Mystery Matter

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SWBAT plan an investigation to explain if the mystery matter is a liquid.

Big Idea

Students explore their concepts of what a liquid is when they test the mystery matter.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

Here is a link that explains the properties of the Non-Newtonian Fluid: Ooblek

Click here for an oobleck recipe.

NGSS Standards

PS1.A Structure and Properties of Matter - matter can be described and classified by its observable properties

Through a guided inquiry, students plan and investigate oobleck to claim if it is a liquid or solid, based on their observations.

Science Practices

- Planning and Carrying Out an Investigation  (SP 3)

Students test oobleck and make observations to answer their question.

- Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (SP 6)

Students review their observations to write an evidence based conclusion.

Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

- Cause and Effect (XC 2)

Students test oobleck to see if it reacts like other liquids.


print the oobleck recipe for your reference

12 containers for the oobleck

12 similar size, but different shape to pour oobleck into


cover the desks with butcher paper or vinyl table cloths

Lesson Preparation for 12 Teams

make enough oobleck (mystery matter) for each team

copy the students' mystery matter lab

One copy / team

Question for the Day

10 minutes

Science class begins with a question, usually written on the board and with students meeting me on the rug. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: Apple juice and a pencil, which one is a solid and which one is a liquid?  How could you test the matter to prove one is a solid or liquid?

I provide a couple of minutes for students to discuss their ideas about the 'question for the day'.

I listen to conversations; noting if students use some of the language for properties of liquids and or liquids, i.e. it can be poured, it takes the shape of its container, it flows easily, it is hard, it keeps its shape. 

I call on volunteers to share what their partner said and note answers on the boards.

Asking students to share what their partner said encourages careful listening.

After volunteers share I show the unit KLEWS chart and add the terms solid, liquid, gas. The properties of each type of matter are reviewed with the students.

Throughout the unit I add student responses and new terms the KLEWS chart. This provides a reference for student learning. The KLEWS chart has helped to consolidate the work of the students and provides a visual that students can refer to when working on their labs.

"From your answers it looks like you have a good idea of what is a liquid and solid. Do you think if I set out a 'mystery matter' you could test it to find out if it was a liquid or solid? Could you use some of the ideas that you shared for the 'question for the day?" 

"I can see from your answers you have some ideas how you could test the mystery matter. We will plan out the lab together and then you will test your mystery matter." 

"Please return to your seats and I will pass out your lab form."



Lab Prep and Test

35 minutes

The format that follows is a guided inquiry because the students and I are working out the procedures and testing criteria together. 

I pass out the lab form that students will use for the lab. I hold up a bag of the mystery matter.

I intentionally do not move it much as I want the kiddos to have a chance to explore the properties of the oobleck first hand. 

"What do we want to find out about the mystery matter? Right, is it a liquid or is it a solid. This is your question. Discuss your ideas with your partner. Then write your team's hypothesis. Remember to explain why you think the mystery matter is a liquid or solid."

While students are discussing their hypothesis, I move around the room to hear ideas and remind students to write a reason for their hypothesis. 

When I see that students have completed their hypothesis I continue.

"With your table partner discuss some ways you could test the 'mystery matter' to learn if it is a liquid or solid."

After a couple of minutes, I signal for the kiddo's attention and call on volunteers to share how they could test the mystery matter. I write the ideas on the board. 

Writing possible ideas on the board helps to scaffold the lesson for students who may not feel confident about working the lab out on their own. 

After students articulate how the mystery matter could be tested and what they will observe, I show them where they can write their procedure, under the column that says, 'test'.  I point to the boxes on the document camera and show them where to write their observations.

Next volunteers explain the materials they will need to run their lab. Material suggestions are written on the board. As students finish writing their procedures, I place any other materials students suggested on the back table.

I pass the mystery matter that is in a plastic bag to each team. I also pass out bowls for students to use if they want to take the mystery matter out of the bag and place it in the bowl. 

I intentionally use vague words so students do not assume what the material is from what I say. 

I move around the room and discuss what students notice. I ask questions to draw out more precise vocabulary.

Once the first 2 tests are completed and observations are written, I encourage students to make new observations about the mystery matter, such as what happens when they pull their fingers slowly or quickly through it or when they push on the mystery matter.

Results and Conclusion

15 minutes

I stop the lab 15 minutes before science is over to allow time for students to discuss their results and write their conclusion.

I knew there would not be enough time for students to write their results and conclusion, so I chose to have students discuss their results.

"Chemists, do you think you have an idea on whether or not the mystery matter is a liquid or solid? With your partner, review your observations and discuss if your observations proved that the mystery matter had properties of a liquid or solid.

Next you will write your conclusion about whether the mystery matter is a liquid or solid."

"Remember to use your observation words to support your conclusion and to use the conclusion anchor chart. Your completed conclusion is your exit ticket' to clean up your area."

I have baggies available for students who may want to take home some oobleck. I direct students to rinse out the oobleck containers and their hands in the water buckets because the oobleck could clog the drain.

When I review the lab worksheets, I will check that students made careful observations and they tested for at least 2 properties of liquids and/or solids. In the conclusion, I check to see if students supported their conclusion with their observations.