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5 Phenomenal Ways to Tackle Chemistry in the Classroom

Hello STEM and Science Friends! Are you ready for “What’s Going on in the Lab?”
I was scrolling through old blog posts a few days ago and came across the original version of this post – which made me revisit this product in my TpT store…. and oh my!
Two things:
1. It’s such a fabulous study!
2. Boy, did I need to update that product!
So, here we go with five classroom events that will teach your kids about chemical changes and keep them engaged! (And that’s pretty phenomenal!)
Chemical Changes in the Lab with elementary Students! Lessons, photos, hints about lab coats, sources for products, and more! Check this blog post!
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So, let’s first talk about how spectacular this set of lessons is and what fun we had with it in the lab!
Chemical changes with elementary students! Kids mix vinegar and baking soda to see what happens! Check this blog post for details!
It starts with a quick little experiment to introduce or review chemical changes. I am sure you know that baking soda and vinegar have quite a fizzing-popping-expanding reaction when mixed and many of your students also might know this. It is still just fun to see them dump baking soda in the bottle and see what happens. The lab sheet we complete about this has the kids predicting, writing, drawing, and then describing the science behind this chemical reaction.
Chemical changes: Kids love wearing lab coats during this study! Check the blog post for details!

And, just because it is so much fun, here’s a fantastic idea for your science class. Notice the kids in the photos above have on white lab coats! Well, these are so easy to make. Grab a package of boys’ extra large t-shirts, lay the shirt flat, and cut right up the center of the front of the shirt, and bam! -you have a lab coat. To make this even more fun I make a name tag for each student with labels like this: Dr. Smith, Dr. Jones, etc. These slide into plastic badge holders they clip to their lab coats! And if you really want your kids to enjoy this call them by that name!
Third graders LOVE this! (BTW, I also have some lab coats made from adult t-shirts for those students that need the larger size!)
Chemical changes: Vocabulary sorting to determine the difference between physical and chemical changes! Check this blog post for details!
The next lesson involves examining physical and chemical changes and learning how to tell them apart. Kids complete a little sorting activity and then add those sorts to their lab sheet or notebook. This seems like such an easy sort, but the kids typically miss a few of these. They really don’t know what “rust” is and maybe don’t understand why an apple turns brown. So, the discussion is really eye-opening.
Chemical Changes: Kids are testing powders to see which react to vinegar! Check this blog post for details!
Next, we take a close look at 6 powders. The powders are all somewhat similar in color and texture, with some differences. The main difference being that one of the powders will react to vinegar and the others will not. Kids drop little drops on the powders and record what happens. This leads to another great discussion of why some of the powders don’t react.

Chemical Changes: Kids are testing powders to see which react to vinegar! Check this blog post for details!
Above, you can see a student stirring the powder trying to make it dissolve. This is another great point of learning- stirring makes dissolving faster! And even better, we use a different toothpick for each powder! Do you know why?
(Contamination from one powder to another! This is a variable in the experiment that we control by using different toothpicks.)
Chemical Changes: Getting ready for Elephant Toothpaste! Check this blog post for details!
The best demonstration of a chemical reaction ever is called Elephant Toothpaste. The reaction is immediate and amazing. Kids love it and I usually have to repeat it so they can see it again.

Chemical Changes: It's Elephant Toothpaste! Check this blog post for details!
It’s a little messy, but the kids can see a different reaction. This demonstration is followed by another card sort. This one involves situation cards where the kids have to read about something that has happened and decide if it is a chemical or physical change. To extend this one and further assess their learning I have the kids work as partners and write their own situation. Here’s the one that perplexed us: “Your dog is sick and dies in your backyard. After a few days you check on the body and notice what is happening to it. Is this a physical or chemical change?”
Yes, third graders wrote that and we had a lively discussion of which type of change it is. Kids wanted to believe that it is physical because even though the dog is dead it is still a dog. True, but the decaying process is a chemical change!
Chemical Changes: Can students use what they have learned about chemical and physical changes to decide what happens with Instant Snow? Check this blog post for details!
Finally, we culminate this study with Instant Snow. In this activity each student has his or her own cups to mix and the resulting “snow” is just cool to watch. Kids have to write whether the change in the snow is chemical or physical and give reasons for their thinking. I love reading what they have to say about this.
So, where can you buy Instant Snow?
It’s called:
The one above is one I have used and there is enough in the can to use for six classes, with some left over! I have also used the one below called: Insta-Snow Jar
And this last one is a much larger container, but also works well. It’s called: Speedy Snow Bulk Bucket
Those are all different prices, but well worth the money for the finishing part of this great study of chemical reactions.
Chemical Changes: Interactive notebook templates make this study fun! Check this blog post for details!
One more thing: I have tried this study with lab sheets and with interactive notebooks. For me the lab sheets are faster and in a 45 minute class time with multiple classes lab sheets work best. But, I know many of you love your notebooks, so this Chemical Changes resource has templates for each lesson! I updated all the templates and added about 10 pages of extra information, photos, and hints to this product! (And that’s also pretty phenomenal!)
So, there you have it- that’s what we have been up to in the STEM Lab! What are you doing in science class?
Coming soon:
Books and STEM with First Grade
The Heart Series
Mazes in First Grade

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