Hidden Science in Colonial Times

As our colonial unit continues on, we begin to talk about life during the mid-1700s for the colonists.  One aspect we always settle on is that much of what the people living in the colonies needed for everyday life was created by them.  And each of those things had a basis in scientific principles....specifically physical and chemical changes.  It just so happens that one of our big units in science is based around the very same topic (funny how that happens ;))
Hidden science in colonial times

So, to peak my students' interest in this idea that the colonists used science too, I began with this lesson about how butter was made.  Be sure to read it first, then come back here.  The kids LOVED this lesson.

Making butter close read to connect science and social studiesThe next day, I broke the students into 5 separate groups.   In the groups, they read informational articles similar to what they read for the butter.  Again, they were looking for evidence of physical and chemical changes.  Since that was their purpose, they wrote that at the top of the article.  As they read the text, the students underlined any evidence of the type of change that was taking place.  Students also made little notes in the margins to further cement their ideas.

recording reading support on a graphic organizer.Once the article was read, the students used this organizer to write down the determined change type as well as direct evidence from the text to support that change.  I made sure to walk around during this phase as some of the articles were a bit tricky to figure out.  For example, clay bricks have all the evidence of a physical change (movement, breaking things apart, pressure) but then it mentions that the brick was put in an oven for drying.  Students confused the drying, which we eventually concluded was a faster way towards evaporation, for cooking.  They wanted to say chemical change but upon further reflection, it became more evident that it was a simple physical change that was taking place.

After all of the articles were read, and the types of change were cemented, the students wrote a little bit about the history and uses of that particular item and drew a picture.  This made for a cute final product that is suitable for my bulletin boards.
final product teaching in room 6final product

All in all, the students had a good time, used their close reading skills, and were able to connect several of our subjects all at once.  I say it was a win-win of a lesson.

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  1. I love this idea! I also think that they didn't eat tomatoes because the acid interacted with the tin plates (I'm not remembering exactly) so the colonists thought tomatoes were poisonous. Also (I learned this at a brewery on Nantucket) - they drank ale because it was the only beverage that was boiled - making ale the safest drink. So fascinating!

  2. Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family. The leaves in massive quantities are fatal. A few simply make you very ill. Poor people rarely had anything but wooden plates. Tomatoes were eaten by many but not so for richer folks. Pewter is what most plates were made of and acid foods do not mix well with pewter. It causes the lead to leech out of the pewter and into your food.

  3. Sounds interesting. Besides, with such an exercise analytical as well as creative skills can be developed. And I think finding information among lots of data was also interesting for the students. Indeed, you did a pretty awesome job coming up with this idea. I guess if there were more teachers like you, less students would be writing a paper with WriteMyEssayFast.


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