In this fun investigation, students learn the difference between independent variables, dependent variables, and constants by scientifically testing the stickiness of different kinds of tape using a marble and ruler. The lesson combines a simple task that students do in small groups with results that are real and meaningful. Best of all- at the conclusion, everyone will better understand what independent variables, dependent variables, and constants really are.
Though this investigation does highlight independent variables, dependent variables, and constants, you'll find that it can easily adapt to a lot, or a little bit, of structure.
The lesson begins with a refresher on independent variables, dependent variables, constants, line graphs, and bar graphs (which you can skip if you like). That's so we can then use those terms in context throughout the lesson. Then, after showing students how to set up a Tape Testing Device, they get into groups, build their own, and begin testing. When finished, it's time to graph the results.
Depending on how you structure this, the activity will last one or two days. You could even take it to 3 days if you've got a LOT of different kinds of tape to test, and really want to cover independent variables, dependent variables, and constants extremely well!
Use this lesson at the beginning of the year when you're teaching how science works, during the year when you need something meaningful to fill in a day or two, or at the end of the school year when you need something hands-on and good to keep students busy while not giving you a ton of papers to grade.
Key terms in this lesson: variable, independent variable, constant, dependent variable, line graph, bar graph