An Alka-Seltzer Lava Lamp
Chemical vs. Physical Change, Classification of Matter, and more
Hands down this is one of the best examples of a potential zip-lab I’ve been able to put together so far. It is a safe and fun activity that can be done by elementary kids as well as college students. And it’s so simple too. All you need is some Alka Seltzer, water, food coloring, oil, and a plastic container with a lid, (I use the soda bottle ‘preforms’ which you can buy from most educational supply companies). Once combined as described in the procedure, bubbles form in the colored water making it rise and fall very much like a lava lamp from the 60’s. The reaction slows down over time but can be rejuvenated by releasing pressure from the cap. It’s fascinating just to watch and then you can have your students think about what’s happening: are they seeing chemical reactions, physical changes or both? How is the density of the phases important to the process? If you are teaching upper level students this is an awesome example of Le Chatelier’s Principle.
So really students of all ages enjoy this lab activity and indeed you can use it over a very wide range of ages and ability levels, (elementary students will enjoy observing the reaction and hypothesizing what’s going on, at the same time I have students in high school and AP chemistry classes performing the same lab with just as much success). In any case, at this juncture, I have written this lab for use for students ranging from middle school to early college – it is basically designed for chemistry or physical science students. [My intension is to go back and add to this activity, adding handouts for younger students – making it a ‘true’ Zip Lab. If you are an elementary teacher interested in that please let me know and I will get to work on that sooner than later.]
In general, Zip Labs are science and math activities broken down into ‘horizontal and vertical’ educational increments. By ‘horizontal’ increments I mean each activity can be completed in a minimum of 60 minutes. However, the teacher, and/or student may choose to extend the activity over a longer time period or even days. By ‘vertical’ increments I mean each activity is broken down into segments according to grade and difficulty level. So teachers and/or students can decide where to start and how far to go with the topic.
Each Zip Lab includes potentially much more than any teacher will use at the particular grade level he or she may teach. However, it is my hope that teachers, and students, at lower grade levels will gain valuable insight by looking ahead to see how their teaching/learning will be applied in the future. While teachers and students at higher grade levels can reflect on topics that they should have learned in earlier grades. It is my hope that students see their education as a continuum rather than a series of disconnected and random topics.
Zip Labs include diagrams and illustrations that I hope are appealing to a wide range of ages. However, teachers can choose to omit them if they like. Also included is a Common Core ‘Depth of Knowledge’ (DOK) and grade level range ‘sliding’ indicator to help students visualize the relevance of their work.
AN ALKA-SELTZER LAVA LAMP
Chemistry, Physical Sciences, and College-Level Classes: What you get…
Activity cover sheet with Conceptual Diagrams
Introduction and procedure
Data and Observation Picto-Process worksheet
Advanced research questions
This unit activity meets or exceeds 21st Century and STEM learning expectations, and Common Core learning outcomes. Note: although ZIP-labs fulfill many CCSS specific CCS standards are not listed because ZIP-labs are designed to be used over many graded levels so the specific CCSS may be different depending upon these factors. For a list of CCSS in your state please visit- www.corestandards.org
New – Integrated Holistic QPA, (that’s Quality Performance Assessment) created by me! This activity requires NO RUBRICS! The rubric is integrated into the activity itself. Much less work for you and far more meaningful to your students.
Working to change STEM to STEAM.