may have about “Flinking” and create an activity to only change 1 variable to make comparisons. Have the students write an investigation (lab report) as an assessment. The investigation will include a data table and graph.
  • Create a Density Tower.
  • Ask students how can we save the sea turtles? Listen to and discuss their solutions.
  • Show the PhET simulation Balloons and Buoyancy.

For the Student

Background

Sea turtles around the world are eating plastic at an unprecedented pace, a new study reveals, with some species downing twice as much as they did 25 years ago. This indigestible, potentially fatal diet is especially popular among young turtles in the open ocean, deepening concerns about the ancient animals' long-term outlook.

Plastic bags can bear a striking resemblance to jellyfish underwater, and scientists have long known they have a tendency to confuse hungry sea turtles. But the problem has exploded lately amid a historic surge in plastic pollution, which is forming giant oceanic "garbage patches" that are expected to continue growing for centuries. The new study is the first global analysis of the issue since 1985, covering more than a quarter century of research on green and leatherback sea turtles, both of which are endangered.

For more information visit The Mother Nature Network.

Part 1
Prelab Questions

  1. You will watch a demonstration conducted by your teacher shortly. Before the demonstration make a hypothesis as to what will happen to each unopened can when placed in the water. Will one float? Sink? Etc.
  2. What actually happened during the demonstration? Why do you think this happened?
  3. You will now watch a short animation. After watching the animation, answer the following questions:
    1. What is density?
    2. What factors could affect the density of an object?

Objective

We will investigate the factors and characteristics that determine if an object will float or sink.

Materials

  • Water tanks (5 gallons) or small aquariums
  • Stop watches
  • Plastic sandwich bags

Safety

  • Always wear safety goggles when handling chemicals in the lab.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • Follow your teacher’s instructions for clean-up of materials.

Procedure

  1. Open a plastic sandwich bag.
  2. Carefully submerge it in the container of water, releasing all air bubbles.
  3. Release your hand from the bag when it is placed in the middle of the container (move your hand slowly to ensure you do not create a current).
  4. Start your timer, and watch the bag carefully. You will record the length of time that the bag “flinks” in the center of the container. Write this value in the data table.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for two additional trials.
  6. Calculate the average “flinking” time for your plastic bag.

Data

Trial # "Flinking" time (seconds)
1
2
3
Average

Conclusion

Write a sentence explaining your results and your observations when your sandwich bag was placed in the water.

Part 2:

Objective

You will investigate and test ways to change the flinking time of the plastic bag.

Prelab Questions

Make a list of possible ways to change the flinking time of the plastic bag. Identify which one of these options that you would like to test.

Materials

  • Water tanks (5 gallons) or small aquariums
  • Stop watches
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Assorted materials to change flinking time

Procedure

  1. Before testing your new flinking experiment, you need to describe the change you will make, make a hypothesis and justify it with an explanation and make a procedure for this experiment.
  • Description of change:

  • Hypothesis with explanation:

  • Procedure you will follow:

Data

Trial # "Flinking" time (seconds)
1
2
3
Average

Conclusion

  1. What conclusions about density and objects “flinking” ability can you make from this investigation? Be specific.
  2. What other question do you have after working on this investigation?
  3. How can we save the sea turtles from plastic bags? What is your solution?