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Polymer Tag

In this game, the students are monomers that join together to form linear polymers.

Polymers are chemical compounds with molecules bonded together in long, repeating monomer chains. Because of their structure, polymers have unique properties that can be tailored for different uses.

Polymers are both man-made and naturally occurring. Rubber, for example, is a natural polymeric material that has been used for thousands of years. It has excellent elastic qualities, the result of a molecular polymer chain created by nature. Man made synthetic polymers can be pliable, while others are permanently rigid. Still others have rubber-like properties or resemble plant or animal fibers. These materials are found in all sorts of products, from swimsuits to cooking pans.

This altered game of tag should help students understand how molecules behave in a polymerization reaction.

Objectives

  • Investigate the properties of common polymers.

  • Describe in general terms what occurs during a polymerization reaction.

Materials

  • Per Class or Group:
    wide open space, outside if possible

Key Questions

  • What is a polymer?
  • What is the structure of a polymer?
  • How do they become so big?
  • Are polymers strong or weak?

What To Do

  1. Set up a playing area by pointing out boundaries.
  2. Make 2 people holding hands “it”.
  3. When an “it” person tags someone else, the tagged person ( a monomer) must hold hands with the tagger (becoming part of the polymer) and they become it .
  4. Play until everyone is attached.
  5. Explain what a “polymer” is and how they become so big.

Extensions

  • Start with linear polymers but then allow students to create branched polymers. For a branched polymer pre-assign some students as being able to tag two people (the first person to be tagged would put a hand on the taggers shoulder so they still have a free hand to tag a second student).
  • Discuss ways polymers can be disrupted. The hormone glucagon disrupts glycogen into glucose units. You could model this by having some students act as the hormone to disrupt the chains.

Other Resources

The University of Southern Mississippi | Polymer Science Learning Center | Make a Virtual Polymer