Kinetic Model #14

(grades 7-12)
Soft-bound, 64 page book, 24 reproducible task cards, full teaching notes.

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How can we determine the nature of things we can't see? Experiment with making inferences. Apply these reasoning skills to investigate the nature of solids, liquids and gases. Discover matter as a collection of particles in constant thermal motion through a variety of phenomena – diffusion, expansion, contraction, condensation, more. Whew!

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Kinetic Model Starter Kit

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WE SUPPLY in quantities that serve one student or two students working in a lab pair: aluminum foil, index card, masking tape, clear tape, plastic jars, graduated cylinders, thermometers (12" glass), heavy-duty D-cell batteries, straws, test tubes, syringe, pipettes, tubing, food coloring, magnet, clothespin, emergency candle, birthday candles, modeling clay, rubber bands, paper clips, straight pins, styrofoam cups, hand lens, flashlight bulb


  • free activity
  • book content
  • get materials
  • teaching tips
  • objectives
  • standards

Table of Contents for #14 Kinetic Model:

Preparation and Support

A TOPS Model for Effective Science Teaching • Getting Ready • Gathering Materials • Sequencing Task Cards • Gaining a Whole Perspective• Long Range Objectives • Review/Test Questions

Activities and Lesson Notes

  1. 1. Indirect Evidence
  2. 2. Modeling Unknowns
  3. 3. A Kinetic Model
  4. 4. A Kinetic Mix
  5. 5. Air Thermometer
  6. 6. Phase Changes
  7. 7. Heating Curve
  8. 8. Cooling Curve
  9. 9. Blow-Up
  10. 10. Cool It!
  11. 11. Incredible Journey
  12. 12. Tipping the Balance
  13. 13. Relative Humidity
  14. 14. Hydrometer
  15. 15. Kinetic Push-Ups
  16. 16. Clouds

  18. 17. Move Magnifier
  19. 18. Expand and Contract
  20. 19. Bi-Material Strip
  21. 20. Heat of Fusion
  22. 21. Absolute Zero (1)
  23. 22. Absolute Zero (2)
  24. 23. Absolute Zero (3)
  25. 24. A Cool Boil

Supplementary Pages

graph paper • square, circle and triangle • humidity table • centimeter ruler • absolute zero half-graphs


Complete Master List for #14 Kinetic Model:

Key: (1st/2nd/3rd) denote needed quantities: (1st) enough for 1 student doing all activities; (2nd) enough for 30 students working in 10 lab groups all self-paced; (3rd) enough for 30 students working in 10 lab groups, all doing the same lesson. Starred* items may be purchased below.

  1. * 1/10/10: rolls masking tape
  2. 1/10/10: scissors
  3. 1/2/2: sheets pressed cardboard
  4. 4/25/25: milk cartons, quart or half gallon sizes
  5. 2/2/2: sets milk carton objects: washer, penny, bottle cap, tack, nail, rubber stopper, marble, BB, clay ball, half straw, AA battery, test tube, clothespin, a 5-link paper clip chain, microscope slide.
  6. * 1/5/10: magnets (optional)
  7. 1/10/10: plastic produce bags
  8. 1/1/1: package popcorn, unpopped
  9. 1/1/2: dictionaries
  10. * 3/18/30: baby food jars (or small jars)

  11. 1/1/1: source hot and cold water
  12. 1/1/1: cider jug or equivalent
  13. * 1/1/1: bottle food coloring
  14. 1/1/1: wall clock with a second hand (or wristwatches, stopwatches)
  15. * 0.2/1/2: meters narrow clear plastic tubing, 1/8 inch diameter or less
  16. * 2/20/20: test tubes, at least half should be large capacity
  17. * 0.1/1/1: cup modeling clay (or a 1-hole rubber stoppers)
  18. * 1/10/10: eyedroppers
  19. * 1/10/20: lab thermometers
  20. * 1/4/10: lids for baby food jars (or other small jars)

  21. * 1/1/1: roll aluminum foil
  22. 2/20/20: cups ice cubes
  23. 1/1/1: box table salt
  24. 1/1/1: roll paper towels
  25. * 1/10/10: candles (may use Bunsen burners or alcohol lamps in some activities)
  26. 1/10/10: books matches
  27. * 1/10/10: wooden clothespins
  28. 0.4/4/4: cups snow or ice shavings
  29. 0.2/2/2: cups wax shavings
  30. 1/4/10: index cards, 4x6 inches (optional)

  31. 2/10/20: styrofoam cups
  32. 2/20/20: plastic sandwich bags
  33. * 1/1/1: box paper clips
  34. 1/1/1: bottle rubbing alcohol
  35. * 3/30/30: rubber bands
  36. 1/1/1: roll plastic wrap
  37. * 5/50/50: straight drinking straws
  38. * 3/30/30: straight pins
  39. 1/2/5: hole punch tools
  40. 1/4/10: margarine tubs (or bowls)

  41. 1/4/10: empty cans
  42. * 1/4/10: hand lenses
  43. 1/1/1: roll toilet tissue
  44. 2/20/20: quart jars with lids
  45. 1/1/1: roll string
  46. 1/1/1: hot plate or radiator (optional)
  47. * 1/5/10: small diameter syringes, about 3 cc
  48. 1/10/10: plastic 2 liter bottles with lids
  49. 1/5/10: twist ties (or thin wire)
  50. 1/4/10: hand calculators

  51. * 1/2/5: rolls clear tape
  52. * 3/30/30: birthday candles
  53. * 2/6/20: size-D batteries
  54. * 1/4/10: graduated cylinders, 100 mL capacity
  55. * 1/4/10: graduated cylinders, 10 mL capacity

Convenient Shopping:

Aluminum Foil

regular strength, 20 square feet x 12 inches rolls

Buy aluminum foil here as a convenience item, or for less in many grocery stores.

Baby Food Jars - assorted

without lids

Each set includes 4 small, 4 medium and 4 large glass jars.


size-D, alkaline

These are basic workhorse brands, available everywhere.

Candles - birthday

Needed for #09 Floating and Sinking, #11 Oxidation, and #14 Kinetic Model.

Candles - emergency

cylindrical, 5 inches by about 3/4 inches diameter

Also called utility candles. A handy heating source. Correctly sized for #09 Floating and Sinking. Drip catchers not included.

Clay - modeling

oil-based, non-drying

Sold by the 100 gram stick, about 1/4 cup, in assorted colors (our choice). One stick serves a whole classroom for TOPS applications.


wooden, spring-action

These are handy lab items to keep in stock. We use them as bulb holders, tongs, clips, and more.


glass, with rubber bulbs and screw-on plastic bottle top

These have many lab uses. You may purchase them separately here, or with 1/2 ounce dropper bottles (as item #1121).

Separately, these also double as Cartesian Divers in #200 Diving into Pressure & Buoyancy. If you already have droppers, test them in advance to see if they make good 'divers': Remove plastic bottle top, if any. Dropper must float when empty, then sink with a one-squeeze-intake of water. Test that the seal between bulb and barrel is water tight: The empty dropper should float for a day or so in a glass of water, without taking on visible water.

Food Coloring - blue

liquid, dispensed in 1 fl. oz. squeeze bottle

A handy science supply used to make water more visible. Used in #39 Corn and Beans, #41 Planets and Stars, and several other TOPS modules.

Graduated Cylinder - 10 mL

shatter resistant plastic on stable base

An important lab inquiry tool for measuring small liquid volumes.

Graduated Cylinder - 100 mL

shatter resistant plastic on stable base

An important lab inquiry tool for measuring larger liquid volumes.

Magnifier - hand lens

3X clear plastic hand lens

You'll find many uses for this basic tool of scientific inquiry. Very nice quality for the price. Supports #17 Light, #23 Rocks and Minerals, and #42 Focus Pocus. (One 3X hand lens is also included in each #100 Triple Magnifier Kit.)

Magnet - ceramic

rectangle, 3/16 inch thick

Your basic refrigerator magnet, about the width and length of a large postage stamp, with N and S poles on each face and a hole in the middle. A useful and popular science supply used in may TOPS titles. Purchase at least 2 per student.

Paper Clips

size #1, steel, box of 100

Paper clips have 1001 uses in TOPS experiments, and science in general. Feel free to use paper clips you already have, but be aware that different brands come in different sizes and weights. In experiments where uniformity is important, don't mix brands.

Rubber Bands - assorted

10 grams each of thin, medium and thick

You get 30 grams of soft, strong, durable rubber bands: thin #16 (about 50), medium #32 (about 20), and heavy-duty #64 (about 10). These sizes are specifically selected to work in most TOPS experiments.

Stopper - rubber

black rubber, size #6, no hole

Used in #09 Floating and Sinking, #14 Kinetic Model, and #22 Machines.

Straight Pins

steel, one and 1/16 inch long

Used in many TOPS experiments. Sometimes required for their magnetic properties. Don't purchase aluminum straight pins by mistake.

Straws - straight

plastic, thin

Any length straw, between 0.20 and 0.25 inches in diameter is suitable. Grocery stores generally carry straws with flexible "elbows." You can use those if you cut off the bendable section before using.

Syringes - small diameter

3 mL capacity, about 1/10 ounce

Syringes are a handy lab item for measuring out precise amounts of liquid, creating instant vacuums, and feeling the amazing force of atmospheric pressure. Keep 2 different diameters on hand to illustrate how the force of pressure changes with applied area. You can also buy syringes in farm stores. Those intended for oral medication are sold without needles. If you must purchase the needle, make sure it is removable.

This is a specialty item for #14 Kinetic Model and #16 Pressure.

Tape - clear

3/4 inch x 1000 inch roll

Your standard desk tape with matte write-on surface.

Tape - masking

3/4 inch x 55 yd roll

A handy science supply used in most TOPS modules.

Test Tube - large disposable

36 mL capacity, 20 mm OD, 6 inch (150 mm) length

A lighter weight rimless Pyrex test tube made with thinner glass.

Test Tube - large reusable

34 mL capacity, 20 mm OD, 6 inch (150 mm) length

A tough Pyrex test tube made with rim and thicker glass. Has a white spot for labeling.

Test Tube - medium disposable

19 mL capacity, 16 mm OD, 5 inch (125 mm) length

A lighter weight rimless Pyrex test tube made with thinner glass.

Test Tube - medium reusable

14 mL capacity, 15 mm OD, 5 inch (125 mm) length

A tough Pyrex test tube made with rim and thicker glass. Has a white spot for labeling.


red alcohol, calibrated in °F and °C

A compact protective aluminum back-scale makes this item more visible, less fragile, and less prone to roll off lab tables than traditional lab thermometers. Used in #14 Kinetic Model and #15 Heat. Works in all TOPS experiments requiring temperature measurement, except one.

Tubing - narrow ID

clear plastic, 1/8 inch ID

Model how a thermometer works. Watch a colored bubble of water move up and down theses tubes as air expands and contracts with temperature. Used in #14 Kinetic Model.

Teaching Tips for #14 Kinetic Model:

We encourage improvisation - it's one of the main goals of our hands-on approach! You and your students might invent a simpler, sturdier or more accurate system; might ask a better question; might design a better extension. Hooray for ingenuity! When this occurs, we'd love to hear about it and share it with other educators. Please send ideas and photos to

Lesson by Lesson Objectives for #14 Kinetic Model:

  1. Lesson 1: To devise ways to indirectly determine the shapes of cardboard patterns inside a milk carton.
  2. Lesson 2: To make inferences about the contents of a milk carton using indirect experimental evidence.
  3. Lesson 3: To develop a kinetic model for air trapped in a plastic bag.
  4. Lesson 4: To show by indirect experimental evidence that water molecules are in continuous motion.
  5. Lesson 5: To build an air thermometer that is sensitive to small temperature changes. To explain how it functions in terms of the kinetic model.
  6. Lesson 6: To observe and describe four phase changes in water. To interpret these changes on a molecular level.
  7. Lesson 7: To plot a heating curve for water. To recognize that temperature remains constant as water changes phase.
  8. Lesson 8: To plot a cooling curve for candle wax. To recognize that heat is lost as wax undergoes a phase change from liquid to solid.
  9. Lesson 9: To evaporate water in closed systems. To use the kinetic model to account for its dramatic increase in volume.
  10. Lesson 10: To understand why liquids cool as they evaporate.
  11. Lesson 11: To observe and explain the cooling effects of alcohol. To trace the movement of alcohol molecules through a permeable membrane.
  12. Lesson 12: To compare rates of evaporation in water and rubbing alcohol on a balance beam. To account for observed differences in terms of intermolecular bond strengths.
  13. Lesson 13: To condense water vapor against surfaces that are cooled by evaporation. To understand that evaporation and condensation form a dynamic equilibrium when humidity reaches 100%
  14. Lesson 14: To construct a hygrometer. To measure the relative humidity of room air and compare it to other sources.
  15. Lesson 15: To investigate the relationship between the pressure on a gas and its temperature.
  16. Lesson 16: To make a cloud in a bottle, To understand how pressure, temperature and relative humidity affect cloud formation.
  17. Lesson 17: To construct an apparatus for use in the next activity that detects small changes in length. To geometrically calculate real movement based on apparent movement.
  18. Lesson 18: To understand the expansion and contraction of aluminum foil in terms of the kinetic model. To measure its changing length.
  19. Lesson 19: To observe how a bi-material strip bends as its dissimilar sides expand and contract by different amounts.
  20. Lesson 20: To calculate the heat of fusion for ice.
  21. Lesson 21: To quantitatively measure the volume of air inside a test tube at two different temperatures.
  22. Lesson 22: To experimentally calculate absolute zero and compare it with the accepted value, To appreciate the physical significance of this ultimate cold.
  23. Lesson 23: To use the absolute zero graph to plot the average temperature of air inside a heated test tube.
  24. Lesson 24: To boil warm water in a syringe at low pressure. To interpret a simple phase diagram.

National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) for #14 Kinetic Model:

TEACHING Standards

These 24 Task Cards promote excellence in science teaching by these NSES criteria:
Teachers of science...
A: ...plan an inquiry-based science program. (p. 30)
B: and facilitate learning. (p. 32)
C: ...engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. (p. 37)
D: and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. (p. 43)

CONTENT Standards

These 24 Task Cards contain fundamental content as defined by these NSES guidelines (p. 109).
• Represent a central event or phenomenon in the natural world.
• Represent a central scientific idea and organizing principle.
• Have rich explanatory power.
• Guide fruitful investigations.
• Apply to situations and contexts common to everyday experiences.
• Can be linked to meaningful learning experiences.
• Are developmentally appropriate for students at the grade level specified.

Unifying Concepts and Processes

NSES Framework: Systems, order, and organization • Evidence, models and explanation • Constancy, change, and measurement • Evolution and equilibrium • Form and function
Core Concepts/Processes: Matter exists as a solid, liquid, or gas, depending on temperature and pressure. • Under constant pressure, a volume of air (V) shrinks in direct proportion to temperature (T). Plot T vs. V, then extrapolate the straight line to absolute zero, where all thermal motion stops.

Science as Inquiry (content standard A)

NSES Framework: Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations. • Design and conduct a scientific investigation. • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. • Think critically and logically to connect evidence and explanations. • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions. • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations. • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Core Inquiries: Make inferences about atoms and molecules based on indirect evidence.

Physical Science (content standard B)

NSES Framework:Heat • Properties and changes of properties in matter • Motions and forces • Transfer of energy • Interactions of energy and matter
Core Content:States of matter • Thermal motion • Phase changes • Evaporation • Humidity • Bimetal strips • Absolute zero

Science and Technology (content standard E)

NSES Framework: Abilities of technological design • Understanding about science and technology
Core Content: Design a hygrometer and measure humidity. • Invent a bimetal strip. • Build a balance to observe evaporation as it happens.