Physical Properties Change

Physical Science

The physical properties of materials can be changed, but not all materials respond the same way to what is done to them.

Benchmark: States of Water

Observe, record and recognize that water can be a solid or a liquid and can change from one state to another.


Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in Lay Terms

Water can change from a liquid to a solid, and back to a liquid.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea

This concept is central to the understanding of the water cycle - that water is able to take many forms but is still water. It also helps prepare students to understand that most substances may exist as solids, liquids, or gases depending on the temperature, pressure, and nature of that substance. This knowledge is critical to understanding that water in our world is constantly cycling as a solid, liquid, or gas.

Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks  Observe, record and recognize that water can be a solid or a liquid and can change from one state to another.

The Essentials

In this video segment produced for Teachers' Domain, observe frozen water in winter and liquid water in summer, at the same location. This would work best as an introduction to engage students prior to teaching this concept.


NSES Standards:

Content Standard B

As a result of the activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of Properties of objects and materials.

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include:

  • Objects have many observable properties, including size, weight, shape, color, temperature, and the ability to react with other substances. Those properties can be measured using tools, such as rulers, balances, and thermometers.
  • Objects are made of one or more materials, such as paper, wood, and metal. Objects can be described by the properties of the materials from which they are made, and those properties can be used to separate or sort a group of objects or materials.
  • Materials can exist in different states - solid, liquid, and gas. Some common materials, such as water, can be changed from one state to another by heating or cooling.
  • Position and motion of objects
  • Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism

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AAAS Atlas:

Water can be a liquid or a solid and can go back and forth from one form to the other. If water is turned into ice and then the ice is allowed to melt, the amount of water is the same as it was before freezing. 4B/P2 (ID: SMS-BMK-0140)

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Benchmarks of Science Literacy

Water can be a liquid or a solid and can go back and forth from one form to the other. If water is turned into ice and then the ice is allowed to melt, the amount of water is the same as it was before freezing. 4B/P2

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Common Core Standards


Writing: Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g. read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).


Student Misconceptions 
  • Materials can only exhibit properties of one state of matter.
  • Ice is a liquid, an igloo is liquid.
  • A liquid is flat, runny.
  • Children tend to think that water is the only liquid that exists (shampoo, soap, orange juice, ketchup).
  • Ice is a different substance from water.

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'97 Framework:

This activity engages children in learning about changes of state as well as laying an appropriate foundation for understanding the particulate nature of matter. The National Science Education Standards include the study of water in the early grades because of the importance of the water cycle, and all children, regardless of their economic or cultural background, have had experiences with it. Later, they will apply what they have learned to other materials that are not so familiar.

Students in Ms. S.'s class investigate solid and liquid water. On a snowy day in January the students, bundled up and armed with plastic jars with their lids, traipse outside and fill their jars with snow. They then file back into the classroom and place their jars on the counter. After removing mittens, boots, and snowsuits, they begin to record observations about their jars.

After a while, when the snow has melted, the students compare their bottles. They are surprised to discover that some jars contain less water than the others. Ms. S. asks, "How could this be, if all of the jars were full of snow, and the lids were tightly screwed on?" A lively discussion ensues about what "full" means. They come to understand that they had used a variety of methods to collect their snow - that some students had packed their snow in the jar while others had gathered fluffy snow and that this could make a difference in their results. As a class, they decide on one method of determining "full" and repeat their excursion the next day.

This time, when the snow melts, the water remaining in the jars is more or less at the same level in all of the students' jars, but they notice that the water level seems to be lower than the level of snow they had originally. They are puzzled by this and discuss ways to determine why there was a difference. They decide that by marking their jars with a permanent marker or rubber bands they can tell exactly where the snow and water levels are and measure the difference. In response to the questions about the lid being on, they also leave identical jars with the same amount of snow, overnight, but one with the lid off and the other on.

They find out that more water disappears with the lid off, but there is still less water in the jar than the amount of snow they began with. Leaving the "Where did the water in the open jars go?" question for another time, Ms. S. asks the students why there was less water than snow in the closed jars and how they might investigate that. They wonder if there is air in the snow and design further explorations to determine this.

The students collect snow under different environmental conditions. They investigate questions such as "Is the amount of water in light fluffy snow the same as in heavy snow?" and "Do equal weights of snow yield equal weights of water?"


Instructional Notes 

Suggested Labs and Activities

In these lessons, students will observe, measure, and describe water as it changes state. It is important to note that students at this level "...should become familiar with the freezing of water and melting of ice (with no change in weight), the disappearance of wetness into the air, and the appearance of water on cold surfaces. Evaporation and condensation will mean nothing different from disappearance and appearance, perhaps for several years, until students begin to understand that the evaporated water is still present in the form of invisibly small molecules." (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, pp. 66-67.)

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Water and Ice: To explore what happens to water as it goes from solid to liquid and back again; to use observation, measurement, and communication skills to describe change.

Melting and Freezing: To explore what happens to the amount of different substances as they change from a solid to a liquid or a liquid to a solid.

Disappearing Water: Students will observe the amount of water in an open container over time, and they will observe the amount of water in a closed container over time. Students will compare and contrast the sets of observations over time.

  • Water and Ice

Students investigate the states of matter. In this physics lesson, students use water and ice to demonstrate the characteristics of a solid and liquid. Students record their observations as the state of the water changes.

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  • Still Images of Water

Every day, we encounter water in its three different forms: liquid water, solid ice, and water vapor, an invisible gas. Most other substances can exist in these three phases as well, but water is unique because it is the only substance that can exist in all three phases at Earth's ordinary temperature conditions. This collection of still images produced for Teachers' Domain depicts water in each of its three phases: liquid water, solid ice, and water vapor.

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  • The Returning Raindrop

A hands-on lesson where students will observe that water moves in a never-ending natural cycle. There will be a model of the water cycle in the form of a terrarium.

  • Observe Precipitation

Water that falls from the sky is called precipitation. As one aspect of weather, precipitation such as rain or snow can affect your daily life. However, it is also a vital step in the water cycle, returning water from the atmosphere back to Earth's surface. In this video segment produced for Teachers' Domain, observe three different types of precipitation - rain, hail, and snow.

Instructional Resources 

Instructional suggestions/options

Teacher Background: Ice, snow, and frost are examples of water in the solid state. Liquid water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Celsius and Fahrenheit are scales that measure temperature. Here in Minnesota, winter is a season when you see a lot of solid water. Other examples of solid water are ice cubes, icicles, ice on a skating rink.

Liquid water is found in many places. You see liquid water coming out of the faucet, when it rains, and running in a river. Pure liquid water is free of salt, rocks, soil, and garbage.

5 E Lesson:

  • Engage: How can I get students interested in this? (Take students outside on a warm day and distribute individual bags with one ice cube to each student.)    
  • Explore: What tasks/questions can I offer to help students puzzle through this? (Allow students to manipulate/interact with the ice in the plastic bags and observe the changes in the ice. Teacher asks probing and guiding questions. Students draw pictures to record their observations of their ice cube before and after.)
  • Explain: How can I help students make sense of their observation? (Students use their own words to explain what they saw happen and why they think that happened.)
  • Elaborate: How can my students apply their new knowledge to other situations? (Students classify pictures onto a class graphic organizer with the categories solids and liquids.)
  • Evaluate: How can I help my students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?(Students bring in one form of matter (solid or liquid).  They identify whether it is a solid or a liquid and if the object can change forms like the ice cube.) 

Solid Water

Students turn solid water (ice) into liquid water. In this solid and liquid water lesson plan, students use water, ice, cups, and heat in order to change water from one state to another. They draw their findings as well.

What Happened to the Water?

Students examine the two different states of water: solid and liquid. In this states of water lesson, students observe what happens to ice cubes during a period of time out of the freezer. They draw pictures of water in the two states, and discuss what happened during their experience.

Matter:  Physical Changes

Students explore matter by conducting an in-class experiment. In this matter transformation lesson, students utilize water to experiment with changing its formation by melting and freezing water and identifying its new shape. Students review a list of matter-related vocabulary terms and record their observations on a chart.

New Vocabulary 


Liquid: unlike a solid, a liquid has no fixed shape, but instead has a characteristic readiness to flow and therefore takes on the shape of any container.

Phase: a stage in a process of change or development. Context: Water has several phases.

Solid: firm or compact in substance, has a definite shape or volume. Context: The water was frozen solid.

State: the condition of matter with respect to structure, form, constitution, phase, or the like. Context: Ice is water in a solid state.

Technology Connections 

How can you change a liquid into a solid or a solid into a liquid? Come find out!

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Lots of facts about liquids!

Find science games, experiments, facts, projects, videos, quizzes, lessons and images related to the topic of your choice.


Assessment of Students

  • What makes water so different in summer and winter?
  • Compare the winter and summer views of a river near where you live. What are four or five differences you notice? What other changes do you think you would notice if you were standing beside the river?
  • Name two places where you can see water in the liquid phase.
  • How is solid water different from liquid water?
  • At what time of year and in what location could you see water in its solid phase outdoors?
  • Have you experienced rain? Hail? Snow? How would you describe each form of precipitation to someone who had never experienced it?

Assessment of Teachers

  1. What role does water's phases play in determining the weather on a global scale? (Water's phase changes play a fundamental role in determining weather on a global scale. Each phase change either absorbs or releases energy in the form of latent heat. This heat provides the energy that drives water and wind circulation, which in turn determines weather.)
  2. Give two examples of where you would see water going back and forth from one form to another.
  3. You leave a bowl outside overnight. It snows and fills the bowl. You notice the bowl in the morning and leave it. The snow melts as the temperature increases. Diagram what happens to the snow as it melts. Be prepared to explain if you were to put the bowl on a scale, what would happen to the amount of water.


Struggling Learners 

Struggling and At-Risk

Provide each child with eight pre-selected pictures (four of solids and four of liquids) and have each child tell how he/she sorted them (solid or liquid).

Study water, ice, and snow. Have the students make Venn diagrams comparing the three.

Some suggested resources for teachers to use: hands-on activities, graphic organizers, preferential seating, visual cues, extended time, wait time, study guides, individual/partner/group work, modified materials, flash cards.

English Language Learners 

(E/B=Entering/Beginning, D=Developing, E=Expanding)

E/B: From models or pictures, have students point to the objects that are solids or liquids.

E/B: Point to each object or picture and ask: Is this a solid? Is this a liquid?

E/B: Ask students to point to objects they can see, hear, smell, or feel.

D: Draw a picture of a solid and/or a liquid.

D: Group pictures or objects into solids or liquids.

D: Have students describe multiple properties of an object such as color, size, texture or smell.

E: Draw a chart with a picture of each of the five senses (i.e. eye for sight, nose for smell, etc.). Using different types of matter (both solid and liquid), play "I Spy." Have students pick an object and choose a sense (e.g. sight), and say, "I spy with my little eye matter that is red."

E/B,D,E: Make a collage of solids (or liquids) cut out of magazines.

Extending the Learning 

A hands-on lesson where students will observe that water moves in a never-ending natural cycle. There will be a model of the water cycle in the form of a terrarium.

Observe frozen water changing from a solid to a liquid, and discuss other materials students know that can change between solid and liquid.

Read the story White Snow Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt. Then answer these questions:

  1. What is snow?
  2. What happened to the snow as the temperature increased?
  3. Did the amount change as the snow melted and turned to a liquid?
  4. Why did the snowman appear to get smaller? What was really happening to him? Did the amount of the snowman really change? Why or why not?

Make a book about solids or liquids, draw and label constructions that reinforce dictionary skills using unit vocabulary, write a description of oobleck or toothpaste. Time an ice meltdown.

Special Education 
  • From models or pictures, have students point to the objects that are solids or liquids.
  • Point to each object or picture and ask: Is this a solid? Is this a liquid?
  • Draw a picture of a solid and/or a liquid.
  • Group pictures or objects into solids or liquids.



Students in a special education classroom brainstorm a list of the uses of water. In groups, they discuss ways they can personally misuse or conserve water in their daily lives. They make a graph of their daily consumption and research how polluted water really is.

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It's a Matter of Change

Students recall the properties of solids and liquids, and explore how matter can change from one to the other. They complete hands-on experiments to demonstrate that matter can be changed by heating and cooling. They also practice manipulating geometric shapes using an educational website.

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Classroom Observation 


Administrators should expect to see students observing, measuring, and describing water as it changes state. Students will be focusing on the concept that water can go back and forth from one form to another and the amount of water will remain the same.

As an extension, students might investigate what happens to the amount of different substances as they change from a solid to a liquid or a liquid to a solid.


Experiments on States of Matter for kids:

The three main states of matter are solids, liquids and gases...Once the content of the can mixes with water to make juice, the solid turns into a liquid.

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Identify a solid, liquid and gas.

In this worksheet your child will need to decide whether each picture is a solid, a liquid... Why does water freeze? What mode of cooking can turn a cup of water to steam?

Forms of Matter

Free Video Clips/Mini Movies for Kids

Recipes for Silly Putty®, Ooze or Slime

Fun science activites to do with your child!