Problem: How can we use water displacement to calculate the volume of one penny?
- Volume of a Penny Lab (PDF)
- Graduated cylinders (25 mL, 50 mL, or 100 mL)
- Cup or beaker of water, food coloring optional
- Pennies – 100+ per group
- Plastic Spoon – to pour water out of graduated cylinder and separate pennies
This is a simple & fun lab to have students practice measuring and reading volume as well as use water displacement to determine the volume of a penny – an irregularly shaped object.
Students will design their own series of 10 tests with the following criteria:
- All pennies must be under water inside of the graduated cylinder.
- The volume of water must not pass the 100 mL (or highest) increment.
- All data is recorded carefully.
Students were able to carefully measure and determine that the volume of a penny was 0.35 mL – most students were very close with a range of 0.33 – 0.37 mL.
- Students will practice their measurement skills using a graduated cylinder to determine volume and a triple beam balance to determine mass.
- Students will determine the density of water by completing 10 trails and finding an average.
I use this lab to tie their measuring skills together and introduce the concept of density. We then do further explorations of density and practice using the formula.
This lab is a modified version of the lab posted at Middle School Chemistry – for further details about the lesson, please click on this link.
- Introduce how to read a graduated cylinder using the meniscus.
- Review how to determine the increments for each graduated cylinder.
(For lessons and resources on reading and using graduated cylinders, please see my related blog entry)
- 2 graduated cylinders per group of 4 students
- 1 container of water per group
- 1 plastic tray per group
- 1 plastic spoon per group
- this is used to stop item from falling into the container and to fish out items if needed
- paper towels or cloth towels
- green or blue food coloring – a few drops per 500 mL
- adding food coloring helps the students to make accurate readings since it easier to see the water, plus it is fun to work with 🙂
- I don’t like to use red or yellow, they tend to stain more than the blue and green food coloring
- an assortment of small objects such as pennies, rubber stoppers, marbles, pebbles, etc…
- Water Displacement – Volume Lab Handout (pdf)
- Measuring Liquid Volume Practice Sheet (pdf)
- Common Core – Graduated Cylinder Worksheets (link)
- Volume by Water Displacement Worksheets (pdf)
- Finding volume using an overflow can (pdf)
For more lessons related to Properties of Matter click here (link)