Discovery Bottles: A Unique, Inexpensive Science Tool for the K-2 Science Classroom

By Watson, Sandy | Science and Children, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Discovery Bottles: A Unique, Inexpensive Science Tool for the K-2 Science Classroom


Watson, Sandy, Science and Children


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Discover discovery bottles! These wide-mouth plastic containers of any size filled with objects of different kinds can be terrific tools for science explorations and a great way to cultivate science minds in a K-2 science classroom. I've found them to be a useful, inexpensive, and engaging way to help students develop skills in making predictions, observations, and comparisons.

The bottles work well for use in learning centers or stations as starting points to get students excited to learn about a topic. They are also useful for independent observation and exploration of science concepts in a concrete way. Depending on the concept explored, some bottles may need to be sealed with a glue gun (if you don't want students to have contact with the contents), while others may be left unsealed where their contents can be accessed. The possibilities are limitless. Here are few of my favorites.

Magnetic Things

Objective:

Students will explore magnetism by attempting to attract objects of different materials with a magnet. Students will predict which materials will be attracted to a magnet and which will not. This is a standard lesson but is enhanced with the use of discovery bottles because students can investigate independently or with a partner with simple materials safely housed within a sealed bottle.

Materials:

* Sealed bottle 1/3 full of sand and filled with magnetic and nonmagnetic objects, such as metal paper clips, buttons, pennies, and beans. Make sure that some items that are magnetic are different colors. Include some items that are metal but not magnetic (e.g., items made of copper, aluminum, or other nonmagnetic metals)

* Worksheet (Figure 1).

* Magnetic wand (purchased in dollar stores or most toy stores).

Exploration:

Give students a magnetism discovery bottle to observe. Ask, "Which items in the bottle will be able to be moved by the magnetic wand and which will not? Underline on the worksheet the objects you think will be attracted to the magnetic wand." Next, have students provide evidence for their predictions and share their reasons why they think a particular object would be attracted to the wand or not. Then have students test their predictions, moving the wand up and down the sides of the bottle. Afterward, have students circle on the worksheet the items they were able to move with the magnetic wand (magnetic objects) and compare these answers to their predictions.

Discussion:

Students answer the question, "What makes a material/object attracted to a magnet?" Most students believe that the materials/ objects must be made of metal. Students investigate this idea by using the magnetic wand to attract the objects and then report what was attracted and what was not. They then look at all the items they circled (magnetic) and compare them to one another and to the nonmagnetic (not circled) objects. To guide students, ask "What do all the magnetic objects seem to have that are alike? Did you make predictions that were incorrect? Which ones did you get wrong? Why do you think these items were magnetic? What do you now know about magnetic materials that show these items to be nonmagnetic? Compare the magnetic and nonmagnetic items and tell how they are different."

Students should recognize that not all metals are magnetic. If the students still say that all metal things are magnetic, ask "Did the magnet attract all of the items made of metal? Point out that the magnet only attracted some of the metallic items--the magnet was not attracted to aluminum foil, for example.

Assessment:

The instructor assesses students' progress via group discussions, student performance on the handout, or through individual conversations with students.

Static Electricity

Objective:

Students explore static electricity as they rub the static electricity discovery bottle (a bottle filled with tissue paper and other light items) on their hair or shirts. …

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Discovery Bottles: A Unique, Inexpensive Science Tool for the K-2 Science Classroom
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