What happens when you mix cornstarch, glue, water and borax together in scientifically determined amounts? If you are a fifth grader at Churchville Chili Middle School, you’ve just learned how mixing known substances can result in the formation of a totally new substance. And if you’ve done careful measuring and testing, you’ve also created a really cool, homemade, super bouncy ball.
After finishing a science unit on matter and its interactions, fifth-grade students demonstrated their understanding with a special Project Based Learning experience implemented by Enrichment Specialists Shannon Barton, Andrea Lynch, Stephanie Ricci and Patti Saucke. The first step for each class was an introductory presentation and class discussion. Things got fun with teams of three or four students each making a bouncy ball from a commercial kit. They measured the height of their new ball’s bounce to use as a control. Then, teachers demonstrated a basic recipe for a homemade ball and compared the resulting bounce to that of the store-bought product.
Student teams then adjusted the recipe, adding more or less of each ingredient. Resulting balls were again dropped from a standard height, and each bounce was measured. Teams combined their results into a table, created a large graph and analyzed the results. Discussion continued as students shared their thoughts on what the perfect recipe might be to achieve the best bouncy results.
“Hands-on experiments like this make abstract concepts like the properties of matter, chemical reactions, and cause and effect more relevant for students,” said Lynch. “It also builds life skills, like teamwork, observation and the ability to draw educated conclusions from data.”