Exploring States of Matter Project-Based Learning Unit

Exploring States of Matter
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A Comprehensive NGSS-Aligned Lesson on Matter and Energy

Research and build background knowledge of the 3 states of matter, perform hands-on experiments with balloons, seltzer water, and play-doh to understand the differences, discover and report on the properties of matter, and perform experiment with liquids, solids, and gases in this science PBL unit.

Your students will learn all about the properties of matter in this complete project-based learning unit on the states of matter for grades 1-3 science. They'll research and experiment with solids, liquids, and gases, learn hands-on how to compare and contrast different states of matter with hands-on activities, go on a states of matter scavenger hunt and present their findings, and do hands-on experiments with all 3 states of matter demonstrates their understanding of matter and energy.

What's Inside

Packed with hands-on inquiry-based activities, extensions and enhancements, cross-curricular independent and group work, and engaging and interactive challenges, this 59-page project-based unit comes complete with:

  • For the Teacher: A complete states of matter Lesson Plan with step-by-step instructions for all activities, teaching tips, assessment guidance, and inquiry questions.
  • For Students: A full-color Student Pack complete with all of the printables and instructions students need for the research, experiments and activities - just print (or share) and teach!

A complete, ready-to-teach Teacher Pack that includes:

  1. Teacher versions of all the student printables with step-by-step annotations and notes for teaching matter and energy;
  2. Formative and summative assessments, answer keys, and a full project rubric;
  3. Instructions and guidance for the extension activities and project enhancements;
  4. Materials and resources lists, links to articles and videos, plus additional resources for lecture and presentation.


What's Included

Lesson Plan - Step-by-Step Project Guide

  • Milestone 1: Properties of Matter
  • Milestone 2: Three States of Matter
  • Milestone 3: Properties of Solids
  • Milestone 4: Properties of Liquids
  • Milestone 5: Properties of Gases

Teacher and Student Resources

  • Materials Needed for the Projects in this Unit
  • Books About States of Matter
  • What Is Matter? Answer Key 
  • Properties of Matter Model
  • Balloon Pop Activity Answer Key
  • Three States of Matter
  • Properties of Solids Answer Key
  • Guess the Property Sample
  • Solids, Liquids, and Gases
  • States of Matter Quick Quiz 
  • States of Matter Quick Quiz Answer Key
  • Mixing Liquids Teacher Notes
  • Properties of Liquids Answer Key 
  • My Experiment with Liquids Answer Key
  • Properties of Gases Answer Key 
  • My Experiment with Gases Answer Key
  • States of Matter Summative Assessment 
  • States of Matter Summative Assessment Answer Key 
  • States of Matter Project Rubric 
  • Properties of Matter
  • Play-Doh Properties 
  • Milestone #1 Inquiry Question 
  • Word Sort 
  • Solid, Liquid, and Gas Words 
  • Balloon Pop Activity
  • Milestone #2 Inquiry Question
  • Solid Scavenger Hunt
  • Properties of Solids
  • Guess the Property
  • Milestone #3 Inquiry Question 
  • Mixing Liquids
  • Properties of Liquids 
  • My Experiment with Liquids 
  • Milestone #4 Inquiry Question
  • Properties of Gases 
  • My Experiment with Gases 
  • Milestone #5 Inquiry Question 
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Lesson Plan - Exploring States of Matter Project-Based Learning Lesson
Teacher Pack - Exploring States of Matter Project-Based Learning Lesson
Student Pack - Exploring States of Matter Project-Based Learning Lesson


This project-based learning lesson is designed to support and reinforce the concepts taught as part of a lesson on Matter and Energy. It is built around 5 inquiry-based milestones that incorporate cross-curricular hands-on projects, formative and summative assessments, independent and group activities, and extensions.


In the course of this project-based learning unit, students will:

  • Perform a series of inquiry-based experiments to understand the unique characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases as background knowledge for the rest of the project;
  • Perform hands-on experiments and activities with balloons, seltzer water, and play-doh to further their understanding of the properties of matter;
  • Explore states of matter in their environment by going on a "scavenger hunt" of information about types of matter and reporting their findings to the class;
  • "Show what they know" by experimenting with a solid, a liquids, and a gas to demonstrate synthesized knowledge of the states and properties of matter and make connections to their functions in nature.


Students will acquire necessary background knowledge of the states of matter as part of this project, and instructional materials for providing that background are included in the Teacher Pack.


This project-based unit is divided into 5 milestones. The minimum suggested duration for completing this project-based unit is 5 class periods. However, the unit is completely flexible can be lengthened or shortened as necessary or desired, based on available class time and interest level.


  • Internet access


These activities support the following NGSS curriculum standards:

  • PS1,A, Structure and Properties of Matter
  • 2-PS1-1, Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties
  • 2-PS1-4, Construct and argument with evidence that some changes caused by heating or cooling can be reversed and some cannot
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