the Physics Education Technology Project
This is a lesson plan for middle school, developed specifically to accompany the PhET simulation States of Matter. It gives explicit directions for using the simulation to explore the molecular structure of neon, oxygen, argon, and water in the three primary phases. The student guide gives just the right amount of guidance to help students discover how temperature and pressure inside a closed container affect the behavior of the molecules in different states (solid, liquid, and gas).
The "States of Matter" simulation, which must be open and displayed to complete this activity, is available from PhET at: States of Matter.
This resource is part of PhET (Physics Education Technology Project), a large collection of free interactive simulations for science education.
Editor's Note:This versatile simulation will help younger students visualize a molecular model of the primary states of matter. It can be used in high school to extend the model to phase changes and build understanding of how forces on atoms affect their interaction potential.
gas laws, gas volume, molecular models, molecular structure, phase, phase change simulation, states of matter, states of matter simulation
Metadata instance created
July 18, 2011
by Caroline Hall
August 18, 2016
by Lyle Barbato
Last Update when Cataloged:
July 8, 2011
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
4. The Physical Setting
4D. The Structure of Matter
6-8: 4D/M1a. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope.
6-8: 4D/M2. Equal volumes of different materials usually have different masses.
6-8: 4D/M3cd. In solids, the atoms or molecules are closely locked in position and can only vibrate. In liquids, they have higher energy, are more loosely connected, and can slide past one another; some molecules may get enough energy to escape into a gas. In gases, the atoms or molecules have still more energy and are free of one another except during occasional collisions.
6-8: 4D/M7a. No matter how substances within a closed system interact with one another, or how they combine or break apart, the total mass of the system remains the same.
6-8: 4D/M8. Most substances can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas depending on temperature.
4E. Energy Transformations
6-8: 4E/M4. Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves.
9-12: 4E/H7. Thermal energy in a system is associated with the disordered motions of its atoms or molecules. Gravitational energy is associated with the separation of mutually attracting masses. Electrical potential energy is associated with the separation of mutually attracting or repelling charges.
9-12: 4E/H9. Many forms of energy can be considered to be either kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion, or potential energy, which depends on the separation between mutually attracting or repelling objects.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model Unit Title: Matter and Interactions
This lesson plan accompanies the PhET simulation States of Matter. It gives explicit directions for using the activity to explore the molecular structure of neon, oxygen, argon, and water in the 3 primary phases. Gives just the right amount of guidance to allow students room to construct their own meaning.
<a href="http://www.compadre.org/precollege/items/detail.cfm?ID=11325">Esler, Jackie. PhET Teacher Activities: Exploring Changes in States of Matter. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, July 8, 2011.</a>
Esler, J. (2011, July 8). PhET Teacher Activities: Exploring Changes in States of Matter. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from Physics Education Technology Project: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3438
Esler, Jackie. PhET Teacher Activities: Exploring Changes in States of Matter. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, July 8, 2011. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3438 (accessed 28 October 2016).
%0 Electronic Source %A Esler, Jackie %D July 8, 2011 %T PhET Teacher Activities: Exploring Changes in States of Matter %I Physics Education Technology Project %V 2016 %N 28 October 2016 %8 July 8, 2011 %9 text/html %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3438
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