Name of Activity



Esha John (Created by Mike Motola Barnes, Andrea Dwyer)


matter, states of matter, experiment, viscosity, molecular structure, newtonian fluids, solid, liquid, gas, non-newtonian fluid, 1 Hour Total



Grade Level

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+


1 Hour Total

Brief Description

Exploring the different states of matter and experimenting with objects that are in

between states of matter.

Lesson Objectives:

Explain the differences between the different states of matter. Depending on the grade level the activity can be used to explain concepts of viscosity, molecular structure and newtonian and non newtonian fluids.

Materials Needed:

Each group will need

-Plastic cup w/1.5 cups cornstarch

-Plastic cup w/1 cup of water (not yet filled)

-Styrofoam plate and plastic spoon

-Several paper towels

– 2x Recycling bin (or otherwise) to hold water, in lieu of a sink

Preparation and Set Up:

Divide students into groups.

Divide up materials to give to each group.

Necessary Background

The teacher should be familiar with all the vocabulary terms as well as know the

basic differences between the states of matter

-Solid: fixed volume and shape (low energy)

-Liquid: fixed volume, variable shape (high energy)

-Gas: variable volume and shape (very high energy)

Knowledge of Molecular structure in different states maybe necessary for older



Viscosity – how much a fluid resists flowing (high = thick, low = thin)

Newtonian Fluid – viscosity stays the same (flow is directly proportional to pressure)

Non-Newtonian Fluid – viscosity changes with different amounts of force/pressure


 Talk about states of matter:

-solid:  fixed volume and shape (low energy)

-liquid: fixed volume, variable shape (high energy)

-gas: variable volume and shape (very high energy)

Briefly discuss molecular structure (in terms of energy).

Other terms:

Viscosity – how much a fluid resists flowing (high = thick, low = thin)

Newtonian Fluid – viscosity stays the same (flow is directly proportional to pressure)

Non-Newtonian Fluid – viscosity changes with different amounts of force/pressure

2. Discuss some examples of things that aren’t clearly solid/liquid/gas. Jello or pudding (solid+liquid); shaving-cream/foam (liquid+gas); play-dough (solid+liquid). These are mixtures of more than one matter state. A key process involved here is dissolving: the substance (such as salt) that dissolves breaks up, and may become invisible, but is still present!!

3. Talk about suspensions. Goop is a suspension of cornstarch in water. The cornstarch molecules are sticky, so they don’t slide over each other as easily as water molecules. Pass out worksheets and materials

4. Add about 2 parts of water to 3 parts of corn starch and mix well with a spoon until all the corn starch is dissolved. Alternatively you can pour water into the cornstarch while constantly mixing with a spoon. Stop as soon as all the corn starch is dissolved.


Poke with fingers: Poke it as hard as you can. How fast can you poke it without making it solid?

Roll into a ball: Pick up and roll between fingers. How long can you hold it like that? How big of a ball can you make?

Mix w/ fingers/spoon: How does it feel when you go fast? Slow? Hold the cup in place and pull the spoon out. Try to do it really fast. What happened?

6.  After the completion of the activity don’t let them wash it down the drain (get them to wipe their hands off before they go to the bathroom)

Reference 1

1 comment on this post.
  1. Keren A. Hendel:

    We did this activity with Ms. Dipersio’s 4th grade classroom. We used plastic bags instead of cups and provided each group with a larger amount of cornstarch and water. We had the kids keep track of the ratio of spoonfuls of cornstarch and water they were adding in order to test for the best ratio to get the perfect consistency where the substance was hard when pressed, but liquid otherwise. The students found the activity fun and engaging and allowed us to discuss both states of matter and ratios. It was important that the students had a basic idea of what a ratio or fraction was before they began.

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