Do your students love a good competition? You might want to try this lesson titled “Marshmallow Flight.” I have used this lab with junior and high school students, but have also done a simpler version of this lab with my kindergartner.
The file contains two versions of the same lab. The first is a commonly used version in which students follow directions, collect data, and answer post-lab questions. The second version of this lab is a higher-level inquiry lab, where students move through the scientific method with ideas they have about how to make a marshmallow fly further. For more information on which lab might be best for your students, go to my blog: http://www.stemmom.org/2012/04/marshmallow-puff-tubes.html.
The purpose of this 5-page cookbook version is to demonstrate the concept of unbalanced forces. Using their breath, student move marshmallows through two different length tubes, and also test whether the location of the marshmallow (close to mouth or far from mouth) make a difference in how far the white fluffy sweetness can travel. Students tweak their tubes to have the "perfect" amount of friction and air pressure to make the marshmallow travel. Students record distances in inches (or cm) in a "Marshmallow Flight Data Table" along with a qualitative description of the flight. The Post Lab questions have students read about unbalanced forces, predict, based on the physics, which tubes should have performed the best, and then compare their actual data, with the expected data. Additional questions ask students to determine ways to "cheat" to make their marshmallow go further--which is my attempt at getting them to identify extraneous variables. Then they are to write a list of rules for a competition that would help make it "fair," which is how we address the "constants." Sneaky huh? There are a total of 6 post lab questions, and a revised data table comparing expected and actual results.
Materials needed for this lab include: toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, scissors, masking tape or transparent tape, full-size marshmallows, flour (to reduce friction), and a 25' measuring tape. Depending how how many students you have, and how many trials students choose to perform, this lab can be completed in one class session, but can last up to 3.
The second, inquiry version of the lab, students are provided the same materials as the first version, but not told what to do. The challenge is "Experiment with cardboard tubes to how far you can propel a marshmallow using only your breath." As the teacher you can limit the resources they have, or allow them to request additional materials. The headings in this inquiry lab include: Brainstorm, Playtime, Planning, Procedure, Experiment Analysis, Post Lab Questions. In this version, vocabulary of the scientific method are used and students design their experiment based on good research design. After brainstorming and planning (which includes a prediction) and writing out a procedure, they have this approved by you, before they can begin testing. The lab refers students to their lab notebook (which is separate from the handout), where they will record their data. One of the post lab questions asks them to explain the physics behind their marshmallow flight. No background reading is provided, so students will have to do this research on their own.
I hope you enjoy this lab as much as my students do!
I would greatly appreciate your comments on my blog and/or on my Teachers Pay Teachers Account. Again, Thank you so much!
Sincerely, Darci the STEM Mom http://www.STEMmom.org