Junk Science

What can you do with a bag of junk? Sort it, compare it, and practice recording the data in a table. What do you have in your junk drawer?

  • 1.

    Provide each student with a zipper-lock food storage bag labeled with his or her name. Invite students to fill the bag with “junk” - assorted non-food items - from home. Students might look in junk drawers, craft boxes, and even in backyards for random junk, such as a button, a scrap of fabric, nuts and bolts, an old pencil, a puzzle piece, or a small toy. Bring in your own bag of junk to show.

  • 2.

    Ask children to empty their bags of junk on their desks or on individual trays or paper plates for inspection. Challenge children to sort the items in any way they like. Make a list of the categories used to sort the items. Introduce characteristics of color, texture, hardness, and flexibility. Allow children to sort and re-sort their items in different ways.

  • 3.

    On a large dry-erase board use Crayola® Dry-Erase Crayons to demonstrate how to make a comparison data table with the headings “color”, “texture”, “hardness”, and “flexibility”. Using your bag of junk, add a drawing of each item to the first column of the table. Then write descriptive words to describe the color, texture, hardness, and flexibility of each item across the row.

  • 4.

    Invite children to make their own data tables using the junk in their bags. Provide dry-erase crayons and individual dry-erase boards where they will record data. Students can choose to inspect just a few items and all four categories, all of their items with just one or two categories, or even make up their own categories.

  • 5.

    Repeat this activity, exchanging bags of junk so children get lots of practice sorting and comparing materials. Invite children to write junk science summaries of their findings in a junk science journal after each experience.

Standards

  • LA: With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
  • LA: Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.
  • LA: Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  • MATH: Describe and compare measurable attributes.
  • MATH: Represent and interpret data.
  • VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

Adaptations

  • Teachers may wish to inspect each bag of “junk” to be sure all items in the bag are safe for children to manipulate. A letter to parents indicating what the bag will be used for is also advised.
  • Depending upon the students’ ages and abilities, teachers may choose to focus on one material characteristic at a time.
  • Another way to introduce sorting is to have the children sort themselves according to different categories – who has pets, hair color, type of shoes, etc. Then use dry-erase crayons to create a comparison data table with all of the categories and all of the children’s names to show all of the data visually.
  • Extend this lesson to other categories. For example, gather different toys with wheels in a large basket. Invite children to choose 3 or 4 items to compare and illustrate them in a comparison data table, choosing their own sorting categories.