Understanding Science lessons Exploring liquids

Author: Sharon Janulaw

Overview: Learners will use their senses to investigate and observe three liquids. They will see, hear, touch, smell and taste to collect data and to ask and answer questions.

Lesson concepts:

Grade span: K-2


Advance preparation: For each pair of students pour an equal amount of water, Karo syrup and vegetable oil in three identical bowls.

Time: 30 minutes

Grouping: Whole class and small groups

Vocabulary: investigate, observe, record, liquid, evidence

Teacher background: The liquids that are used for this investigation are vegetable oil, light Karo syrup and water. The major differences of these liquids are:

Teaching tips: While differences between liquids such as oil and syrup might be apparent to an adult, children may not be able to easily distinguish between them. Be sure to allow ample time for children to explore each liquid.


    Whole group
  1. Tell students they will be working with a partner to investigate, observe and find out about three liquids. Tell them you will give them one liquid at a time and you will give them directions about what to do with the liquids. They should be observing and recording their observations. If they have questions, they should write their questions in their Science Notebooks to help them remember and later, the class can investigate how to answer the questions.
    Small group
  1. Give each pair of students a bowl with water, a bowl with vegetable oil, a bowl with light Karo syrup and a paper towel. Ask them what they notice about the liquids in the bowls. Discuss and give examples of descriptive words that could be used for what they see, smell, hear, touch, and taste.
  2. Have them use their sense of sight to look at each of the bowls, share what they see with their partner and record in their Science Notebooks what they saw.
  3. Have them use their sense of smell (by wafting) to smell the liquid in each of the bowls, share what they smell with their partner and record in their Science Notebooks what they smelled.
  4. Have them use their sense of hearing to listen to the liquid in each of the bowls. They can gently shake the bowl and listen, share what they hear with their partner and record in their Science Notebooks what they heard.
  5. Have them put the tip of one finger in one of the liquids to feel it. Share with their partner how the liquid feels. Have students taste the liquid and share what they taste. Have them record in their Science Notebook their observations about touch and taste. Have students wipe their finger on the paper towel.
  6. Have students repeat steps 3-6 with the remaining two liquids.
    Wrap-up: Whole group de-brief
  1. Have a discussion with the whole group after everyone has participated in the small group activities. Ask questions such as the following:
  2. Have students write any questions they have (or you record kindergartners' questions) in their Science Notebooks.
  3. Tell students about how scientists work when they are investigating an idea. (You can take a story about a scientist from a website or from publishers' materials. Select a story that has easily discernible similarities and differences in methods of investigation to what your students used.) Ask students to think about how they worked today. Have them talk to their neighbor about what they did that they learned scientists do based upon the story you told them. Have them share their ideas. Discuss an idea students had and how they knew that. What evidence did they have? Example: If someone said the syrup was sticky, what was their evidence; how did they know that?

Assessment: Have students write or draw something they learned about liquids and something they learned about how scientists work.

Extension: Students can continue this investigation in Explore how liquids behave (www.understandingscience.org/lessons/how_liquids_behave.html).

Adapted from "What Will Happen If …. Young Children and the Scientific Method" by Barbara Sprung, Merle Froschi, and Patricia B. Campbell

An Understanding Science lesson
© 2010 The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and The Regents of the University of California