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Dense, Denser, Densest!

This quick and simple activity lets students explore the concept of density.

A material with more matter, or stuff packed into a given space, has a higher density than a material with less matter packed into the same space.

The key point is that the students understand the method of comparing the number of students within the same space, which equates to the same volume. 

Objectives

  • Demonstrate how the distribution of particles in a substance determines its density.

Materials

  • Per Group:
    playing field or playground
    4 cones

Key Questions

  • What is the difference between a material that has a high density and a material that has a low density?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Use the cones to make a square in the middle of the play area, about 3m x 3m.
  2. Explain that density is a measure of how much matter, or stuff, is packed into a defined space (i.e., a very dense object has a lot of atoms packed into it.) Explain that in this game, the students are all going to be individual atoms of an object and that they need to arrange themselves according to the object’s density.

Game

  1. Students start at “low density,” running around the playing field outside the square marked by cones. (Students caught inside the square are “out.”)
  2. The teacher calls out “high density” or “medium density,” and students mimic the density of atoms by running into the square and linking elbows (for high density) or holding their arms out and linking pinky fingers (for medium density).
  3. Students who didn’t fit inside of the marked area are “out.”
  4. The teacher calls out “low density” and, while students run around, brings the cones in to make a smaller area, making each round of the game more challenging.

Extensions

  • Instead of shouting direct instructions, call the name of objects and see if students can guess their relative densities, e.g., Styrofoam cup, tree trunk, air, water.
  • This quick and simple activity lets students explore the concept of density. A material with more matter, or stuff packed into a given space has a higher density than a materia with less matter packed into the same space. The key point is that the students understand the method of comparing the number of students within the same space, which equates to the same volume. 
  • Explore density and states of matter.