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ACTIVITY in Physical Properties, Chemical Properties. Last updated January 29, 2024.


In this activity, students will analyze several scenarios in order to better understand and apply their knowledge of physical and chemical properties.

Grade Level

Elementary School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • K-2-ETS1-1: Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


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

  • Define physical and chemical properties and explain the meaning of: acidity, absorption, and oxidation.
  • Analyze various scientific scenarios in order to understand and apply knowledge of physical and chemical properties.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of

  • Physical Properties
  • Chemical Properties
  • Acids & Bases


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes

Lesson: 1 hour


  • Student worksheet (can be printed, or used digitally)
  • Chart paper for review
  • Student laptops/Chromebook to access Internet
  • Lemon (for demonstration purposes)
  • Sponges or paper towels (for demonstration purposes)
  • A rusty object (for demonstration purposes)


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This activity assumes that students have a prior knowledge of acidity, absorption, and oxidation. Teacher should do a mini-lesson to review the topics before students complete an independent activity. Some ideas for a mini-lesson could include: anchor chart, flashcards, foldable, or carousel.
  • Review the topics below. This information is provided for teacher background. Create an anchor chart appropriate to the level of your students to post in the classroom.
Topic Explanation Examples
Physical property Physical properties can be observed or measured without changing the composition of matter. Physical properties are used to observe and describe matter. No new substance is formed during a physical change. appearance, texture, color, odor, mass, volume, density
Chemical property A chemical property is a property that describes how a substance interacts with other substances. During a chemical change, a new substance is formed. oxidation, ability to burn, tarnishing.Examples of other chemical changes would be rotting.
Acidity Acidity is a chemical property. Acids and bases are two kinds of chemicals. If a liquid has more hydroxide, it is a base.If it has more hydrogen ions, it is an acid.Scientists determine how acidic or basic things are by assigning them a number on a pH scale. Acids have a sour taste and can dissolve many materials.Bases have a bitter taste and tend to be slimy or slippery.They can break down dirt and plaque by forming hydroxide bubbles. Acids: Citric acid, vinegar, battery

Bases: soaps, dishwashing liquids, detergents, bleachers, baking soda
Absorption Absorption is a physical property of matter. If a towel is thicker, it has more fibers to absorb water with.Paper towels and tissues are made of cellulose which also absorbs water.Terry cloth is made of cotton and also contains cellulose. Terry cloth, cotton, paper towels, sponges
Oxidation Oxidation is a chemical change that commonly occurs when iron reacts with oxygen, forming rust. Rust is a reddish-brown substance called iron oxide. Water and Salt can increase the speed of the rusting process of iron.
  • After the mini lesson, students should be able to answer the background knowledge questions independently. The teacher should review the background knowledge questions as an informal form of assessment before having students continue with the activity.
  • Teacher will distribute the student worksheets and explain to students that they will be researching 3 topics to solve problems in our class and in the school yard.
  • Students will do independent research online. You may provide them with the recommended links below. If technology is not available, students can use classroom printed resources.
  • Differentiation: You may choose to have students work in partners or in a small teacher led group to conduct research. Teacher can choose to provide specific websites for students (examples below) or assist them in identifying keywords for research.
  • Recommended websites for student research:

For the Student


Background Questions

  1. How are acids and bases different?
  2. What does “absorbent” mean?
  3. What materials can speed up the process of oxidation (which results in rust)?


You walk into your science classroom on a Monday morning and notice some strange things happening! Solve the following problems using your knowledge of physical and chemical properties, as well as any resources your teacher allows (either online research or classroom materials).


  • Read each scenario below.
  • For each scenario, use your prior knowledge as well as to conduct research in order to answer the questions and provide a solution to the problem. There may be more than one right answer!

Scenario 1

In the back of the room, there is a cleaning bucket next to the sink with three lemons inside of it. The sink has some soap scum buildup and other dirt inside of it. Research lemons and acidity to answer the following questions.

  1. What are 3 uses of lemons (besides food/drink)?
  2. What materials/objects can lemons be used to clean?
  3. What can lemons NOT be used to clean?
  4. Can the lemons be used to clean the sink? Why or why not?

Scenario 2

You see that next to your teacher’s desk, water has spilled onto the floor. There is a sponge, two sheets of paper towels, wax paper, and a piece of Styrofoam on the desk. Research absorption to answer the following questions to help you decide which material would clean up the spill the most quickly.

  1. What makes a material more absorbent than another?
  2. What is found inside paper towels and tissues that helps them to be absorbent?
  3. You can only use one material to clean up the spill. Which material do you think would clean it up the most quickly? What evidence can you use to support this claim?

Scenario 3

You look out the window and notice that the basketball hoop has an orangey/brown substance on it. Research rust and oxidation to answer the following questions.

  1. What is on the basketball hoop?
  2. How did it get there?
  3. What are two things that can be used to prevent oxidation from occurring?
  4. Your principal decides to buy a new basketball hoop. What could you do in order to prevent the hoop from rusting? What evidence can you use to support this claim?