5 Exciting Ways to Teach About Matter and Phase Changes

Anjaney Kothari

Matter and phase changes are fundamental concepts in science. So much so that these study topics may seem too basic or trivial to warrant unconventional teaching methods. But it is important to build students’ interest in the subject matter early on, so they can understand its advanced practical applications. Here, we discuss five exciting ways to teach your students about heating curves and phase changes.

1. Engage Students Using Interactive Models

Interactive models convert one-way lectures of the conventional classroom into a two-way communication highway between the students and the subject matter. This accelerates learning and supports memory retention.

To teach matter and phase changes, for example, you can guide the students to install a basic water distillation setup. Through this setup, the students will be able to visualize the different phase changes of water in real time. You can also demonstrate quick phase changes using liquid nitrogen. Or, you can bring in ping-pong balls and ask the students to arrange them differently to represent the intermolecular distances in different phases of matter.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities give a fun makeover to the conventional classroom. They encourage students to communicate, collaborate, and calibrate as they complete the gamified missions set in front of them.

Take Labster’s matter and phase changes simulation, for example. In our simulation, students find themselves embarking on a mission to help a virtual client, Jo, to produce bioethanol. They must use their knowledge of phase changes to produce high-purity bioethanol by distillation. In the process, they learn how to plot heating curves for ethanol and other substances using basic laboratory equipment. They also learn about the fundamental phase changes of melting, boiling, freezing, evaporation, and sublimation.

Heating curve of water in a virtual lab.

3. Infuse Technology into Your Lessons

Technologies like virtual reality and simulation have transformed bookish knowledge into a digital museum. Here, students can take an informative stroll through modern depictions of age-old scientific principles.

Labster’s matter and phase changes simulation, for example, uses 3D animation to teach molecular configuration in solids, liquids and gases. Students dive into water on the molecular scale, visualizing the dynamics of intermolecular forces as water undergoes different phase changes. They further learn about concepts like phase diagrams, heating curves, specific heat, and latent heat. In the end, the students apply these concepts to distill bioethanol in a virtual laboratory.

Matter and phase changes in a virtual lab.
Discover Labster's matter and phase changes virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Talking about the different careers in which a topic finds use familiarizes students with its diverse and powerful capabilities. Educators can introduce a career exploration segment in their regular teaching regimen to inspire the students to pursue a topic.

If you were to introduce such a segment in your matter and phase changes lecture, you could discuss numerous professions. For example, you can talk about how pharmacologists use their knowledge of phase changes to distill active pharmaceutical ingredients. You can discuss how meteorologists apply their understanding of phase changes to predict weather patterns, precipitation, and other such phenomena.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Some topics of study seem to be so simple on the surface that students fail to realize how pervasive they are in the real world. Educators should ensure that each topic they discuss in the classroom is deeply rooted in the real world.

For example, when teaching matter and phase changes, discuss the sheer need to learn about this topic before performing distillation. Tell your students how distillation is indispensable in petroleum refining, alcohol production, production of decaffeinated coffee, and countless other processes. You can also discuss how refrigeration and air-conditioning systems rely on phase changes of the cooling fluid. Further, you can talk about the paramount significance of the phase changes of water in nuclear power plants.

Final thoughts

Many students tend to undermine the importance of matter and phase changes as a topic of study. However, this topic penetrates innumerable fields and deserves to be taught and learnt thoroughly. The methods we have discussed here can help teach about matter and phase changes in an exciting way.

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