Bursting Bubbles The Story of an Improved Investigation

Jonathan Curley
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Informative Text
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Bursting Bubbles models how to plan, carry out, and communicate about an investigation through the fictional account of two children investigating how bread is made. As they investigate mixtures including yeast, sugar, and different temperatures of water, they make a series of mistakes. Each time they notice a mistake, they add another trial during which they make their investigation a little better. This book highlights common points of difficulty in the investigation process, such as controlling variables, making comparisons, taking measurements, and making explanations. The Lexile Level of the text is R/670.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 5
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

5-PS1-4 Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The teacher may want to choose an anchoring phenomenon to introduce the concept of chemical reactions. Students can look for evidence that a new substance has been created. Film clips like Steve Spangler's "Raining Film Canisters" from the Ellen show could provide an engaging hook. Students might watch the video clip and brainstorm questions and ideas about how the film canisters phenomena occurs. A driving question might be How does raining film canisters demonstrate that the mixing of two substances sometimes results in a new substance? Video clip: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nsayFUSwKfs Teacher's should use the book as a model to engage students in their own investigative thinking. For example, on page 3 one of the children makes a prediction “I bet a chemical reaction is happening.” The teacher might ask the students “upon what evidence do you think she is basing her prediction?" On page 4, the children ask lots of questions. A teacher might use this opportunity to ask students to generate their own questions as well.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
After reading p. 7 students might be asked if they agree with the predictions of the children and what they based those predictions on. Students might then plan and conduct an investigation, testing their own predictions as compared to the children in the story. Students might also want to plan and conduct investigations to assist them in figuring out how those raining canisters are working. On page 11, the children have a discussion about variables. This would be an opportune time to have a discussion about the importance of controlling variables. The number of trials were not addressed in the story and reasons why it is important to conduct replicable trials should also be discussed here.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In the book Daisy and Pablo mix water, yeast and sugar to make a new substance. Students might be asked to think about their everyday life and brainstorm other examples of two or more substances being combined to make a new substance. Students may come up ideas such as a bicycle rusting or stomach acid digesting food. Students might be also asked to consider how the raining film canisters work. Questions might include: What substances might have been combined to make that happen? How are the film canisters like Daisy and Pablo’s investigation? Students could then use models, such as drawings in science notebooks or diagrams on chart paper to identify the causal relationships within a physical system and then test the system such as the mixing of substances and determining if a new substance is produced.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
To make the cause and effect relationship more explicit, students will need to be probed with questions such as: What evidence do we have that mixing these ingredients causes new substance is being formed? Such questions should be asked and answered when students are physically investigating the mixing of substances, observing, collecting data and determining the effects of the mixing.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Three dimensional learning is prevalent all through this resource. The children in the story are engaged in the science & engineering practices to deepen their own understanding of chemical reactions. Students in the story discussed, investigated and came to conclusions about the variable of temperature. Students in the classroom might explain the relationship between the film canisters and the yeast experiment in the book. Patterns are identified in the data to allow the children to make a claim about the effect the temperature of the water had on the experiment.

  • Instructional Supports: This story engages students in a familiar scenario that reflects the practice of science as experienced in the real world. A glossary is provided at the end of the resource. Similar to other texts that are used in the classroom to support science instruction, the teacher will need to decide how the students will engage with the text. considering accommodations regularly made in the classroom. Many ELA CCSS text analysis goals could be made using this resource as well.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This resource does not have an assessment component. To strengthen this component, formative assessments can be made during discussions as well as the investigations. A science notebook where students keep records of their data and their thinking might be a specific place to assess students formatively. If a summative assessment is needed students might be asked to independently write an explanation of how the yeast investigation in the story and film canisters demonstrate chemical reactions in response to the focus question.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is no technological component to this resource.