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The Magic of Matter

Matter is magic! Why do snowballs disappear and ponds freeze? Make a “magic slider” picture that shows how markers can change into fuel.

  • Grade 4
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Conduct a simple science experiment showing how matter can change from one form to another. Demonstrate how liquid soda contains a gas by putting a balloon over the top of a bottle of soda that has just been opened. The balloon will appear limp at first, but as the gas escapes from the soda, it will blow up the balloon.
    2. Discuss the differences between the states of matter: solids, liquids, and gasses. Remind students that everything on earth is made up of matter. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change from one form to another. Matter is made up of molecules that take on different forms. Some molecular chains are long, others are short.
    3. Introduce the ColorCycle program. Tell students that while the plastic in their markers is currently a solid, they contain molecules that can change into a different state of matter, and be used as fuel. Explain that scientists have found a way to change the plastic into liquid fuel.
    4. Briefly explain the marker to energy process: When solid markers are put into a special furnace and heated to a high temperature, they melt and turn into a liquid. When heated to an even higher temperature in a reactor, the long molecular chains break into shorter ones and the liquid turns into a gas which floats out of the reactor (just like the gas that was trapped in the liquid soda floated into the balloon). When the gas is directed into a cold area it turns back into a liquid. Then, because of the molecular change that took place, instead of being melted plastic, the liquid will be a fuel. This fuel can be separated into several different types of fuel: gasoline for cars, diesel trucks, or kerosene for camp lanterns, etc. The fuel from the plastic is clean fuel, since it has minimal sulfur as a residual in the transformation process.
    5. To create a visual of this process, show students how to create a “magic slider” picture. One part of their slider will show the marker to energy furnace where plastic markers are deposited. The next section would show liquid fuel that the markers become.
    6. Provide each student with a piece of colored poster board (9” x 11”) that will represent the furnace and a smaller piece of white poster board (4” x 12”) which will serve as a “slider.” Give the following directions:
    7. Lay the colored poster board horizontally on a desk and use a ruler to create a 2” wide frame around the outer edge. The inner portion should measure 7” from side to side. Make 1” wide marks at both the top and bottom of this inner section. Lightly draw 8 vertical lines to form 7 bars. Cut along these 8 lines being careful not to cut into the outer frame. Now, starting from the underside of the colored poster board, weave the white piece under and over the bars until just 1” of it extends beyond the right hand edge of the colored paper. Draw light pencil lines onto the white piece along the 8 cut lines.
    8. Slide the white piece out. You will see seven 1” bars with about an extra piece to the left of the first bar. Using a pencil, lightly write a zero at the top of the extra piece, and number each of the seven bars from 1-7. Then, starting with bar #1, use Crayola® Markers to draw a colored marker on each odd numbered bar (#1,3,5,7). Weave this white slider back through the slits until all four markers are visible. Just above each marker, draw a circle on the colored poster board representing holes where markers are dropped into the furnace. Pull the slider to the right and the markers will disappear.
    9. Using pencil, lightly draw the image of a vehicle that could be fueled by marker energy (a car, bus, truck, tractor, motor boat, snowmobile, etc.) across all seven bars of your weaving. Part of the time you will be drawing on the white paper and part of the time on the colored paper. That’s okay. When you are finished, color in only the parts of the picture on the white bars. Erase the pencil marks you made on the colored paper.
    10. Now for the magic! Push the slider to the left and your vehicle will disappear! In its place will be the markers. Now pull it to the right and the solid markers will disappear into the “furnace”, and your vehicle, fueled by marker energy, will appear in their place!
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Record measurement equivalents in a two column table.

    SCI: Obtain and communicate information for how technology allows humans to concentrate, transport, and store energy for practical use.

    SCI: Develop a model using examples to explain differences between renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.

    SCI: Use the model that matter is made of particles too small to be seen to describe and explain everyday phenomena.

    SS: Give examples that show how scarcity and choice govern our economic decisions.

    SS: Identify and describe examples in which science and technology have changed the lives of people, such as in homemaking, childcare, work, transportation, and communication.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Describe ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with the visual arts.

  • Adaptations

    Read “What’s the Matter in Mr. Whisker’s Room” by Michael Ross.

    Try other science experiments demonstrating the principles of matter.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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