MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Sponge Lab: Experimenting With Absorption

Sponge Lab: Experimenting With Absorption

Carrie Leisch, Centerville Elem. School (ISD 12), Centerville, MN
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In this classroom activity, students will be guided through an absorption investigation using synthetic and natural sponges. They will brainstorm testable questions, form hypothesis, follow a step-by-step procedure, and share results with classmates.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed to help students formulate investigable questions and to guide them through the steps for completing an investigation on a sponge's ability to absorb water. Students will calculate sponge absorbency by using this formula: (saturated mass / dry mass) x 100 = % of absorbency. They will work with the following vocabulary words: pores, porous, absorbency, and permeable.

Context for Use

This lesson will be used in my 5th grade science classroom. I teach two, 35-minute sections, 4 days a week. There are approximately 26 students in each class. Students have had limited experience with conducting their own investigations; however, they have had some prior lessons about animal characteristics, invertebrates, and sponges. I assume this will be a 3 day plan:
Day 1: Introduction/Brainstorming
Day 2: Experimenting
Day 3: Sharing/Conclusions

Subject: Physics, Chemistry
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)

Description and Teaching Materials

Natural sponge (1 per partner group)
Kitchen sponge (1 per partner group)
*all sponges should be approximately the same size
Paper towels
Plastic tubs/bowls (large enough for sponge and water)
Science Notebook

  1. Show students a visual picture (see attachment) of synthetic and natural sponges. Have students record observations about the sponges in their science notebooks. Share. Pass out actual synthetic and natural sponges and ask students to add more observations to their list in their science notebooks. Share.
  2. Together, create a web of sponge characteristics in science notebooks. (see attachment for example)
  3. Brainstorm possible questions that would be investigable. Use "How does ____ affect______?" pattern.
  4. For guided experimentation purposes, have students record the following question in their notebooks:
    How does the material of a sponge affect absorbency?
  5. Hand out Procedure sheet. (see attachment) Lab partners can complete experiment steps. (Early finishers can explore paper towels, or Kleenex.)
  6. Hand out Classroom Percentage sheet (see attachment) and share results.
  7. Calculate Classroom Totals and Average.
  8. Discuss results. What did you find out? What further questions do you have?
  9. Complete assessment questions in science notebooks.

Sponge Visual Aide (Microsoft Word 72kB Aug6 08) Sponge Characteristics Web Example (Microsoft Word 22kB Aug6 08) Sponge Lab Procedure Handout (Microsoft Word 16kB Aug6 08) Class Percentages of Sponge Absorbency (Microsoft Word 38kB Aug6 08) Sponge Resources (Microsoft Word 119kB Aug6 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

I have not had the opportunity to teach this lesson. In the past, we have just handled a variety of sponges and examined them with magnifying glasses. In my opinion, the question formation and percentage calculation of absorbency will be the most difficult parts for the kids. I am also unsure of the time needed to conduct this lesson.


Students will answer these questions in their science notebooks:
  1. Which item held the most water per gram of dry mass?
  2. Did your results support your hypothesis?
  3. Do you see a connection between the size of an item's holes and the item's ability to hold water?


Grade 5 MN Academic Standards (Inquiry Science k-6)
1B5 The student will understand the process of scientific investigations.
1. The student will perform a controlled experiment using a step-by-step procedure and present conclusions supported by the evidence.

References and Resources