Synthetic Materials Through History Mark as Favorite (2 Favorites)

LESSON PLAN in Interdisciplinary, History, Polymers, Polymers, Condensation, Monomer, Monomer, Alloys, ACS National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program. Last updated September 01, 2023.


In this lesson, students will learn about the history of synthesized materials through reading an article. There are a series of activities to help promote literacy in the science classroom related to the reading. This lesson could be easily used as plans for a substitute teacher, as most of the activities are self-guided.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

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

  • HS-PS2-6: Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
  • HS-ETS1-1: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
  • HS-ETS1-2: Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into small, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Developing and Using Models
    • Asking Questions and Defining Problems


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Understand there is an abundance of polymers all around us.
  • Realize some polymers are natural and some are synthetic.
  • Comprehend the evolution of materials through time.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • Molecules
  • Bonding
  • Polymers
  • Monomers
  • Alloys
  • Plastics
  • Chemical Reactions


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes
Lesson: Approximate times for students to complete each activity in the lesson:

  • Anticipation Guide: 10 minutes
  • Reading: 20 minutes
  • Recognizing Polymers: 10–20 minutes
  • A Timeline of Development: 10–15 minutes
  • Building Polymers: 25–30 minutes


  • Reading document and desired handouts to accompany the reading.


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

Teacher Notes


Lesson Overview:

The lesson includes multiple components as outlined individually below. The Reading is essential for all of the activities. Teachers can choose to do one or all of the included activities. Student handouts and corresponding answer keys are provided for each item described below:

  • Activity: Anticipation Guide
    • Have students identify whether they agree or disagree with the ten statements. After they complete the reading, they can adjust their answers and rephrase “disagree” statements so they read true.
  • Reading: Synthetic Materials Through Time
  • Activity: Recognizing Polymers
    • Students explore beliefs about what polymers are using familiar examples. Learn that polymers, both natural and man-made, are everywhere.
  • Activity: A Timeline of Development
    • Place the various material developments on a timeline to give some perspective of how long ago various technologies came into existence.
  • Activity: Building Polymers
    • Students gain an idea of what some monomer subunits actually look like and how they bond together chemically.