States of Matter Goop Investigation

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SWBAT apply their knowledge of states of matter to identify the state of matter of unknown substances.

Big Idea

Goop and oobleck! Students explore physical state as a property of matter to answer: What state of matter are they?


10 minutes

Solids, liquids, gasses, plasmas, Bose-Einstein condensates, oh my! Because matter appears in different forms at different temperatures, Earth is a hospitable planet. On a smaller scale, because matter comes in goopy forms, studying states of matter becomes downright fun! In this lesson, students formalize the definitions of different states of matter, draw particulate models and apply their understanding to an investigation of unknown goopy matter.

While students conduct an investigation to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation (SP3), they develop models to describe phenomena (SP2) which help them explore concepts such as: macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic-level structure of matter (CCC). Other cross cutting concepts are interwoven as well. For example, as students use visual simulations, they recognize that time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small (CCC). At the conclusion of this lesson, students apply scientific reasoning to show why the data or evidence is adequate for the explanation or conclusion (SP6) by writing arguments using evidence (SP7).

These rigorous practices and cross cutting concepts support students' access to specific NGSS performance indicators within the MS-PS1 Matter and its Interactions Disciplinary Core Idea.

Additionally, as students learn about states of matter, they access other important cross cutting concepts related to energy (energy may take different forms and the transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system) and measurement (standard units are used to measure and describe physical quantities). These concepts come to play throughout all of the lessons related to this one. These lessons can be used separately, but the sequence of these related lessons occurs as is follows:

1) Measurement: Temperature

2) States of Matter Simulation Investigation

3) States of Matter Goop Investigation (This lesson)

4) Hot and Cold Investigation

5) Particle Play: Be the Particle Activity

In order to ENGAGE students in this lesson, start with a quick pretest using this game:

Matter Sorter

Then, this interactive site introduces students to the particulate model of matter:

Particulate Model of Matter Simulation

From the start screen, students create a diagram of each of the assumptions in the particulate model. Using prior knowledge, students then create a particulate model of a solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Using this site, students make observations to support or refute their original models. Once done exploring the interactive, students should draw final, accurate models of each state of matter that show shape, volume, spacing and energy:



25 minutes

The EXPLORE stage of the lesson is to get students involved in the topic so that they start to build their own understanding. To help students explore, students complete a Frayer Model using "solid, "liquid", "gas" and "plasma as the central concepts. For more about Frayer models, a good resource is from Adolescent Literacy Classroom Strategies Frayer Model. Frayer models are an excellent tool for organizing conceptual information. This research is completed on pages 1 and 2 of students' States of Matter Frayer Model Notes.

Teacher Note: During this exploratory research, students need prompts to include particulate models as part of their Frayer models. Also, provision of solid research resources like NASA States of Matter helps students research more efficiently.

Review student notes individually or collectively prior to moving on to the EXTEND stage of the lesson.


20 minutes

The EXTEND stage allows students to apply new knowledge to a novel situation. The novel situation in this case is for students to solve the simple problem of classifying two confusing goop samples (Flubber and Oobleck) by using their definitions of different states of matter and the What the Heck Is It Investigation handout. Students make observations and measurements on each goop sample in order to decipher the state of matter of each. For additional discussion of simple problem-based approaches, read this section's reflection: Simple versus Complex: Problem-Based Approaches.

Teacher Note: Flubber and Oobleck are easy to make following instructions like the ones in Flubber and Oobleck Recipes. Students are capable of making both goop samples, but for the sake of time, I made them in advance. The flubber keeps better than the oobleck, but the oobleck can be revived by adding more water and remixing. Goop samples should be used within a day or two, or they start stinking!

Students should use the samples separately to prevent cross-contamination. Both samples are safe for handling however, the oobleck should remain in its container unless a huge mess is part of the plan! It is imperative to remind student of classroom expectations regarding safety. Goggles should be worn and specific instruction about safe handling procedures (ie not eating or throwing the goop) should be reinforced.

Teacher Note: Activities such as those found in this lesson can be compiled to create fun project like this one: States and Changes of Matter Textbook Project.


20 minutes

The EXPLAIN stage provides 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. Students complete the last page of the investigation by completing structured argument paragraphs that include claims, evidence and reasoning (Writing Arguments from Evidence) to classify the goop samples as solids, liquids or gasses. An example of student work: States of Matter Notes Student Work shows student thinking about states of matter.

For a verbal explanation of student thinking about classifying the goops as different states of matter, view:


15 minutes

The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. At the conclusion of this lesson, students should have a solid foundation for using the particulate model of matter to justify different states of matter. In order to evaluate understanding, a quick quiz: States of Matter Quiz or States of Matter Quiz 2 offers a glimpse into "remember" and "understand" levels or knowledge (Bloom's Revised Taxonomy). The following resource can also be used as an evaluation or relearning tool: 

Review of student work, especially the final arguments (Writing Arguments from Evidence), provides additional insight into students' ability to "apply" what they have learned about states of matter to classification of the goop samples as solids, liquids or gasses.

After students show that they have a basic conceptual understanding, providing them with an opportunity to practice and prove competence in a more open-inquiry investigation is an important evaluation method. This additional evaluation gives insight into whether students can "apply" their level of understanding. The Hot and Cold Labs is an investigation that works in conjunction with measuring temperature, states of matter and phase changes.