Fishy Mixture Water Quality Inquiry Lab (Part 2/4)

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SWBAT identify, classify and separate different types of mixtures based on physical and chemical properties of matter.

Big Idea

Students explore how complicated mixtures are all around us, affecting us in ways we rarely think about. While some mixtures help us, they may harm the environment.


The Fishy Mixture Inquiry Lab is an inquiry project including multiple lessons taught over the span of 1 to 2 weeks. To help manage the magnitude of this project, you will find the project split into 4 parts.

  • Part 1 includes the ENGAGE and EXPLORE components of the lesson; Time: 2 - 3 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods. 
  • Part 2 includes the EXPLAIN component of the lesson; Time: 1 50-minute lesson.
  • Part 3 includes the EXTEND component of the lesson; Time: 2 -3 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.
  • Part 4 includes the EVALUATE component of the lesson; Time 2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block period.

Next Generation Science Standards

This lesson utilizes many of the Next Generation Science Standards. I've described how these standards are met in this video.

In addition, details of the alignments of content standard to concepts and practices are found in the resource Fishy Mixture NGSS Alignment.


50 minutes

The purpose for the EXPLAIN stage is to provide students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far and figure out what it means. This stage of the lesson presents a great place for a quick formative assessment.

I give students time to explore the Fishy Mixture Water Sample in order to explain what they have learned about mixtures so far. Students use their new-found knowledge about mixtures to observe their Fishy Mixture water sample. (See Fishy Mixture 1/4).

I make these samples ahead of time according to the Fishy Mixture Water Sample Ingredients. Students analyze the samples and record data on Fishy Mixture Water Sample Analysis as seen here: Fishy Mixture Student Work - Explore and Explain. We review this analysis (written or oral) to see if students can identify the type of mixture, identify the parts of a mixture and write a procedure for separation of the mixture. This is also a good opportunity to review with students why this sample represents a mixture rather than a chemical reaction.

Another important note to discuss is that this lab is a simulation (SP2 Developing and Using Models). I explain what a simulation is and remind students that the water sample is not a real sample with active hormones in it. Students usually recognize that the red food coloring is meant to represent the hormones in the water. The food coloring is also the most difficult part of the mixture to separate because it is in solution with the water just like the hormones are in solution. 

Continue on to Fishy Mixture Water Quality Inquiry Lab Part 3.