Investigating Matter, Solid or Liquid: Barthlomew and the Oobleck

Cheryle Theisen
Bethune Community School
Minneapolis, Minnesota
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Background information: This activity is an extension of the children's exposure to states of matter in the Scott Foresman science series for Grade 2. This lesson has a Literacy component. Using the book by Dr. Seuss, "Bartholomew and the Oobleck," the students will be using observing, and communicating during our reading activities. The students will be using Oobleck to observe the characteristics of solids and liquids. Previously they have had opportunity to experiment with liquids and solids to see which sink and which float. They have an understanding of the definitions of liquids and of solids. This current lesson allows for experimenting with a non-Newtonian fluid, (Oobleck). The students will make their own predictions, conclusions on whether Oobleck is a solid or liquid by using focus observations, conducting focus explorations, raise questions, clarify questions and make conclusions about Oobleck.

Learning Goals

  1. Students will understand that solids, liquids are forms of matter.
  2. Students will compare and contrast the attributes of Oobleck
  3. Students will have concrete experiences with solids, liquids.
  4. Students will explore and observe Oobleck.
  5. Students will draw their own conclusion about whether Oobleck is a solid or liquid.

Context for Use

This activity is for a 2nd grade classroom consisting of 20 students. It is easily combined with a Literacy or Reading block. It incorporates inquiry process skills in Reading as well as Science. The groups can be by twos for Science and a large group for Reading for observing or small reading groups. This activity can be a two- day lesson or if a Reading First school it can be used in the 120 minute reading block. The students can do the investigation activities on day two or intertwined with Literacy.

Description and Teaching Materials

The students by this points should have had the story and reading activities centered on "Bartholomew and the Oobleck" by Dr. Seuss.
-"Bartholomew and the Oobleck", Multiple copies.
-Cup with ice cubes
-Cup with water
-Empty cups
-Pencil and paper for drawing
-Pan for each pair of students
-Plastic clear drinking cup for each pair of students
-Inquiry journals
-Made up Oobleck in advance using the following ingredients
-Green food coloring
-Jar with lid
-Measuring cups and spoons
-Zip-lock baggies for each student
-Permanent markers
-Small white boards for each pair of students
-Pennies, dimes, nickels, quarters
-Any other objects interesting for the students to observe.

Safety: Even though Oobleck is not harmful to eat, we never put it in our mouth. When the students are done they will put the Oobleck in a baggy, with their name on it to take it home or throw it in the trash. The students will wash their hands when they are through.

  1. Begin the lesson by asking about the prior knowledge on solids and liquids. Who can tell me one of the characteristics of a solid and then a liquid? Allow the students to engage in a conversation about liquids and solids and give examples. Students can write their answers on their white boards. In the story about Bartholomew, were there any solids or liquids? Who can tell me something in the story that we learned that we didn't know about liquids or solids? Allow students to communicate openly.
  2. Teacher can write students' ideas on the board with examples for liquids and solids. Once the characteristics, attributes, or principals of solids and liquids are listed, discussed then the teacher can ask the students to move to the tables where the solids and liquids will be located.
  3. The teacher will have roles for the students a getter, reporter, recorder and a person that returns the items. The getter will bring to the table or desks (pushed together) Cheerios, Legos, Ice, Water. The teacher will demonstrate the molecular difference between solids and liquids. Cheerios work great to demonstrate liquids-they roll around, take the shape of the container and aren't bound to one another. Several Legos stuck together are the perfect solid-they always keep their shape, are hard to the touch and stick together. Water and ice are great to demonstrate the liquid and solid but also the changing of the structure when the ice melts. Allow the students to observe, communicate and draw or journal their findings. Have enough Legos to link a small chain and Cheerios for explorations. After a number of minutes of creative play.
  4. Ask the students if they have ever heard of the 4 tests to decide if something is a liquid or a solid.
    1. Push test? - Can you push it?
    2. Pick-up Test-if you pick something up, does it all come up?
    3. Pour test-does it pour out smoothly, or does it just fall out in a clump?
    4. Shape test-does it keep the same shape?
    What were there findings with each of the objects that they had? Have the person return the objects to the return table.
  5. The teacher will ask the students how could something be a solid and a liquid at the same time? The teacher will ask the students if they would like some Oobleck just like Bartholomew? Have one of the students get all of the objects for exploration. (Marbles, coins, string, toothpick, spoon, washers, etc from off the table) Allow students to touch and sort through the objects. Have the other student from each pair come and get a cup of Oobleck. Ask students of write down if they think this is a liquid or a solid. Using the characteristics of push, pick-up, pours, and shape what is Oobleck.
  6. Ask students to describe ways in which we can tell solids and liquids apart? Now test Oobeck with some of those ways.
  7. Liquid:
    • Assumes the shaped of the container, which it occupies.
    • Is not easily compressible) little free space between particles)
    • Flows easily (the particles can move/slide past one another)

    • Has a fixed volume and shape (the particles are locked into place)
    • Is not easily compressible (little free space between particles)
    • Does not flow easily (particles cannot move/slid past one another)
      Have students restate these properties out loud.
  8. Allow students to take the objects from their table and explore with what happens in different situations. For instance pennies, marbles, washers will sink in Oobleck. Toothpicks, string and lighter objects will stay on the top. You can pour Oobleck out of the container but if you try to force Oobleck then it hardens and is a solid. The teacher will ask directed questions helping the students to get results. Oobleck when a small amount of force is used acts like a liquid, but when more force is applied, it acts like a solid. For instance, if you put a spoon slowly in Oobleck, it goes in easily. If you try and stir it rapidly it is impossible, then it acts like a solid. It exhibits characteristics of both solids and liquids. It is referred to as a non-Newtonian liquid
  9. The teacher will move around during this inquiry and observe, communicate and ask direct questions about the activity. The teacher will encourage the students to make observations, communicate and ask questions of their partner about their findings.
  10. Teacher will have students draw; write in their journal questions, findings thoughts about Oobleck and things that they discovered during this process.
  11. The teacher will ask students to begin to clean up. They may take the Oobleck home in a Ziploc baggy, properly marked with their name or put the Oobleck on the table for the teacher to discard. The second person may gather all of the objects and return them to the table. The students will then wash their hands.
  12. The teacher will have the desks returned to the proper place and have the students write in their journal whether they thought the Oobleck is a solid or liquid and their reasoning why. The teacher will also reinforce that there is no right or wrong answer.
recipe for Oobeck and Glurch (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 21kB Sep23 14)

Teaching Notes and Tips

It would be very helpful to make Oobleck ahead of time and play with it for yourself. You will then know how it reacts to different forces. Also use different objects to discover what would be more useful. This is a perfect lesson for cross-curricula. This lesson affords you an opportunity to be creative in both Reading and in Science. The more organized with preparations and your thought processes in your objectives and goals the better it becomes.


No formal assessment. The assessment is based on the children's contributions to the discussion, their ability to work in groups and pairs, and their personal journal entries about this activity.


National Science standards
Grade K-4, Science as Inquiry/Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry/plan and conduct a simple investigation.
Grade K-4/ Physical Science Properties of objects and materials/ Materials can exist in different states-solid, liquid, and gas. Heating or cooling can change some common materials, such as water from one state to another.

State Science Standards:

Grade 2/ Physical Science/Structure of Matter/ The student will classify a substance as a solid, liquid or gas. The student will know that solids have a definite shape and that liquids take the shape of their container. The student will observe that water can be a solid or liquid and can change from one state to the other.

References and Resources