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Matter Activities for High School Chemistry

Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Check out this lesson for ideas to get your students motivated while learning about matter. Keep them engaged as they deepen their understanding through hands-on activities.

Importance of Activities

Incorporating activities into your lessons helps keep students engaged and provide meaningful learning experiences. A variety of activities will encourage students to apply what they know about a concept.

When teaching students about properties, states, and reactions with matter, they can collaborate with others to show what they know. The activities provided in this lesson are easily adaptable to meet the needs of each student.

Let's see what matters!

Matter Activities

What's the Matter?


  • Option 1 - Technology
    • Computers - Internet, Microsoft Word (or other typing program), and PowerPoint or Google Slides
    • Screen with projector
  • Option 2 - Without technology
    • Large poster board
    • Crayons, markers, colored pencils
    • Writing paper
    • Ruler
  • Notebooks
  • Pencils


  • Students will work in groups of 2-3.
  • Groups will research and present information about a specific element or compound.
    • Groups may choose or be assigned an element or compound. Examples: europium, cerium, methane, carbon monoxide, silicon tetrafluoride, sulfur dioxide, etc.
  • Students will be given time to research the following information:
    • Name, period, and symbol or formula
    • Description of properties as a solid, liquid, and gas
    • Where it's found, what it's used for
    • How to transport it, store it, and other safety precautions
    • Interesting facts
  • Groups will compile the information in a presentation through the use of technology, without technology, or a combination of both. Students will also produce a phase diagram, such as the one pictured, with temperatures and pressures of each stage of the element or compound.

Carbon Dioxide Phase Diagram
Phase diagram

  • After students have had time to conduct their research and put together a presentation, they will type up a short report. This will include a brief summary of all of the information that was found as well as a works cited page for references.
  • Schedule days for groups to share their presentations and turn in their reports.

Your Own Bouncy Ball

Materials for each set of partners

  • Borax
  • Cornstarch
  • Glue
  • Warm water
  • Food coloring
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mixing spoons
  • Plastic cups
  • Pens
  • Stopwatches
  • Rulers
  • Plastic zip-loc bags
  • Notebooks
  • Pencils


  • Students will work with a partner.
  • Students will follow steps to create a bouncing polymer ball. They will record everything they do and describe their observations at each step.
    • Borax solution - In a plastic cup, mix 2 tbsp of warm water and ½ tsp of borax until the borax dissolves. Add food coloring, if so desired.
    • Ball mixture - Pour 1 tbsp of glue, ½ teaspoon of borax solution, and 1 tbsp of cornstarch into a plastic cup. DON'T mix anything. Observe and record what is happening.
    • After 10 to 15 seconds, combine the substances together into one of the cups and mix until it becomes too difficult to stir.
    • Take the mixture out of the cup and mold it with your hands.
    • As it becomes less sticky, you can start to bounce it!
    • Store the ball in a sealed baggie.
  • Now, students will conduct the experiment again to explore using different ratios of borax, cornstarch, and glue to see how it affects the ball.
  • Students will form a hypothesis as they try to determine the change and its effect on the bouncy ball.
    • Example: A lot of cornstarch will create a ball that is stretchier.
  • Students will conduct the experiment again by changing the ratios. Again, students must record and make note of observations during each step.
  • When all groups have conducted their experiment a second time, they will analyze the results. Was their hypothesis correct? What was the effect on their bouncy ball? What was the exact ratio of ingredients?
  • Partners will share their results with the rest of the class.

Describe This

Materials for each group

  • At least three different objects
    • Twizzlers, water, rocks/soil, salt, etc.
  • Source of heat, if possible
    • Lighter
    • Boiling water
  • Conductivity tester
    • Could make own with batteries, light bulb and holder, insulated wires
  • Beakers with water for volume and density
  • Balance for mass
  • Rulers
  • Notebook
  • Pencils
  • Blank chart printed out or written in notebooks - two examples are included in the following table:

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