Activities & Lessons
What better way to teach students about chemical reactions, the properties of matter, and other science topics than by having them participate in fun, collaborative hands-on activities?
Many students love this aspect of learning science. It can be an opportunity for them to work with their peers while learning something new—and best of all, it teaches them about the importance of closely following directions!
Check out these recipes for different solutions and materials across grade levels that you can use to teach K–12 science.
Daffy Dough (All Grades)
Playing with slimy materials is fun for all ages, and the science behind this chemical change is also instructive. Use this recipe to make your own Daffy Dough and discuss polymers in your class.
- Have each group of students stir 1/2 teaspoon of salt into 1/2 cup of liquid starch in a medium-sized container.
- Add to this 1/4 cup of white glue.
- Stir for 5 minutes.
- As this material starts to coalesce, have students knead it until it forms a ball.
- Squeeze out the excess liquid.
- If the mixture does not coalesce, add salt sparingly and continue to knead the dough.
Dough (All Grades)
Are your students studying specimens? Do you want to do imprints to take a closer look or extend the experiment without damaging the sample? Do you have an animal path nearby where you could collect paw print samples? Use this recipe for an inexpensive dough, and let your students do science just like real scientists!
- To prepare dough, combine 10 cups of flour, 2 1/2 cups of salt, and 4 1/2 cups of water.
- Mix thoroughly and knead to remove any lumps. Make six dough balls, wrap each in plastic, and store them in an airtight container.
Gelatin (Middle and High School)
What are colloids? Instead of giving your students a definition, use this recipe, let your students develop their own explanation, and model a colloid.
- Prepare gelatin by mixing the powder with hot water.
- Stir until the powder dissolves. Pour the solution into a clear, plastic bowl and place in a freezer overnight.
Goo (Elementary School)
If you are studying properties of matter with your students, a great phenomena that challenges students to define properties is goo! Use this recipe to get your students' hands into science!
- To make goo, put 1/2 cup of water into a cup and add 5 drops of food coloring.
- Sprinkle 2 packages of plain gelatin on the colored water.
- Let this sit for one minute. Then, stir the mixture for one minute to break up the lumps.
- Let the mixture sit for three hours so that it gels slightly.
Modeling Dough (All Grades)
With all of the activities that are engineering based under the NGSS, students need to be able to construct models and create 3D representations of their ideas. Whether your students need to make a model of a city, experiment with erosion protection, or work on an invention, they will love being able to make their own modeling dough. Use this simple recipe to get their hands dirty in the process!
- To prepare modeling dough, mix 1 1/2 cups of salt, 3 cups of flour, and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar in a large bowl.
- Add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Mix a few drops of food coloring in 2 3/4 cups of boiling water, and add this to the mixture.
- Mix until the color is uniform.
- Store dough in an airtight container.
Polymer (Middle and High School)
When just talking about polymerization isn't enough, use this recipe to get students actively involved in creating polymers!
- Solution A: Place about 1 L (1 quart) of water in a pan.
- Slowly sprinkle 40 g of poly (vinyl) alcohol on the water, while stirring.
- Heat this mixture (on a hot plate) to about 90°C.
- Do not boil it.
- Stir this mixture for about 20 minutes until it looks like white corn syrup.
- Cool and store in a plastic jar.
- Solution B: Dissolve 8 g of borax in about 200 mL of water.
- Stir until dissolved.
- Store in a plastic jar.
- To prepare the polymer, have the students place 30 mL of Solution A in a paper cup.
- Add to this 10 mL of Solution B.
- Stir with an ice-cream stick until a soft ball is formed.
- Remove the polymer ball from the cup and knead for about 5 minutes.
Super Starch (All Grades)
Super starch is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it doesn't follow Newton's laws of motion. But really, it's just a lot of fun to play around with—strike it hard, and it feels and behaves like a solid, but touch it gently, and it's a gooey liquid! Easy to create and easy to clean up—enjoy this recipe, which makes enough Super Starch for six groups of students!
- Mix 4 boxes of cornstarch with 6 3/4 cups of water.
- Add 15 drops of food coloring if desired.
- Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
- For easy clean up, let the material dry and wipe up with a moist cloth.
Learn more about HMH's K–12 science programs, which are designed to encourage student-directed learning and deeper understanding of concepts.
*Next Generation Science Standards and logo are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and they do not endorse it.