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Turn Milk into Plastic!

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
2 days
Area of Science
Chemistry
Key Concepts
Polymerization, Protein, Plastic
Learning Objectives
  • Explain what plastic, or a polymer, is made of on a microscopic/molecular scale
  • Describe how the polymerization reaction can change the properties of a substance
  • Reflect on the consequences of using natural resources for industrial purposes
milk into plastic overview

Overview

Teach your students how to make plastic out of milk in this hands-on lesson plan! You will conduct a simple milk-transforming experiment to explore how plastics can be derived from a natural resource such as milk. Students will perform their own experiments and can even create a product from their resulting organic casein polymer.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-PS1-2. Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
  • MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events.
PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter. Substances are made from different types of atoms, which combine with one another in various ways. Atoms form molecules that range in size from two to thousands of atoms.

Each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties (for any bulk quantity under given conditions) that can be used to identify it.

PS1.B: Chemical Reactions. Substances react chemically in characteristic ways. In a chemical process, the atoms that make up the original substances are regrouped into different molecules, and these new substances have different properties from those of the reactants.
Structure and Function. Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.

Connections to Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science

Influence of Science, Engineering and Technology on Society and the Natural World. The uses of technologies and any limitation on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions. Thus technology use varies from region to region and over time.

Credits

Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies

Materials


Materials needed for the milk plastic lesson plan

Materials for teacher preparation:

  • Measuring cup (1)
  • Milk (enough for each group of students to have 1 cup)
  • Stovetop oven and pan (1) or microwave and microwaveable container (1)
  • Thermos or insulated container big enough to hold all the hot milk
  • White vinegar
  • A variety of items that are made from plastic as demonstration objects

Materials per group of 2–4 students:

  • Work surface that is safe to get damp
  • Prepared hot milk (1 cup)
  • Styrofoam® or other heat-resistant cup
  • White or distilled vinegar (4 tsp.)
  • Paper towels (6)
  • Spoon (1)
  • Optional: food coloring, glitter, or markers

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
2 days
Area of Science
Chemistry
Key Concepts
Polymerization, Protein, Plastic
Learning Objectives
  • Explain what plastic, or a polymer, is made of on a microscopic/molecular scale
  • Describe how the polymerization reaction can change the properties of a substance
  • Reflect on the consequences of using natural resources for industrial purposes

Class Materials