Mystery Powders Lab for Kids – CSI in the Classroom

Engage, Plan, Science
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Try a mystery powders lab in your third, fourth, or fifth grade classroom. Your students will love it! You can use it as an activity in your mystery genre study, as a part of a CSI crime lab simulation, or as a stand-alone science inquiry activity.

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Ms. Sneed Prepares Her Mystery Powders Lab

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the side table in her classroom. First, she cut some egg cartons in thirds, leaving the tops intact. Second, she marked each of the egg carton’s four sections: A, B, C, D. Then she added a powder to each section: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch.

Next, Ms. Sneed organized more materials: vinegar, paper plates, plastic spoons, toothpicks, some tiny plastic cups, and eyedroppers.

“There,” she said to herself, “we’re ready for the next part of our mystery simulation: the mystery powders lab!”

Set up a mystery powders lab for your class and let the fun begin!

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Ms. Sneed’s Class Tries the Mystery Powders Lab

The next day, she addressed her class. “Today we’ll look at the powders associated with each of our suspects.” Her students sat up straighter and grinned at one another.

Making Careful Observations

Ms. Sneed pointed to the materials on the table. “Each group will receive four powder samples, which I have placed in these egg cartons. First, you will carefully observe each powder and record its characteristics on this table.” She walked around the class, distributing the pages.

When your third, fourth, and fifth grade students analyze mystery powders, ask them to record their observations on a table like this. They should carefully look at the powder's color and texture. Then they should find out how it reacts to water, vinegar, and iodine.

After Ms. Sneed distributed the pages and powders, she gave her students time to observe color and texture.

“Although all of these powders are white,” she heard one child say, ” their colors are so much different. Look, this one is brownish, and this one is yellowish.”

Analyzing Reactions

Once the students recorded their observations, Ms. Sneed clapped for attention. “Now you will check your mystery powders for reactions with water, vinegar, and iodine. I’ll give you the water first. Put a small amount of each powder on one of your paper plates. Then add a few drops of water and stir with your toothpick.”

As soon as they had their materials, the kids got to work. Comments like “Wow! This one bubbles,” and “This is just a doughy mess,” could be heard around the classroom.

Next, Ms. Sneed gave a small cup of vinegar with an eyedropper to each group. Again, they busily experimented and recorded their observations.

With some simple materials, you can set up a CSI mystery powders class for your third, fourth, or fifth grade students.

Ms. Sneed’s Class Cracks the Case

Once all groups finished, Ms. Sneed again called them to attention. “For the case of the missing books,” she said, “a powder was found in the library. When it was tested, the powder had small lumps and bubbled when it came in contact with water or vinegar. When tested with iodine, it was a dark blue color.”

Suddenly, a flurry of activity broke out in the classroom. “That’s Powder D!” some students shouted. They pulled out their suspect notes. Soon, groups around the room had figured out whose powder was found in the library.

After your students participate in the mystery powders lab, show them the key - and ask them to find the culprit!

As her students talked excitedly, it happened: Ms. Sneed’s face broke into that famous teacher smile. It didn’t get any better than this.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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