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Studying Mixtures With Homemade Soda

By Julie Ballew on November 12, 2012
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

I am so fortunate to work on a fabulous team. My campus has three instructional coaches — I am the literacy coach, and we have a math coach and a science coach.  I want to share some of the great work that is happening in other content areas in my building, so I asked my fellow coaches to share with me. The first thing that popped up was from Michelle, the science coach. She told me that 4th grade was studying mixtures by doing some investigations with soda ingredients.

I just love how engaging science is for kids, and it’s no wonder. Everything is so hands-on and concrete! How could they not be engaged? I talked to the 4th grade team about this work, and I followed Mrs. Izat and Ms. Conner into the science lab with their students. This post is all about the work that they did, which comes from the Designing Mixtures unit in the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading Program. 

Part One: Recording Observations

The first trip to the science lab is all about observing. Students are presented with a variety of substances that might be used in soda (sugar, citric acid, baking soda, and cinnamon), and they test each of them to see how well those substances dissolve into water as well as how they taste when mixed into the water. The students use their science notebooks to carefully record their observations.

Materials for Soda Investigation

2 girls looking at ingredients for soda lab     Student Notebook

The students then return to the classroom to debrief about the work. This allows them to see trends that might have surfaced in each group in the lab.

Part Two: Designing a Recipe to Make the Perfect Soda

When the students return to the lab for part two, they are given a recipe framework. All possible ingredients are listed, and they decide how much they want to add. I saw many students in Mrs. Izat’s class referring to their observations about solubility and taste to help them decide what to include.

Student Notebook     Two boys mixing soda ingredients

Two girls adding ingredients to soda     Student adding ingredients to soda

As they add each ingredient, students are instructed to taste the soda. As you can see in the photo below, this is not always a pleasant experience, but it’s definitely a memorable one! If they don’t like the taste, students know to add something else to make it better, recording each ingredient they add. Mrs. Izat gave her class a form to record the ingredients that made their favorite soda. This record will go with the recipe they’ll write in class after debriefing.

Student tasting soda  Cups of colored Sodas

Student Notebook

Part Three: Debriefing and Recording the Recipe

After returning from the science lab, Mrs. Izat’s class launched a whole-group discussion about what happened. This discussion is an important part of any investigation because it allows students to review everything they have learned about mixtures so far; it supports their use of content-specific vocabulary; and it sets them up to write about their learning. The writing after this particular discussion involved writing down the recipe they created for “the perfect soda.” Mrs. Izat made sure to remind the students that scientists have to write down the steps in a way that allows them to be replicated by anyone. She gave them a form on which to write down and draw each step in their recipe. 

Teacher debriefing with students

Because I live in the land of literacy coaching, it’s refreshing (and important) for me to sit in on lessons in other content areas. I see a lot of connections between the notebook work they are doing in science and the notebook work we’d like them to do in reading. Making these connections for myself will help me better understand how to make connections between the content areas for students.

Comments (6)

This is an excellent collaboration involving students, teachers and instructional coaches! Using the Designing Mixtures learning units from "Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading" provide such meaningful experiences for our children and great treasures for teachers!

Thanks for the support, Anne! :)

You all are doing great work! Thanks for making science fun and for instilling life-long memorable moments and experiences for our children as it relates to the wonderful world of science!

Thanks for the kind words! It's so much fun to see the kids so excited about learning!

Julie, thanks for this amazing post. I can't wait to do this experiment with my class, and I appreciate how you describe it so clearly! One question - what is meant by adding a "toothpick" of baking soda? Also, any concerns about adding extract into something the students are going to drink due to alcohol content? Just trying to work out the logistics for when I put this into action. Thanks again!

Hi Aly,

The students used a toothpick to scoop the baking soda instead of a spoon. This just ensured that they used a very small amount. As far as the extract, I think teachers helped measure this, and I didn't hear of any concerns, but that's certainly something to be mindful of! Would love to hear how this turns out for you!

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