A Cup of Chemistry for Mother’s Day

Coming up to Mother’s Day, we need a celebration. Why not a tea party?

We’ll teach kids to make a cup of tea for their moms for Mother’s Day, and incidentally consider solubility.

If you work with older students, consider looking into the Smart Tea project. At its simplest, this asks students to compare the process of making tea at home with the way a chemist would do it, in order to clarify the scientific process.

This lesson plan is suitable for any grade studying solubility and solutions. HotChalk’s vocabulary quiz would be great for assessment for older grades.

Pour out cups of water at three temperatures: chilled, room temperature, and boiling. If this is following work on the states of matter, put some ice into the chilled water as a reminder. Ask for three volunteers, and give each volunteer paper and pencil to record observations.

Here’s what you want the volunteers to do:

  • Measure and record the temperature of the water (the solvent).
  • Put a tea bag (the solute) into each cup. It must be the same type of tea bag, and we would recommend herbal or decaffeinated tea, so the kids can drink it when you’re through. Record the time when the teabag entered the cup, and keep track of the time it takes the water to become tea. You may want to recruit a fourth volunteer with a stopwatch, and/or another volunteer or volunteers to taste the tea and confirm whether it really has become tea yet or not (in general, you can go by color, but some brands of tea contain dye).

Introduce the terms “solvent,” “solute,” and “solution.” Add the word “solubility” if students don’t have a new-vocabulary headache yet. Here is a nice little science glossary sheet, in case it’s been a while since you used these words yourself.

These terms are necessary for second grade and up, but younger students might like to learn a couple of them, too. Make it easier by rhythmically chanting “The water is the solvent, the tea is the solute.”  Start very softly and go up to loud voices and then back down to a whisper, and they’ll have it memorized.

Ask all the students to develop a hypothesis about solutions and temperature individually. Have them write their hypotheses on their papers.

If a lot of discussion time has passed, you may need to ice and boil up some fresh water or tea for the next bit. You may also want to choose another set of volunteers. Provide them with the three temperatures of liquid.

Have the volunteers continue as follows:

  • Measure and record the temperature of the liquid (the solvent).
  • Now begin adding sugar (the solute) by the teaspoonful, stirring well after each addition. Have students stir in spoonsful of sugar as long as the sugar continues to dissolve. At that point, the solution is saturated.
  • Record how many spoonsful of sugar can be stirred into the liquid at each temperature before saturation takes place.

Ask students to write a true statement about temperature and solubility.

I’d use a pocket chart. Start with the vocabulary: solvent, solute, solution, solubility, saturated. Depending on grade level, there are some interesting vocabulary lessons to bring in here. Some possibilities: the S sound; syllables; and the way that a schwa sound in a word will sometimes reveal itself in related words, which can be a big help on tests.

Continue with sentences from each of the volunteers, and then call on other students to read what they have written on their papers. Work with the class to produce a language experience story about the experiment. Have students decide whether their hypotheses were confirmed or disconfirmed. Depending on grade levels, have them copy the language experience story, or write their own report on the experiment.

Finally, you might like to take a small leaf — a tea leaf, if you will (tea leaves are small, get it? get it?) — from the Smart Tea Project’s book and compare the scientist’s method of testing solubility with the process of making tea at home for their moms.

Finish up the lesson by making tea for all with age-appropriate levels of supervision and assistance, and drinking it in a tea party atmosphere.

Now that students know how to make Mom a cup of tea, you might like to print out a Mother’s Day coloring page for the little ones. Older students might enjoy analyzing the chemistry of tea itself. Here is the data.

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