South Orangetown Central School District

Gr. 5 CSI: Kitchen Chaos experiment

Cottage Lane Elementary School scientists are drawing on their knowledge of properties of matter to investigate a case codenamed “Kitchen Chaos.”

“For our summer curriculum project, we worked on creating new, hands-on labs to make our fifth-grade Structure and Properties of Matter unit more accessible and engaging for our students,” explained K-8 Instructional Science Coach Samantha Levine.

Here’s the background: Dr. Scarth was baking a batch of cookies in the CLE kitchen when she was called to the office. When she returned, the cookies were gone. A trail of a powdery substance and a few copper trinkets were recovered from the scene as evidence.

For the first step of their investigation, Denise Caunitz’s fifth grade class compared the physical and chemical properties of a sample the powdery substance associated with the crime with those of common, similar substances–baking soda, salt, flour, cornstarch, etc.–associated with a series of staff suspects.

“How can we test this mystery substance? What do you know about physical properties and chemical changes that occur that can help us narrow down what the mystery powder may be?” Levine asked.

In small groups, students made notes about the color, texture and structure of their samples and brainstormed ways to test chemical properties. Over a series of sessions, students will learn that matter cannot be created or destroyed and explore how to distinguish between different materials based on their properties. The project will culminate with a New York State Science Learning Standards-mandated investigation to demonstrate that matter is composed of particles that are too small to be seen.