Conducting Investigations


Objectives: After completing the lesson, students will be able to:

  conduct their own scientific investigations


Key Question: "How can I answer my own questions about dry ice?"



            This is a very difficult lesson to manage. There are likely to be as many as 16 pairs of students working on their own dry ice investigation. For this reason, it is probably best to conduct this lesson over a 2 day period.

            On the first day, it is important that students turn in a completed "Materials List." This gives the teacher an extra day to either track down materials not already found in the classroom, or to direct students to an investigation involving materials that are more easily obtainable. It is also a good idea at this time to make sure each pair of students has narrowed their focus to a single test variable. Each pair of students should be handed a copy of the "Investigation Rubric" at this time (p. 126 of the Dry Ice GEMS guide). This gives each pair of students one more evening to fine tune their investigation, knowing what is expected of them. Finally, it is a very good idea once again to go over laboratory procedures and safety. The first day might even conclude with a test of lab skills. (To facilitate such a test, several sets of questions taken from the Prentice-Hall Inquiry Skills Activity Book are included at the end of this lesson).

            The entire second day is given to the students to perform their investigations. It is essential to have all materials ready and easily accessible before the class session begins. If any student pairs finish early, they have the option of performing a second trial of their investigation, or working on their write-up. It is a good idea to emphasize the importance of communicating results as part of the scientific process.


Time Required: 2 class sessions of 45-60 minutes each.



dry ice, broken into pieces 1 1/2" in diameter

  any materials on the student "Materials List" worksheet, approved by the teacher

  a copy for each pair of students of the following handouts from the Dry Ice GEMS guide:

  "Investigation Rubric" (p. 126)

  "Follow-Up Investigations" (p. 127)



Procedure:  see pp. 123-125 of Dry Ice GEMS guide.





  Basic Skills Assessments

  completed "Our Dry Ice Investigations" handout

  completed "Follow-Up Investigation" handout

  completed "Communicating" student handout, pp. 23-26 in the Inquiry Skills Activity Book



  critique the "Our Dry Investigations" handout, using the "Investigation Rubric" (p. 126 of the Dry Ice GEMS guide

  review basic science skills and lab procedures handouts

  complete the "Our Dry Investigations" handout

  complete the "Follow-Up Investigation" handout

  read and complete "Communicating"


OUSD Science Content Standards (State of  California Science Content Standards): 

#1-a through f, excepting c (#7-a through e).



Barber, Jacqueline, Kevin Beals, and Lincoln Bergman. Dry Ice Investigations: Teacher's Guide. Berkeley, CA.: Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, 1999, pp. 123-127.


Inquiry Skills Activity Book. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001, pp. 23-26, 44-46, and 71-71-82.




            It is impossible to overestimate the difficulty in managing this particular lesson. The importance in developing strong open ended inquiry skills in students is essential, however, and this lesson goes a long way toward achieving this goal. If enough time is spent on preparing the students, and acquiring and laying out the materials, the management issues can be greatly simplified. The excitement for the students and the development of their inquiry skills sets a strong foundation for the work they will do in 6th grade science for the rest of the year.