Investigation Sequence



Written by:

Juli Schroeder and MaryBeth Sukup



Focus Questions

Focus Questions:
What are the observable properties of an object?
What tools can be used to measure the observable properties of an object?
How can changes in the earth and sky be measured?
What benefit does measurement have in real life situations?


Content: Earth, Physical, & Life


Cross cutting concepts

Linear measurement is the measurement between two points.
Linear measurement standard units are cm, m, km, inch, foot, yard, and mile.
A meter tape can be used for linear measurement.
Temperature measures hot and cold.
A thermometer is used to measure temperature.
Degrees in Celsius and Fahrenheit are standard units of temperature.
A thermometer goes up when the temp goes up, if the temperature goes down, the thermometer goes down.
Volume standard units are ml, liter, pint, quart, and gallon.
Volume measures the space an object occupies.
Mass standard units are g, kg, pounds, ounces, and tons.
Mass is the measure of how much
Measurements can be compared.

Science Practice


Personal, Social, Technology, Nature of Science, History

Measurement is used in everyday life.

Background information

This sequence introduces students to both standard and metric measurement. They will learn the standard units used to measure length, weight, fluid volume, and temperature. Also, they will learn to use the appropriate tools in situations calling for measurement.


Activity Sequence

1. The First Straw
2. Take Me To Your Liter
3. Wow Water
4. Weight Watching
5. The Third Degree
6. Tempting Temps
7. Rocks
8. Putting It All Together

Activity Descriptions

Activity 1
The First Straw
1 paper meter tape/student, 1 "How Long Is It" record sheet/student, 1 "Paper Meter Tape" photocopied sheet/student, 1 Meter tape, 100-cm/group, 50 straws of different lengths, Transparent tape, Scissors, Crayons/colored marking pens
1. Ask the students how they can measure their table.
2. Form students into groups and give them a straw to use as a measuring tool.
3. Have students measure the length and width of tables with straws and record their results. (Observe technique students use to measure table)
4. Bring the students back together as a class.
5. Show the students the paper meter tape (with centimeters marked) and ask them if they could measure the same table with it. Have them measure it and record their results.
6. Have them compare their results and discuss the differences.
7. Ask them why scientists would want to use a meter tape to measure.
8. Introduce the term standard measure.
9. Ask why it is important to have standard measurement?
10. Ask what kind of measurement you would use a tape measure.
11. Ask how to measure a person’s weight, the amount of pop in a bottle…
12. Tell them that measuring tapes are used to measure linear measurement (the distance between two points). Give several examples and not examples.
13. Randomly ask if they would measure certain items with a tape or not.
14. If students need practice finding the numbers on a tape, put them in pairs and randomly call out certain numbers for them to locate on the meter tape.
15. Have the students measure a large variety of items with their meter tape, recording information on a "How Long Is It" sheet.
16. Have students compare measurements. Discuss for instance why one person’s foot may have measured longer than the next person.
17. Ask how they people use measurement outside of school.
18. Ask how important is it to be accurate and why a standard unit of measurement is so important.

Activity 2
Take Me To Your Liter
For each group of four students:
Vial (large or small), Beaker, 100ml Graduated cylinder, Syringe, 50-ml, Plastic cup, Basin, 1-L container (may use a liter pop bottle), Soda Can, "Full Volume" record sheet, "Volumes in My Life" student sheets
For the Class:
1 Spoon 1-ml, 1 Beaker, 1-L, 2 Pitchers for water, Newspapers, Paper towels
1. Hold up a clear plastic cup and ask the students if they know what the word capacity means.
2. Tell the students they will be finding the capacity of the cup.
3. Explain a vial is the measuring tool they will use to measure the capacity of the cup. Tell them to use the vial to measure how many vials it takes to fill the cup (Secretly give the groups small and large vials randomly)
4. Have students share and compare their results.
5. See if students can transfer the idea of a standard unit from activity one. If not ask them why different groups have different results.
6. Introduce standard, and explain that vials are not standard for measurement of capacity but Liter and Milliliter are. Introduce with use of liter and milliliter beakers.
7. Have the students pour water into the 100-ml beaker until it holds exactly 100-ml, then have them pour it into the 1-L beaker. Have them repeat the process to see how many ml a L container will hold. Have them record how many beakers they put in and have them add them together (a calculator may be helpful).
8. Have the groups share their data.
9. Ask them to look at the data and see what they can discover. Lead discussion on how many milliliters they think are in a liter and how they know this.
10. Explore and combine different amounts to deepen understanding.
11. Demonstrate how to use Syringe and graduated cylinder.
12. Fill a cup half way full and hold it up.
13. Ask the students if they know what the water in the cup represents (volume). Explain volume to students.
14. Demonstrate to the class how to use the syringe to measure the volume of the water inside the cup.
15. Have the class retrieve their materials and allow them to put any amount of water into the cup.
16. Have them measure and record the volume of the water in the cup by following the demonstrated process.
17. Have the students then estimate and measure the capacity in various containers (cup, small vial, large vial). Be sure to have students record information on sheet.
18. Ask them when they would need to measure volume.
19. Ask them when scientists would measure volume.

Activity 3
Wow Water
Water, Food coloring, 3 jars (6oz.) per group, 4 clear measuring cups, Observation sheet
1. Divide the class into four groups
2. Give each group three jars with colored water labeled 1, 2, & 3. Ask them to estimate the amount of water in each and record each. Then they should measure each and record the amount. (All measurements are estimates and no measurement is exact. Scientist must decide how accurate they need to be according to the task they are doing.)
3. Ask the students to share their results.
4. Ask them to discuss their results and decide if their accuracy would be appropriate for what kinds of measure (baking a cake, making medicine in a pharmacy, measuring plant food, putting oil in a car…).
5. Ask students where they could use what they learned.
6. Ask them what a standard unit of measure is.
7. Give them different kinds of objects to measure and ask if they should use a standard measurement or not and if so what kind of measurement and what accuracy.

Activity 4
Weight Watching
For each group of four students:
1 Balance, 2 plastic cups, Set of weights, Washer, Wood square, Poker chips, Sponge, Container _ -liter (for water), Zip bag (sm), Student sheet (How Heavy Is It?), Exercise sheet (Steps for Weighing an Object)
For the class:
1 box jumbo paper clips, 2 boxes regular paper clips, 1 bag of gravel, 9 zip bags (med.), Transparent tape, 1 pitcher, water, 1 apple or orange
1. Give students washers, wood blocks, and poker chips.
2. Ask Can you arrange these items in order from heaviest to greatest? How do you know?
3. Ask the students to place washer, wood block, and poker chip in order from heaviest to lightest.
4. Introduce the balance – identify parts.
5. Use balance to verify that they placed the three objects in the correct order.
6. Ask the students to weigh the three objects, using paper clips.
7. Discuss findings.
8. Introduce the gram and the weight set.
9. Have students measure the three original objects using weight sets.
10. Ask students to compare and contrast the use of the scale to the weight sets. What was different or better?
11. Give the students a sponge and challenge them to discover how much water can be soaked up
when it is dry and how much water a sponge can soak up after it has been wrung out.
12. Ask students how they can find out this information.
13. Conduct sponge investigation record on record sheet.
14. Discuss the results of the investigation.
15. Challenge students to make a 100-gram weight using gravel.
16. Have students think of objects that are approximately equal to a kilogram.
17. Reflect on activity ask students "What other uses can you think of for the balance?

Activity 5
The Third Degree
For each group: 3 plastic cups, Labeled A, B, & C, Thermometer (alcohol, Celsius), Straw, Container (1/2- liter), Record sheets (Measuring Temperature, Graphing Cold Water), Basin, Syringes
For the class: Pitcher of ice water, Pitcher of room temperature water, Clock, Ice, Newspaper, Paper towels
1. What makes water a given temperature?
2. How can you measure the temperature of water?
3. Give students three cups of water at different temperatures.
4. Ask students to put the cups of water in order of temperature.
5. Each student takes a turn.
6. Ask students how knew what order to put the cups in.
7. Give students thermometers to measure the temperatures of the water and record results.
8. How can the temperatures be changed?
9. Measure Hot and Cold water temperatures then mix the hot and cold and predict what the temperature will be.
10. Explore the creation of additional temperatures and record.
11. Describe cool off. "When you put ice in water, does the water get cold?" "How cold?"
12. Ask students to explore with ice cubes and water.
13. Gather cool off data
14. Reflect on the activity.
15. Extend to real life by a discussion of what you would do to cool off a cup of hot chocolate.

Activity 6
Tempting Temps
Thermometer for every student or one for each group, Data collecting sheet, Grid for graph
1. Ask how do you know what to wear in the morning…shorts, winter coat, etc? How do you figure out what the temperature is going to be throughout the week?
2. Discuss how you would figure out the average temperature for a week.
3. Give students data collection sheet and have them decide a plan of action.
4. At the end of the week use data on the collection sheet to create a line graph.
5. Show the average temperature.
6. Discuss the importance of knowing the temperature.
7. Do the same activity using the Celsius thermometer.
8. Compare and discuss differences in the two charts.
9. How would this information help in your every day life?

Activity 7
Rocks (enough for each group to have 3), graduated cylinder (enough for each group to have 1), eye dropper, water basin, water, paper to record information, tape, penProcedure:
1. Have students form groups and select 3 rocks for each group, a graduated cylinder, water to put into cylinder and have students label each rock 1, 2, & 3.
2. Ask students if by looking at the rocks if they can place them in order of least to greatest volume.
3. Have each group estimate which rock has a bigger mass. Record estimated order. Place rocks in estimated order of largest to smallest.
4. Have the students fill cylinder half full of water (15ml) use an eyedropper and be as accurate as possible.
5. Have students drop each rock, one at a time into the graduated cylinder and record the amount of water now in the cylinder. Have students record the number the water rose to on the cylinder.
6. Repeat for each rock.
7. Have students figure out which rock has a bigger mass by subtracting the original amount of water from the amount of water with the rock in the cylinder. Record findings.
8. Have students compare that information with their estimations.
9. Discuss why it was easier to judge which rock was bigger using the water and the graduated cylinder.
10. Ask students where the use of volume is used in their life.

Activity 8
Putting It All Together
Rocks of various sizes, graduated cylinder (enough for each group to have 1), water basin, water, ruler, thermometer, scale, beaker
1. Have the students form pair groups.
2. Set up room into stations where the students can do one of the following measuring activities at each station:
Station 1: measure the length of the rock (using the process previously learned)
Station 2: measure the temperature of the rock (using the process previously learned)
Station 3: measure the mass of the rock (using the process previously learned)
Station 4: measure the volume of the rock (using the process previously learned)
3. For each station, have the students record their finding on a sheet of paper.
4. Conduct discussion to elaborate on their finding. Ask why these skills will be useful to them in their everyday lives.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes