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Hands-On Physical Science Activities For Grades K-6, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 978-0-7879-7867-9
544 pages
April 2006, Jossey-Bass
Hands-On Physical Science Activities For Grades K-6, 2nd Edition (0787978671) cover image


This is the second edition of Marvin N. Tolman’s bestselling book Hands-On Physical Science Activities for Grades K-6. Like all the books in The Science Problem-Solving Curriculum Library series, this revised edition offers compelling activities that help teach students thinking and reasoning skills along with basic science concepts and facts. The book’s activities follow the discovery/inquiry approach and encourage students to analyze, synthesize, and infer based on their own hands-on experiences. This new edition includes an expanded Teacher Information section, inquiry-based models and complex cooperative learning projects using materials found around the home. Many of the activities easily become great science fair ideas as well as activities that correlate with the national standards.

Designed to be user friendly, the book includes 175 easy-to-use, hands on activities and is organized into eight sections:


Nature of Matter




Simple Machines


Static Electricity

Current Electricity

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Table of Contents

About the Author.

About the Library.

How to Use This Book.

Key to Icons.

Correlation with National Standards Grid.

Listing of Activities by Topic.

Section One: The Nature of Matter.

To the Teacher.

Activity 1.1: How Can You Make a Balance from Two Clothes Hangers?

Activity 1.2: How Can You Make a More Precise Balance from a Ruler?

Activity 1.3: What Is the Shape of a Drop of Water?

Activity 1.4: How Dry Can You Wring a Wet Sponge?

Activity 1.5: What Is Condensation?

Activity 1.6: What Are Mixtures and Solutions?

Activity 1.7: How Can You Separate a Mixture of Salt and Pepper?

Activity 1.8: What Happens to Water When You Add Salt?

Activity 1.9: How Does a Hydrometer Work?

Activity 1.10: How Can the Depth of a Bathyscaph Be Controlled?

Activity 1.11: What Are Solids, Liquids, and Gases?

Activity 1.12: How Can You Produce a Gas from a Solid and a Liquid?

Activity 1.13: How Can You Make a Fire Extinguisher?

Activity 1.14: How Can a Blown-Out Candle Relight Itself?

Activity 1.15: How Can You Remove the Flame from a Candle Without Putting It Out?

Activity 1.16: How Can You Make a Ball Bounce by Itself?

Activity 1.17: What Is Polyethylene?

Activity 1.18: Is the Dissolving of Solids a Physical Change or a Chemical Change?

Activity 1.19: Is Burned Sugar Still Sugar?

Activity 1.20: What Is Rust?

Activity 1.21: How Can Chemical Changes Help You Write a Secret Message?

Activity 1.22: How Does Temperature Affect the Speed of Molecules?

Activity 1.23: How Does Temperature Affect Solubility?

Activity 1.24: How Can You Make Large Sugar Crystals from Tiny Ones?

Activity 1.25: What Does Litmus Paper Tell Us About Substances?

Activity 1.26: How Can Perfume Get into a Sealed Balloon?

Activity 1.27: How Can You Cause Molecules to Move Through Solids?

Activity 1.28: What Is Viscosity?

Nature of Matter Word Searches.

Do You Recall?

Section Two: Energy.

To the Teacher

Activity 2.1: In What Ways Is Energy Used in Our Neighborhood?

Activity 2.2: How Well Do You Conserve Energy at Home?

Activity 2.3: How Do Potential Energy and Kinetic Energy Compare?

Activity 2.4: How Is Work Measured?

Activity 2.5: How Can Wind Energy Be Used to Turn Something?

Activity 2.6: How Can the Energy of Sound Cause Something to Move?

Activity 2.7: How Can Magnetism Do Work?

Activity 2.8: How Much Energy Is Stored in a Bow?

Activity 2.9: How Can You Power a Racer with a Rubber Band?

Activity 2.10: How Does a Nail Change as It Is Driven into a Board?

Activity 2.11: How Do Molecules Behave When Heated?

Activity 2.12: What Happens to Solids as They Are Heated and Cooled?

Activity 2.13: What Happens to Liquids as They Are Heated and Cooled?

Activity 2.14: What Happens to Gases as They Are Heated and Cooled?

Activity 2.15: What Other Type of Energy Accompanies Light from the Sun?

Activity 2.16: How Can You Get the Most Heat Energy from the Sun?

Activity 2.17: How Does Color Affect Energy Absorbed from Light?

Activity 2.18: Where Does Our Energy Really Come From?

Activity 2.19: How Can You Cook an Apple in Your Own Solar Cooker?

Activity 2.20: How Does Gravity Affect Heavy and Light Objects?

Activity 2.21: What Is Center of Gravity?

Activity 2.22: Where Is Your Center of Gravity?

Activity 2.23: How Can You Balance Several Nails on One Nail?

Activity 2.24: What Happens When You Burn a Candle at Both Ends?

Activity 2.25: How Does Inertia Affect the Way Things Move?

Activity 2.26: What Is Centrifugal Force?

Energy Word Searches.

Do You Recall?

Section Three: Light.

To the Teacher.

Activity 3.1: What Can You Make with a Shadow?

Activity 3.2: Why Does Your Shadow Change in Size and Shape?

Activity 3.3: What Path Does Light Follow?

Activity 3.4: How Does Light Energy Travel?

Activity 3.5: What Makes Things Transparent, Translucent, or Opaque?

Activity 3.6: What Is the Difference Between Reflected Light and Source Light?

Activity 3.7: What Is Unique About Reflected Light?

Activity 3.8: How Is Light Reflection Like the Bounce of a Ball?

Activity 3.9: How Many Images Can You See?

Activity 3.10: How Well Can You Control the Reflection of Light?

Activity 3.11: How Does a Periscope Work?

Activity 3.12: How Can You Pour Light?

Activity 3.13: What Color Is White?

Activity 3.14: How Can You Spin Different Colors?

Activity 3.15: What Do Color Filters Do to Colors?

Activity 3.16: How Do Detectives Use Color to Solve Crimes?

Activity 3.17: What Must You Remember When Spearing a Fish?

Activity 3.18: What Happened to the Pencil?

Activity 3.19: Can You Find the Coin?

Activity 3.20: How Can a Postage Stamp Hide Under Clear Glass?

Activity 3.21: What Makes Light Bend?

Activity 3.22: How Can You Make a Glass Disappear?

Activity 3.23: How Does a Camera See the World?

Activity 3.24: How Does a Lens Affect the Way Light Travels?

Activity 3.25: How Can You Make a Lens from a Drop of Water?

Activity 3.26: How Are Convex and Concave Lenses Different?

Activity 3.27: How Can You Measure the Magnifying Power of a Lens?

Activity 3.28: What Does a Prism Do to Light?

Activity 3.29: How Can You Make a Prism with Water?

Light Word Searches.

Do You Recall?

Section Four: Sound.

To the Teacher.

Activity 4.1: How Are Sounds Produced?

Activity 4.2: What Sounds Can You Identify?

Activity 4.3: How Well Can You Match Sounds?

Activity 4.4: How Can You Make Music with Fish Line?

Activity 4.5: How Much Noise Can You Make with a Paper Cup?

Activity 4.6: How Can You Make Bottled Music?

Activity 4.7: How Can You Make Music with Tubes?

Activity 4.8: How Can You Make a Kazoo with a Comb?

Activity 4.9: What Is a Triple-T Kazoo?

Activity 4.10: How Can You See Sound?

Activity 4.11: What Can Water Teach Us About Sound?

Activity 4.12: How Many Ways Can You Make a Telephone?

Activity 4.13: How Well Does Sound Travel Through Wood?

Activity 4.14: From How Far Away Can You Hear a Clock Tick?

Activity 4.15: How Can You Make a Coat Hanger Sing?

Activity 4.16: How Fast Does Sound Travel?

Activity 4.17: What Is a Tuning Fork?

Activity 4.18: How Can You Make a Goblet Sing?

Activity 4.19: How Can You Play a Phonograph Record with a Sewing Needle?

Activity 4.20: How Can Sound Be Directed?

Activity 4.21: How Can Sound Be Collected?

Activity 4.22: What Are Sympathetic Vibrations?

Activity 4.23: What Are Forced Vibrations?

Activity 4.24: What Is the Doppler Effect?

Activity 4.25: What Is a Sonic Boom?

Activity 4.26: Can You Invent or Make a Musical Instrument?

Sound Word Searches.

Do You Recall?

Section Five: Simple Machines.

To the Teacher.

Activity 5.1: What Happens When You Rub Your Hands Together?

Activity 5.2: How Do Lubricants Affect Friction?

Activity 5.3: How Do Starting Friction and Sliding Friction Compare?

Activity 5.4: How Does Rolling Friction Compare with Sliding Friction?

Activity 5.5: What Is the Advantage of a First-Class Lever?

Activity 5.6: What Type of Simple Machine Is the Teeter-Totter?

Activity 5.7: How Can a Lever Be Used to Lift Heavy Things?

Activity 5.8: How Can You Predict the Effort Required to Lift a Load with a First-Class Lever?

Activity 5.9: What Do We Lose as We Gain Force with a Lever?

Activity 5.10: How Is a Second-Class Lever Different from a First-Class Lever?

Activity 5.11: What Do You Gain and What Do You Lose by Using a Second-Class Lever?

Activity 5.12: What Is a Third-Class Lever?

Activity 5.13: What Is Gained and What Is Lost by Using a Third-Class Lever?

Activity 5.14: What Is the Wheel and Axle?

Activity 5.15: What Type of Simple Machine Is the Pencil Sharpener?

Activity 5.16: What Is a Fixed Pulley?

Activity 5.17: What Is a Movable Pulley?

Activity 5.18: What Happens When a Small Person Tugs on a Large Person?

Activity 5.19: What Can Be Gained by Combining Fixed and Movable Pulleys?

Activity 5.20: What Is an Inclined Plane?

Activity 5.21: What Is a Wedge?

Activity 5.22: What Is a Screw?

Activity 5.23: What Kind of Simple Machine Is the Screwdriver?

Activity 5.24: What Kind of Simple Machine Is This?

Simple Machines Word Searches.

Do You Recall?

Section Six: Magnetism.

To the Teacher.

Activity 6.1: Which Rock Is Different?

Activity 6.2: What Do Magnets Look Like?

Activity 6.3: How Do Magnets Get Their Names?

Activity 6.4: Where Did the First Metal Magnet Come From?

Activity 6.5: What Materials Will a Magnet Pick Up?

Activity 6.6: Through What Substances Can Magnetism Pass?

Activity 6.7: Which Magnet Is Strongest?

Activity 6.8: What Part of a Magnet Has the Strongest Pull?

Activity 6.9: What Is a Special Property of Magnetism?

Activity 6.10: What Happens When a Magnet Can Turn Freely?

Activity 6.11: What Is a Compass?

Activity 6.12: How Can You Make a Compass?

Activity 6.13: What Are the Earth’s Magnetic Poles?

Activity 6.14: How Do Materials Become Magnetized?

Activity 6.15: How Can You Find the Poles of a Lodestone?

Activity 6.16: How Can You See a Magnetic Field?

Activity 6.17: How Can You Preserve a Magnetic Field?

Magnetism Word Searches

Do You Recall?

Section Seven: Static Electricity.

To the Teacher.

Activity 7.1: What Is the Kissing Balloon?

Activity 7.2: How Does Rubbing with Wool Affect Plastic Strips?

Activity 7.3: What Changes the Way Balloons React to Each Other?

Activity 7.4: What Will a Comb Do to Styrofoam?

Activity 7.5: How Can You Make Paper Dance Under Glass?

Activity 7.6: Why Does Paper Leap for a Balloon?

Activity 7.7: What Does Puffed Rice Run Away From?

Activity 7.8: How Can You Make Salt and Pepper Dance Together?

Activity 7.9: How Can You Make a String Dance?

Activity 7.10: How Can You Fill a Stocking Without Putting a Leg into It?

Activity 7.11: How Can You Bend Water?

Activity 7.12: How Can You Make a Spark with Your Finger?

Activity 7.13: How Can You Make an Electroscope?

Static Electricity Word Searches.

Do You Recall?

Section Eight: Current Electricity.

To the Teacher.

Activity 8.1: What Materials Will Conduct Electricity?

Activity 8.2: What Is a Circuit?

Activity 8.3: How Can We Model a Complete Circuit?

Activity 8.4: What Is a Short Circuit?

Activity 8.5: How Can You Make a Switch?

Activity 8.6: How Can You Make a Series Circuit?

Activity 8.7: How Can You Make a Parallel Circuit?

Activity 8.8: What Is Resistance?

Activity 8.9: How Does Electric Current Affect a Compass?

Activity 8.10: What Happens When Electric Current Flows

Through a Wire?

Activity 8.11: What Is an Electromagnet?

Activity 8.12: What Is a Way to Change the Strength of an Electromagnet?

Activity 8.13: What Is Another Way to Change the Strength of an Electromagnet?

Activity 8.14: What Happens When Current Flowing Through a Wire Changes Direction?

Activity 8.15: How Does the Direction of the Flow of Current Affect an Electromagnet?

Activity 8.16: How Can You Tell Whether Electric Current Is Flowing Through a Wire?

Activity 8.17: How Is Electricity Produced by Chemicals?

Activity 8.18: How Does a Lantern Battery or Flashlight Battery Work?

Activity 8.19: How Can Electricity Be Produced by a Lemon?

Activity 8.20: How Can Mechanical Energy Produce Electricity?

Activity 8.21: How Can Sunlight Produce Electricity?

Activity 8.22: How Can Electricity Help Us Communicate?

Current Electricity Word Searches.

Do You Recall?

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Author Information

Marvin N. Tolman, Ed.D., is a popular presenter at national meetings of science teachers, contributes to academic journals, reviews science education materials, and edits textbook and journal series. Currently, he is professor of teacher education at Brigham Young University and author of the popular Hands-On Science series from Jossey-Bass.
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"The Hands-On books are an awesome resource that has enhanced my science units. Every activity has easy step-by-step instructions, a materials list, and teacher information. My students and I love the activities."
—Patti W. Seeholzer, third-grade teacher, River Heights Elementary School, Utah and winner of the 2002 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching

"A great resource for all prospective and practicing elementary teachers."
—David T. Crowther, associate professor, science education, University of Nevada, Reno

"The Marv Tolman science activity books were always a hit with teachers and were valuable for use with my science method course students."
—Dr. Donald R. Daugs, professor emeritus, Utah State University

"I love the Hands-On Science books by Marv Tolman. They sit right next to my desk within easy reach. The lesson plans are teacher friendly and student friendly. The books are put together in such a way that it is easy to find any subject. From Kindergarten to 6th grade the lessons are set up for all students to use. I know, I have used them in all grades and my students love to be involved in science. I highly recommend these books for any teacher whether you struggle with science or are an expert in the field."
—Marilyn Bulkley, fifth grade teacher, Garfield School District, Panguitch, Utah

"Our sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students have literally worn out our copies of Dr. Tolman's Hands-On Activities.  We have two copies of each activity book and students select them for their concise instructions, excellent diagrams, and easy-to-find materials. Even though the title indicates grades K-6, students and teachers in seventh and eighth grades found the activities very helpful in classroom demonstrations and as a beginning point for science fair problems.  I loved the way that the activities are divided into the three different disciplines: physical, earth, and life. It was fast and easy to locate just what you needed using the table of contents organization. There was always an activity for whatever concept my students were learning. Our school will need to purchase the newly revised activity books."
—Rosalee Riddle, science teacher, Red Hills Middle School, Richfield, Utah and science curriculum coordinator, Sevier School District, Richfield, Utah

"Before my current position as science teacher educator, I used these activity books extensively in teaching science to my sixth graders. I found them very valuable and helpful in creating lessons that engaged the students in hands-on activities that effectively taught science concepts. Now, as an assistant professor of science education, I continue to use them as I discuss and model hands-on and inquiry-based science. Additionally, I highly recommend them to the pre-service students in my elementary science methods courses, many of whom use them in lesson planning and unit planning for my class as well as during their practicum and student teaching experiences."
—Leigh K. Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Science Education, Brigham Young University

"I have taught many science classes for our district over the last ten years, and I always rely on your Hands-On books for background information.  I have them pulled off of the shelf now because I am using them to come up with a science/math activity for my National Board Certification Program.  I know I can trust these books. The information is clearly presented, easy to understand, and the activities always work."
—Mary Selin, second grade teacher, Davis District and first grade science trainer for the district, Davis School District, Utah

"I have used Marv's science books for several years. I love the experiments. The kids love to try them on their own. They have easy-to-follow directions and all the materials are readily available. I especially like the explanations of how and why. The best thing about these experiments is that they work! I haven't had one fail yet."
—Keetette Turner, kindergarten teacher, Granite District, Salt Lake City, Utah

"I began working with Marv Tolman ten years ago. I was new to the world of elementary teaching. I had heard of a workshop that helped teachers simplify, and pinpoint science concepts that could be taught repeatedly through hands-on, basic application. That workshop was the first of many and I still--ten years later--use the concepts to teach my students. The basic and simple mechanics of science that are incorporated into these lessons reach the gifted and struggling learner and can be adapted and adjusted to time and to the needs of students’ individual levels and learning styles."
—Marcie H. Judd, fourth grade teacher, Valley Elementary School, Kanab School District, Kanab, Utah

"Many elementary teachers lack science background knowledge. The Hands-On Science Activities series provides teachers with both background knowledge and engaging methods to help all students learn science concepts. Marv explains them using simple, clear, and concise language that equips teachers to teach with confidence. These books have increased both the accuracy and the quality of science education."
—Julie Cook, Title I Literacy Coordinator

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