Colonial Science and Making Butter

Well, it is official.  My kids think I am the best teacher on the planet.

OK....that is a little exaggeration, BUT we did have a great time exploring colonial times and physical/chemical changes, while working on reading for evidence. 

So, what did we do that put me on track to be voted into the hall of fame of teaching?  We made butter.  Yes, you heard me.  Making butter in class is the equivalent to winning the Super Bowl.  But I am ahead of myself.  Let me run you through the lessons so that you too can be the best thing since sliced bread.

We are in crunch time before the big TEST, so reviewing all of our past science standards is a must.  Physical and Chemical changes is a big standard that is so hard for the kids to really grasp.  So we began our lesson by watching the StudyJams video on Physical and Chemical Changes.  We discussed and took notes, all the while jogging their memory to what they already knew.  Using the video and their own notes, the students helped me to make a list of what constitutes a physical change and what denotes a chemical change.

Then, I segued into Colonial times (our social studies unit) by pointing out that everyday things that the colonists did contained hidden science and many, many things resulted in chemical and physical changes.  (To which one student raised her hand and said, "They had science back then????" completely amazed :)  )

I passed out a reading passage called The Story of Butter (which I found at this fabulous site here.)  Just as we do for all nonfiction reading passages, we determined our purpose for reading and wrote it at the top.  In this case, I wanted the students to find evidence of either a chemical or physical change.  Then, the students worked in pairs to read the passage and underline evidence of making butter being either a chemical or physical change (spoiler alert:  it is a physical change.)

After a whole class review and discussion, ultimately determining it was a physical change, we set about to prove that it was indeed physical.  I passed out jars of heavy whipping cream to pairs of students, who then took turns vigorously shaking them.  This motion caused the cream to turn into butter....and created an overnight sensation with the best teaching ideas ever out of me.  :)
Physical science in a 5th grade class by making butter!

By doing this, the kids could clearly see that a physical change had occurred because there were no signs of a chemical change.  The kids took what they read and applied it to actual, tangible science investigation.  Then they got to eat it.

Here is where we stopped for the day.  Tomorrow, we will read 5 more passages to determine the type of change.  Then, we created a bulletin board to show our discoveries.  You can read about that lesson here.


  1. I remember my teachers doing this exact thing when I was in elementary school in 1975! Well, I don't know if writing down the purpose of our reading was a thing way back then, but I remember it 40 years later, so that kinda is the teaching equivalent of the Super Bowl!! :-)

  2. I agree. I remember this from my Year 2 class.
    Thanks for your fabulous ideas and for being so generous in sharing them.


Please leave a comment! I love to hear what you think about what is posted :)

Back to Top