How can we use natural materials to create new and useful synthetic materials? Student teams will investigate various natural resources that undergo a chemical process to form synthetic materials and new materials that could be made from them, including new medicines, foods, and alternative fuels. They will be challenged to deconstruct material(s) and reconstruct with the same material to mimic the process of chemical reaction. Students will research and organized information and create a Life Cycle Analysis to determine the environmental impact of a selected piece of clothing. In the Design Challenge student teams create a product for younger students from both natural and synthetic materials.
Content Standard addressed in this inquiry unit:
This inquiry unit takes students through a sequence of lessons that focus on NGSS standard MS-PS1-3: Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
- Students obtain information from published, grade-level appropriate materials from at least two sources (e.g., text, media, visual displays, data) about:
- Synthetic materials and the natural resources from which they are derived.
- Chemical processes used to create synthetic materials from natural resources (e.g., burning of limestone for the production of concrete).
- The societal need for the synthetic material (e.g., the need for concrete as a building material).
- Students determine and describe whether the gathered information is relevant for determining:
- That synthetic materials, via chemical reactions, come from natural resources
- The effects of the production and use of synthetic resources on society
- Students determine the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each source of information, including the ideas included and methods described.
- Students synthesize information that is presented in various modes (e.g., graphs, diagrams, photographs, text, mathematical, verbal) to describe:
- How synthetic materials are formed, including the natural resources and chemical processes used.
- The properties of the synthetic material(s) that make it different from the natural resource(s) from which it was derived.
- How those physical and chemical properties contribute to the function of the synthetic material.
- How the synthetic material satisfies a societal need or desire through the properties of its structure and function.
- The effects of making and using synthetic materials on natural resources and society.
Design Thinking Integration: This unit begins with an Empathy lesson that connects the difference between natural and synthetic materials, and dives deeper into why we create synthetics, and deeper into the benefits and dangers of creating synthetics. In first Define phase, the unit introduces the basics of chemistry, where chemical reactions take place, and challenge students in a mini-design challenge that replicates the 4 basic types of chemical reactions. In the second Define phase, the unit covers the dangers of creating synthetics and introduces students to the Life Cycle Analysis (a tool used to measure environmental impact), students will research and organized information and create an LCA to compare the environmental impact of an article of clothing. In the Design Challenge, student teams create a product for younger students from both natural and synthetic materials.