Density Lab Simulation

Unit 1 of the Modeling Instruction chemistry curriculum has students develop the ideas of mass and volume and then the relationship between them (density). Consistent with the Modeling Instruction method, students collect data and analyze that data to develop a model to describe a relationship.

This year, my school is beginning virtually. It will be a challenge to transform our chemistry lab activities to the online format until we are able to resume in-person classes (and even then, we will be limited in the types of activities that we can do while “socially distant”). As I thought about facilitating my class online, I discovered Construct.net, which is typically used to produce online games. I found that it can be adapted to simulate labs like this one. I created a couple different versions. Check them out!

Chemistry Mass-Volume Lab Simulation

Chemistry Mass-Volume Lab Simulation with Water Displacement

It simply allows students to measure the mass and volume of several samples of a material (currently, it has steel, aluminum, and wood). The first sample is always the same size for everybody, but subsequent samples are random sizes/masses (so encourage students to include a wide range of sample sizes in their data). Students can then use whatever graphing tools desired to analyze the data. A few years ago, I made a simple data analysis tool that would work well for this.

I like that the water displacement version shows which substances sink and float. Also, you can produce some samples that, because of their size or density (wood) do not completely submerge. This provides a chance to discuss what the water displacement measurement represents.

The water displacement version can also be used to show the relationship between cm3 and ml. Just measure a sample with the ruler and then dunk it in the water.

Leave a comment about any issues you find or requests for features. Here are some things I’m thinking about:

  • More realistic interactions: an on-screen ruler to measure length, width, and height would build measurement skills. But, Contruct.net is really a 2-dimensional tool, so measuring that third dimension would be a challenge.
  • UPDATE July 27, 2020:
    • Added zinc, copper, and lead to the substances.
    • Changed the button text to say “New Size”
    • Clarified the instructions.

The source files are available for anyone wanting to modify or extend. Just promise not to chide me too severely–it was my first time with Contruct! I do encourage anyone else working on this or similar lab simulations to share what you come up with.

Wall-Size Periodic Table

I’ve produced a printable periodic table for posting on the wall in my classroom (updated April 2017). I thought other teachers might wish to do the same, so I’m making it available here.

This version is designed to be printed in color on 4×6 photo paper (I chose matte finish for less glare, but glossy might work too).  I had mine printed at Amazon Prints for about $11.00, though many local or chain shops may have special deals that would allow you to get this printed pretty cheaply. Each individual element block is then taped together on the back or glued onto a backing material. The final dimensions are about 6 feet wide and 3-4 feet tall.

The periodic table features include:

  • Element name, symbol, atomic number, and atomic mass
    • Includes updated names and symbols adopted by IUPAC through 2016
  • Common ions for most elements
  • Color-coded background for element families/groups
  • Symbols in black (solid), blue (liquid), or red (gas) elements (at room temp.) Synthetic elements are in gray.
  • Group numbers above each column (1 – 18)

To print your own, here is a zip file of jpeg photos that you can upload or bring to your photo printer:

Periodic Table Images ZIP file

The source files used to produce the images are provided here should you want to make any adjustments.  The element database is an excel file, which is used in combination with word’s mail merge capabilities.

PT-4×6-Color-Merged

PT-4×6-Color-Template

PT-Element_Data_Base

Note: images were produced by first saving the merged word document as a PDF and then using ImageMagick command:

magick.exe -density 300 PT-4x6-Color-Merged.pdf[0-117] 
-background white -alpha remove -resize 770x996 -gravity
center -extent 800x1200 element.jpg

Version 1.0

My previous classroom had a very large blank wall to accommodate a very large periodic table.  This is how it looked in my classroom.

The data is mostly based on the information in the element data base downloaded from Central High School’s website in St. Paul, MN, with a few corrections and additions from Wikipedia.org and WebElements.com.

The Periodic Table

Here are the printable versions:

Periodic Table – Merged (MS Word .doc)

Periodic Table – Merged (PDF)

UPDATE:  I’ve since created a version with two elements to a page so it’s not quite as huge.

Merged-half-page (MS Word .docx)

Source Files

These files were used to produce the periodic table using MS Word’s mail merge capabilities. Should you like to change it to your liking, you can download these files and produce your own.

PT Element Data Base (MS Excel .xls)

PT Mail Merge Template (MS Word .doc)

PT Mail Merge Template – half page (MS Word .doc)

Empirical Formula Lab: Zinc Chloride

Procedures

1. Find the mass of a clean, dry, labeled beaker. (49.45 g)

2. Add zinc to the beaker and find its mass. (52.72 g)

3. Add 50 ml of HCl to the beaker. Record observations.

4. Place the beaker on a hot plate to evaporate the water.

Day 2:

5. Find the mass of the zinc chloride left in the beaker.  Make sure all water has been driven off.

Final Mass of Beaker with Zinc Chloride:  56.27 g

Now, you have enough information to determine the empirical formula of Zinc Chloride.

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