Home Lesson Plans Activities Field Trips Standards 01 How Humans Think While Understanding the Natural World - Science as Inquiry02 What we Know Today About the World Around Us - Historical Perspectives01 Doing Scientific Inquiry02 Living the Values of Inquiry03 Using Unifying Concepts and Themes04 Doing Safety05 Relating the Nature of Technology to Science01 Understanding Inquiry & Character of Knowledge02 Interdependence of Science Technology & Society03 MALAMA I KA AINA: Sustainability04 Unity & Diversity05 Interdependence of Organisms06 Cycle of Matter and Energy Flow07 Biological Evolution08 Heredity09 Cells, Tissues, and Organs10 Human Development11 Wellness12 Learning and Human Behavior13 Nature of Matter14 Energy, Its Transformation and Matter15 Forces, Motion, Sound and Light16 Universe17 Forces of the universe18 Earth in the Solar System19 Forces that Shape the Earth
Standard Number:0
Hawaii State Standards Toolkit
National Standards: Science as Inquiry K-4
National Standards: Science as Inquiry 5-8

Field Trips
Goodnight Moon Example

Organisims Two by Two K
Balls and Ramps 1
Liquids 2
Sound Investigation 3
Ecosystems 4
Microworlds 5

This activity was developed to connect with the Goodnight Moon example. The substances in an instant "bowl full of mush" are examined. Fewer steps can be used for the youngest students.

Bowl Full of Mush

The investigation of unknowns is central to science. In this exercise students are allowed to investigate an unkown substance with their eyes, noses, and (if allowed) tongues.

Language with Science

substance   sensors  magnifiers  unkowns   knowns  disolving  dehydration  rehydration

Things you will need

single serving packages of assorted instant oatmeal for each student (in unmarked containers)


black construction paper

magnifing glasses

samples of sugar, salt, dry milk and other salts and powders labeled and classified as safe or unsafe to eat.

samples of oats, rice,and grains labeled and classified as safe or unsafe to eat.

measuring cups

warm water



What to do
  1. While passing out the packets, tell the students that they will acting as scientists identifying an unkown substance. Explain that scientists use there senses to identify unknowns as well as tools that extend their senses. Caution the students never to taste an unknown substance. Later, when the contents have been identifies this restriction can be lifted.
  2. Ask the students to examine the content of their packets with their senses and the tools available. After a few minutes have the students brainstorm ways that the substance can be identified. Suggest sorting the particles by size and shape.
  3. Suggest that scientists often compare unkown objects to know objects. Let the students examine known samples of single powders with magnifying lenses.
  4. Have the students record any substances identified.
  5. Explain to the students that scientists also test substances by their reaction with other substances. Demonstrate vinegar poured over baking soda as compared to dry milk.
  6. Let the students test a small sample of their powder with a few drops of vinegar. Discard.
  7. Suggest that scientists also use their sense of smell to identify substances. Warm water poured over a solid can sometimes increase the scent.
  8. Can the students identify all the unknowns in their substance. If so, add warm water and taste!
Want to do more?

Try the mystery powder activity:

Mystery Powders (grades 4+)