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.
This introductory lab is a fun way to analyze data and the students look forward to finding the results each year. Who will be taller, boys or girls? Will we be taller than last year’s class? You can really analyze the data in multiple ways, you can also add the concept of min, max, mode, and range in addition the mean, you can look for trends, and you can talk about sample size, etc…
- Heights Lab Introduction and directions (Google Slides)
- Data Collection (Google Sheets)
- Heights Lab Template (Google Doc)
- Construction paper taped to wall/column
- Metric Tape Measures attached to wall or column over paper
This is one of my favorite foldables. The notes for the metric system are a basic introduction with a series of short class activities.
- Brainstorming – with their lab group, students brainstorm all the different units we use to measure things, and classify each as length, volume, and mass. We then share and discuss our answers.
- Estimation – students estimate the sizes of common objects in a classroom using their hands and feet as rulers. They use a ruler to measure their hand span, fingernail width, etc. Once they have those measurements (and I take the rulers away), they estimate the sizes of different items in the classroom. After each group has made their estimations, we find the actual measurements and see how we did. Which group had the best estimations?
- Prefixes & Base Words – I introduce the base units for mass, volume and length: gram, Liter, and meter. We discuss the prefixes that can be added to the base units: kilo, centi, and milli. (I don’t really go into deci, deca, or hecto because they are not as commonly used.) Then I explain how you can mix and match the prefixes with the base units and the kids list all the combinations that are possible and we go over what each one means. We also practice writing and using the abbreviations. For example centi + meter = centimeter (cm) and its used to measure distance (length).