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A hands-on approach to learning about density

Emma Lyons,Hannah Scott, Elizabeth Mamajet and Caroline Repke weigh objects in their science lab.

Students in Laura Russell’s eighth grade science class got hands-on experience learning about science and how the properties of volume and mass affect the density of an object. Science labs promote scientific inquiry and force kids to “figure things out for themselves” said Russell. Students were told that their goal was to find out the density of different objects, record their data and come to some scientific conclusion based on the data accumulated. 

Students worked in groups of four. Each group was given the tools they needed to conduct an experiment; a triple beam balance, blocks of varying sizes, a beaker, water, a calculator and a graduated cylinder. Each group then had to decide how to best use these tools to conduct a meaningful experiment.

“I work from the students’ prior knowledge and build upon what they already know. They know the formula for density and they know how to weigh objects with a triple beam. My goal is to get them to figure out how to put this information together, compile the findings and understand what the data tells them,” said Russell.

Students worked intently measuring various objects and recording their findings in their notebooks. As students worked, Ms. Russell conferred with each group asking them questions to help guide their learning. When asked how water might be used to figure out volume Hannah O’Carroll replied that “water displacement can tell volume” and when prodded further by Ms. Russell the group came to the conclusion that this method of measuring might be a good way to measure objects with an irregular shape.

This lab required students to think about what they were finding and why it mattered. “I want students to learn more than just scientific theory. I want them understand how science works and be able to apply that to their everyday lives,” said Russell. Labs are a great way to kids involved in the practical aspects of science.

When reflecting on their learning, it was clear that students also found labs to be a great way to learn.  "I like labs because we get to do them all by ourselves and these hands-on activities help prepare us for EOG tests," said Ryan Ferko and Allie Randall.  Abby Moulton said, "even though science isn't always easy or fun, Mrs. Russell finds ways to make it interesting."

Written by: Brita Mann
Posted: Oct 15, 2012 by Brita Mann

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