Currently viewing the category: "Grade 4"

Name of Activity

Paper Chromatography




chemistry, testing, chromatography, polarity, solvent



Grade Level

4, 5


1 Hour

Brief Description

Students will use chromatography techniques to identify the writer of a secret note. One suspect is a computer scientist notorious for writing on whiteboards with Expo markers and the other is a ecologist notorious for labeling sample bottles with Sharpie markers.

Be sure to check with your teacher before bringing acetone into the classroom!!

Learning Goals:

introduce students to chromatography and chemical engineering


paper cups – 2 per group (NOT POLYSTYRENE!) + extra for mess ups

strips of coffee filter paper (4 strips per group)+ extra for mess ups

One sharpie marker

One expo marker




Cut coffee filter paper into strips

Knowledge Background

Knowledge of the properties of water and acetone, knowledge of polar vs non polar and its influence on the results


1. Introduce the problem (identifying the writer of the note) and brainstorm possible solutions. The solution we will be using today is testing the ink to see what type it is.

2. Split the students into groups (pairs ideally). Distribute the cups and filter paper.

3. Demonstrate how to label the filter paper and make sure every student does it right. Each paper should be labeled either SW, SA, EW, or EA, for sharpie-water, sharpie-acetone, expo-water, expo-acetone.

4. Have one person in the group take the sharpie filter papers and get them dotted with a sharpie marker from a teacher, and another person get the expo filter papers dotted with acetone.

5. Before distributing the water, instruct the students to dip only the water filter papers in the cup and to make sure the dot of ink doesn’t go below water level. Once you fill one of their two cups with about 1 centimeter of water, have them hold the paper until the ink stops traveling up the page or after about a minute. Have the students record the results.

6. Discuss the results and if any changes  occurred, and have the students suggest improvements to the test that would allow for better results. Go over the properties of acetone and water and their polarity and why changing the solvent might lead to better results.

7. Repeat step 5 with acetone, but before distributing the acetone, make it clear that acetone they should not put acetone in their mouths or inhale it directly, and that if anyone feels nauseous that they should tell you right away.

8. Compare the results with acetone from the results with water. Discuss why they might be different.

9. Cut off a strip of the note so that a bit of ink is near the bottom. Conduct step 5 with the note in front of the class. Observe the results and have the class make a conclusion about who wrote the note, based on their previous results. Talk about why testing is an important part of the redesign process, and what they could do to improve the test.


Adding extra solvents to test or extra markers as a challenge.


Using vinegar instead of acetone, or different markers (but make sure to test the markers with the solvents beforehand)

Name of Activity

Living in Material World


Eleanor Richard Eva Philip


Materials, Sturdy Structures, Preparation for Project



Grade Level

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Less than 1 Hour, 1 Hour

Brief Description

In this activity explores the importance of materials in engineering and allows students to generate their own knowledge about what materials they should use for what purposes.

Learning Goals:

– Understand that different materials are useful for different purposes

– Explore how the type of material affects how and for what purpose a project functions

– See one object from multiple perspectives by determining both deficits and positives of the same object

– Test and explore multiple materials

– Determine what the goals of your project are and what the best materials are to fit those goals

– Collect information from a test

– Make conclusion based on data

– Use information and data gathered in a test to inform a design

– Make a design and plan for a future project consider which materials are best suited


– tape (duck, masking, scotch) – string

– straws (paper or plastic)

– tooth picks

– Popsicle sticks – glue

– spaghetti

– pipe clears

– cardboard

– paperclips

– paper

– foam core (poster board) – wooden dowels

– plastic utensils – coffee filters

– yarn

– q-tips

– paper cups

– plastic cups

– styrofoam cups – felt fabric

– cotton balls

– scissors


Copy the work for the class

Gather all the materials needed

Knowledge Background

Importance of Materials:


– Introduced the idea of materials.  Sometimes you have a budget for a product so you can’t have the most ideal materials.  Discuss how all materials have strengths and weaknesses and deciding on your materials for a project is a balance.

– The classroom split into groups and each group was given a worksheet.  They were required to take 5 of the materials from a table in the back and record their strengths and weaknesses.  Every group had to create their own physical test for at least one material (i.e. baring, elasticity) and explain the how they went about their test.

– The groups then used their knowledge from their observations to design a first sketch of their model house.

– The classroom came together at the end and individuals shared the strengths and weakness of some materials and how they came to that conclusion.



This can activity is a great preparation for any bigger project, and always students to plan and design with more thought and consideration.

Reference 1

Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable)

Smart Houses

Tufts Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program • 200 Boston Ave. • Suite G810 • Medford, MA • 617-627-5888

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