The Properties of Materials and their Everyday Uses

Primary Resources
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity , Activity
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.



This wonderful set of lessons engage students in testing materials to understand their properties and discuss appropriate uses for the materials based on those properties. For example, one activity has the students examining the materials that a number of balls are made out of (plastic, rubber, aluminum, etc.) and describing the properties of the materials (light, stretchy, rigid). Next, the students test balls made of those materials for bouncing height and record their data. The students discuss which materials are best for bouncing and why. The teacher could choose to do all of the activities and have a robust alignment with the three dimensions of the NGSS PS1-2, an engineering physical science Performance Expectation.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Limited free access - Some material is available for viewing and/or downloading but most material tends to be accessible through other means.

Performance Expectations

2-PS1-2 Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.

Clarification Statement: Examples of properties could include, strength, flexibility, hardness, texture, and absorbency.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment of quantitative measurements is limited to length.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The Performance Expectation would be met without teaching all of the literacy activities at the end of the set of lessons (e.g., bag poetry), but the connections to math and ELA are a nice extension.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The practice is completely met through the activities in the resource. Each activity has the students collect data about the material's capacity to accomplish a task. For example, the students collect bouncing heights of the balls made of different materials to make claims about which material is most appropriate for an object that needs to bounce.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Through the sequence of activities, the properties of the materials are clearly connected to many possible uses of objects. For example, when the students test balls made of different materials, the activity supports students in collecting data that clearly show that some materials are better suited for objects that need to bounce.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The lesson does not ask students to develop claims as to why materials work the way they do, except in a qualitative way. But indeed, this idea of why materials work the way they do would have to be limited to simple explanations at the second grade level (i.e., it bounces well because it is stretchy.)

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The resource is completely aligned to the Performance Expectation in the NGSS. The series of lessons does go beyond the Performance Expectation with respect to additional literacy extensions and properties of magnets. However, the teacher could select to do as many of the activities as are useful to his/her classroom for the students to effectively meet the Performance Expectation.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson includes modification suggestions for students who have additional learning needs, including special education and ELL.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The resource offers some opportunities for more formative assessment that could be aligned with a learning progression of Practices and Core Ideas to inform next steps. One way a teacher could assess student understanding is to pull groups aside and ask probing questions as to what they did to collect data and what was discovered. The teacher could set up a scenario (fictional or real) lab activity at the end and ask students to write and draw how they would figure out which material would be best suited for a certain task. Another assessment idea is to have students keep a science journal during their investigations to record their observations and data. This can be done individually or as a group.

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