Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do?

Grades 4—8

Written by Kevin Beals and Lincoln Bergman, original version by Cary I. Sneider

One of the all-time most popular GEMS guides, Oobleck makes a joyful scientist out of every child. Oobleck is a green, oozy substance (from "outer space," in this fictional account) that both begs and eludes description as it initiates students in the nature of inquiry and definition and sparks vigorous debate about its properties. This New GEMS edition is updated and expanded in line with current scientific and educational research, to align with state and national standards, and to take maximum advantage of the full inquiry opportunities in these activities.

Students begin by forming small laboratory teams to examine, experiment with, and hypothesize about Oobleck (in truth, a mixture of cornstarch, water, and food coloring), learning and using the scientific vocabulary needed to describe material properties. Students compare what they've done throughout the unit to the work of NASA scientists on the Mars Rover mission. In the second activity, the class holds a scientific convention to discuss experimental findings. Students then turn engineers, and design a spacecraft that can successfully land on an ocean of Oobleck. In the final session, the methods the students used to analyze Oobleck are compared to those of professional scientists.

Two new optional activities deepen the learning. The first, "Microscope Eyes," gives students a chance to delve into how the internal structure of Oobleck might account for its properties. The second provides an extended outline and suggested strategies for using student questions about Oobleck as a launching pad into the "full investigations" recommended by the National Science Education Standards.

Oobleck is not only a great hands-on experience for all ages, it provides students authentic insight into the real work of scientists.

Time: Four or more 20- to 45-minute sessions.

See the Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do? online orientation video.

NSTA Recommends   Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do?
"For years, I have been using Oobleck: What Do Scientists Do? to introduce my science students to scientific processes at the beginning of the school year. For the rest of the year, they are hooked on science! …The guide is well written and makes teaching this unit easy… I found the section on assessment strategies to be helpful, especially because a list of student outcomes is given… This is a messy, exciting way to teach students how real scientists go about their scientific explorations. I highly recommend this GEMS guide to all teachers of students in grades 4—8."
–National Science Teachers Association Recommends

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ISBN: Grade Level Format Price



4 Sessions plus 2 optional,
104 pages


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