Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Conservation Station

Jennifer Carter
St. Lucie County Schools


Don't let your eyes mislead you. Size does not always matter. Students will be amazed once they've measured the volume of four containers that vary in size and shape.


The student determines that the properties of materials (e.g., density and volume) can be compared and measured (e.g., using rulers, balances, and thermometers).


-4 Glass jars that vary in size, width, height, and shape (per group)
-1 Graduated cylinder (per group)
-2 Pieces of chart paper or overhead transparencies
-Overhead (optional)
-1 Black marker
-Paper towels for spills
-Food Coloring
-Lab Notebook (each student)
-Pencil (each student)
-Performance-based Assessment (for each student--see associated file)
-2 Bottles of chocolate syrup, similar in looks, but contain different amounts
-Ice Cream (optional)
-Plastic spoons and bowls (optional)


Set up enough stations within the room to accomodate coopertive learning groups of four students. Within each discovery station, place four jars that vary in shape, width, height, and size. Make a black line, below the rim, on each jar and fill each to the line with colored water (the jars at all stations should have the same color water). Label each jar with a letter, for easy identification by students. Place a graduated cylinder at each station as well.


Note: This lesson only addresses volume, therefore students should have some background knowledge of measuring volume, prior to the start of this lesson.

1. Introduce this lesson, by displaying 2 different containers of chocolate syrup. (Nestle Quick Rabbit Chocolate Syrup Bottle and Hershey's Chocolate Syrup bottle, for example). Be sure to cover the volumes on the labels with masking tape.

2. Tell the students they are going to have an ice cream sundae party, but first they must solve a dilemma.

3. Next, explain the dilemma. They can only select one bottle to use as a topping for the ice cream party, therefore, it is important that they pick the bottle that they think has the greatest volume.

4. Then, ask the students to tell you what bottle they think has the greatest volume. You may need to review volume and the abbreviation ML.

5. Record predictions on a piece of chart paper. Ask why they chose that one. (They will most likely mention size. If not, point out the differences in sizes to students. Be sure to elicit taller, wider, bigger around, etc.)

6. Review the definition of volume. You may need to review how to measure liquid volume and the abbreviation ML.

7. Demonstrate for students how to accurately read the measurements from a graduated cylinder.

8. Place a transparency on the overhead (or on chart paper) that lists the following steps that must be completed during the cooperative learning group activity. Each of these steps must be completed and the results documented in each student's lab notebook.

Step 1 - Individually, predict the volume of each of the jars.
Step 2 - Using the graduated cylinder, each member of the group will take
a turn measuring the volume of each of the jars, until all
jars have been measured.
Step 3 - Record the actual volume of each of the jars.
Step 4 - Record which jar had the greatest volume.
Step 5 - Using the data collected, reflect on your predictions and actual
results by comparing and contrasting them.

9. Explain to students that completing the steps for the lab on the overhead are very important, because they will be used upon completion of this lab to assist them with completing an assessment that will measure their mastery of objectives for this lesson. Review the rules of cooperative working established in your classroom.

10. Assign a station within the room to each pre-determined cooperative learning group of 4 students. Ask students if they have any questions regarding the activity. Then direct students to begin the lab. (Students will work in cooperative learning groups following the steps listed on the overhead).

11. After completing the lab, direct students to share predictions and results within their assigned cooperative learning groups. Circulate and offer assistance as you observe the cooperative working behaviors.

12. Students will then complete a performance-based assessment that will require them to use the data collected from the cooperative learning group activity. Upon completion, collect for assessment. .

13. Ask students to share predictions and results during which, record information on a piece of chart paper.

14. Ask students to reflect back on the predictions they made for the ice cream topping. Any changes in predictions, will be recorded in a different color. If a student changes his or her prediction, ask him to explain why.

15. Pour syrup from bottles in graduated cylinders and measure volume.

16. Teacher and students will discuss predictions and results as well as answer the original question, Does size matter?

17. To culminate the activity, have ice cream topped with the chocolate syrup that had the greatest volume.


This lesson offers several forms of assessment allows students to be assessed in a variety of ways.

1. Assess students as they predict, record, and analyze data in their lab notebooks. (See associated file.)

2. The data collected and recorded in the lab notebooks should have a reasonable volume predicted for each jar, as well as the actual volume for each of those same jars. Students should also be able to support this data by including information from the discussion that took place within their cooperative groups. Students should also be able to answer the question: Does size really matter?

Students can self-assess by checking to see if their predictions were accurate.

Teacher observation will informally assess whether students are working in their groups cooperatively. The performance-based assessment will also determine whether the students were able to work cooperatively to successfully complete the activity.


Students can use the measurement activity they completed earlier to help them better visulaize the concept of volume, by pouring the liquid from the jar with the least amount of volume into each of the remaining jars. Students can record results in lab notebooks and share findings within the cooperative learning groups.
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