This activity as designed is most appropriate for middle-school students but can be scaled to upper or lower grades. This 8-page file is offered in Rich Text Format, which means it is compatible with any word processing program and is completely editable and customizable for you. A creative, higher-order activity, this activity can be conducted after students have studied density, although I prefer to use it in my classroom as an introductory activity to help students investigate density before studying it more in-depth in the classroom. This activity lends itself to helping students develop proficiency in moving through the scientific method and can easily connect to extension activities such as oral presentations or multi-disciplinary writing activities such as summarization.
I personally use this activity towards the beginning of the school year to tie in with a previous unit concerning the skills of a scientist. Hence, this activity asks students to demonstrate the difference between qualitative and quantitative results, as well as the difference between predicting and inferring. This activity also serves as one of the first lab reports my students complete, which helps them get into the routine of walking step by step through the scientific method.
The materials list here is a recommended one based on the number of students I usually have, around 20 each year, plus the materials that I think students might readily have on hand at home and that, especially, are inexpensive. I have students bring their materials at least a day in advance in case some forget or need additional time to secure their contribution. Many of the materials are also in my classroom already, so I can assist students who are unable to purchase or bring materials from home. We usually complete the predicting step of the tower on a Thursday and then construct the actual tower itself on a Friday, allowing it to settle over the weekend so that we can really analyze the results on Monday, after the materials have had a chance to sort themselves. While most students have seen photos of smaller, completely liquid towers – there is even such a photograph in their textbook – they often haven’t seen such a complex tower and are always surprised and thrilled by the results. I love using this reliably engaging activity every year, and I hope you will, too!