Educational Programs

V-Lab Middle School Program and Experiments

Programs_V-Lab Middle School Experiments

The Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) topic(s) that are supported by the experiments are shown in parentheses at the end of each description. The available dates are shown in blue at the end of each description.

Middle School (6th – 8th grade)

MS-01. A World of Measurements – MS: This experiment serves as an introduction to, or reinforcement of concepts relating to measurements. Through a series of investigations, students will become more familiar with different tools that are used by scientists, as well as everyday household items that are designed specifically for measuring. (MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4)
September 30 – October 4, 2019

MS-02S. CO2 to the Rescue! Using a Chemical Reaction to Save a Cell Phone: This lesson begins with a design challenge: to invent a small device that could rescue a cell phone that accidentally falls into water. A self-inflating balloon might be able to act as a flotation device to keep a cell phone from sinking or bring it up after it sinks. Students conduct a pair of chemical reactions to determine which of two acids react with baking soda to produce the most carbon dioxide gas and apply this to the flotation problem.
(MS-PS1-1, MS-PS1-2, MS-PS1-5, MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4)
January 6 – January 10, 2020

MS-03. Density Rainbow: Students will investigate the concept of density by creating a rainbow in a tube using sugar water solutions. We will define density (density = mass/volume) and construct a tower with colored sugar water solutions to make a rainbow. They learn about pipetting and dilutions while making their 0-60% sugar solutions. (MS-PS1-1, MS-PS1-2)
March 30 – April 3, 2020

MS-04. The Mystery of M&Ms: Students will answer the question, “What happens when colored candies are placed in water?” We will conduct experiments on M&M and Skittles looking at the diffusion of pigments and sugar in water. (MS-PS1-1, MS-PS1-2, MS-PS1-4, MS-PS3-5)
March 2 – March 6, 2020

MS-05S. The Polymer Mystery – Solving the Case of the Mystery Polymer Using Density: How can we separate batches of white polymers? Using the principle of density, students will construct a density bottle using a combination of salt solution and isopropanol. The polymers will be dropped in and observed to determine their identity. Students will also learn about solutions, matter, chemical composition and how these properties influence density. (MS-PS1-1, MS-PS1-2)
October 7 – October 11, 2019

MS-06S. Electromagnets: In this activity, students will build and test the strength of various electromagnets. Variables will be introduced and students will be challenged to explore these to create electromagnets of different strengths. The application of electromagnets in today’s world will also be discussed. (MS-PS2-3, MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4)
February 24 – February 28, 2020

MS-07S. Burrito Batteries – Generating a Battery from Non-Traditional Materials: In this experiment, students will explore what is needed, on a chemical level, to construct a battery and will then make and test their own battery using non-traditional sources of conductive materials. (MS-PS2-3, MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4)
November 11 – November 15, 2019

MS-08S. Bombs Away! A Lesson in Ecology: This experiment is designed to fortify the understanding of ecology, ecosystems, food chains and the transfer of energy in a living/biological environment. Students will prepare “seed bombs” as sources of wildflowers for bees and will discuss how to use these to improve the environment for this crucial insect in our food cycle. (MS-LS1-5, MS-LS1-6, MS-LS2-1, MS-LS2-3, MS-LS2-4)
May 11 – May 15, 2020
Please note: The content for this V-Lab experiment and ES-09S Ecology: Flowers for the Bees is very similar, with differences appropriate for each grade level.

MS-09S. Is it Alive? DNA Extraction: Students will examine what DNA is and what it does in a cell. The lesson touches on genetics, heredity, and the structure of the DNA molecule. Students will extract DNA from a mystery substance to determine if it was from a living organism. (MS-LS1-1, MS-LS1-2)
March 23 – March 27, 2020

MS-010S. Dirty Water – How Can We Clean Up Our Environment?: This experiment shows the importance of water purification and large-scale techniques used to provide drinking water in developed countries. Contamination, particle size, and pH are discussed pertaining to the purification of “dirty” water. The students take an engineering approach by designing their own water purification system and discuss their approach and results. (MS-LS2-4, MS-LS2-5, MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4)
February 10 – February 14, 2020

MS-011S. The Earth Moves Under My Feet (Tectonic Plate Movement): In this experiment, students will learn about continental drift, tectonic plates, and the convection currents within the Earth that cause it to move. They will also learn about mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes. To do this, students will use graham crackers, fruit-by-the-foot, and frosting to model the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates on top of the Earth’s mantle. (MS-ESS1-4, MS-ESS2-2, MS-ESS2-3)
October 21 – October 25, 2019

MS-012S. Ready to Rock? (Rock Cycle): In this experiment, students will learn about the rock cycle and stratification of rock layers. To do this, students will use Model Magic clay to demonstrate the different rocks formed by the rock cycle. Students will demonstrate stratification using the Model Magic clay as well as by using a glass vial containing different sized grains. (MS-ESS1-4)
January 13 – January 17, 2020

MS-013. It’s Logical: Students will be introduced to simple electrical circuits as a foundation for electronic logic theory, the basis of computer science. Some key concepts include: closed vs open circuits, inputs and outputs, truth tables, and logic 1 (on) and logic 0 (off). Through a series of trials, students will determine the logic behind different circuit configuration based the connection between different inputs and the corresponding output (light on/off). (MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4)
May 18 – May 22, 2020

MS-014S. Solar Sails: Students will be introduced to the exciting new space travel technology of Solar Sails from a scientific, physical, and engineering perspective. After discussing how these sails work, students will design their own by following guidelines. This process will mirror the iterative and teamwork-centered atmosphere of engineering and will provide students with enough data to select the “best” sail design form. (MS-PS2-1, MS-PS2-2, MS-PS2-4)
March 9 – March 13, 2020

MS-015. The Size and Shape of Space: This experiment serves as an introduction to concepts relating to size and distance, the solar system, and satellites. In this V-Lab, students will design their own satellite to explore the universe from low earth orbit. This satellite will provide scientists data and pictures about all of the planets. Students will be challenged to decide what must be placed on this satellite for a successful mission and the collection of all necessary data. Students will also learn about the size of objects in our solar system and their comparison to other objects in our galaxy. There are opportunities to explore the motions of the planets, as well as comparing scale properties of objects in the solar system. (MS-ESS1-1, MS-ESS1-2, MS-ESS1-3)
November 18 – November 22, 2019

MS-016. The Earth, Moon, and Stars: Starting at the smallest scale, the earth rotation on its axis, the Earth’s tilt, and orbit causes the seasons. Similarly, the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is what causes the Lunar phases, not Earth’s shadow. Finally, the Earth’s orbit around the sun, paired with the Moon’s orbit around the Earth, is what causes eclipses. To visualize this process and relationship, the students will use the flashlight and stress balls to simulate the lunar phases, a solar eclipse, and a lunar eclipse. Students will be challenged to understand Solar System sized concepts and patterns. There are opportunities to explore sun-moon-earth cyclic systems, gravity and motions of the planets, as well as comparing scale properties of objects in the solar system. (MS-ESS1-1, MS-ESS1-2, MS-ESS1-3
January 27 – January 31, 2020

MS-017. Mendel’s Monster Factory: In this lab, students learn about the foundations of genetics such as inheritance, dominant and recessive genes, punnet squares and the difference between genotypes and phenotypes. Students will also simulate the transferring of genes from parent to offspring by creating their own monster baby with Play-Doh. (MS-LS3-1, MS-LS3-2)
December 2 – December 6, 2019

MS-018S. Weathering and Erosion: In this experiment students recap the interplay between the rock and water cycles and how these two important processes play into weathering and erosion. Students learn about the differences between mechanical weathering, chemical weathering, and erosion. This lab runs the students through several small activities to investigate how the weathering and erosion has affected Colorado River as it moves from high in the Rockies, to the Grand Canyon, eventually to where it meets the Pacific Ocean. MS-ESS2-1, MS-ESS2-4, MS-ESS3-1)
Dec 9 – Dec 13, 2019

MS-019S. Synthetic Materials: Students will create their own synthetic materials from resources which are ultimately derived from nature. They will explore the idea that chemical processes can change a natural material into a synthetic one with different properties than its components. With this knowledge of how synthetic materials are made, students will then analyze the positive and negative impacts that producing synthetic materials can have on society. (MS-PS1-2, MS-PS1-3)
April 20 – April 24, 2020

MS-020. Energy of Motion: Students will first create a mechanism for testing kinetic energy. They will make a pendulum to demonstrate how kinetic energy can be affected by distance from the Earth and mass. Students will also construct a balloon car, which will demonstrate the principles of energy transfer. (MS-PS2-1, MS-PS3-1, MS-PS3-2, MS-PS3-3, MS-PS3-5)
November 18 – November 22, 2019

MS-021S. Thermal Energy: Students will learn that different chemical reactions can be exothermic or endothermic. Next, an engineering design lesson gives students an opportunity to apply these temperature-changing chemical processes to the problem of making a device to achieve and maintain a particular temperature range for a very specific purpose. (MS-PS1-6, MS-PS3-3, MS-PS3-4)
February 2 – February 6, 2020

MS-022S. Birdseed Mining: This experiment is designed to introduce students to the challenges and issues related to profitability, sustainability and environmental preservation practices when mining for needed minerals. Students will perform an exercise using colored beads to represent various minerals and bird seed as a matrix representing land. In the form of a competition, students will use tools (tweezers, toothpicks etc.) and attempt to quickly extract required beads (minerals) whilst minimally impacting the land. (MS-ESS1-4, MS-ESS2-2, MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4)
January 27 – January 31, 2020

MS-023S. The Effect of Salt on Plant Growth: Students will evaluate the effect of plant fertilizer and/or road salt run-off on the growth of plants grown close to a highway. Students will plant Standard Brassica Rapa seeds in potting soil containing varying concentrations of Sodium Chloride and/or fertilizer. Germination times and growth will be measured over two weeks and, based on germination and growth rates, recommendations made regarding the potential need for fertilizer and maximum acceptable levels of salt contamination. (MS-LS1-1, MS-LS1-7, MS-LS2-1, MS-LS2-4)
April 27 – May 1, 2020

MS-024. The Mystery of Light: In this lab, the mystery of light is revealed through ‘magic’. Wave properties are introduced, and the visible light spectrum is used to show that how we see things in color is not as simple as it seems. Students recreate the Peppers Ghost illusion by building a desktop theater and manipulating the transmission and reflection of light to project images onto their stage. Colored filters are used to show the additive properties of light, and to reveal hidden messages through absorption or transmission of different wavelengths of light. (MS-PS4-1, MS-PS4-2, MS-PS4-3)
October 14 – October 18, 2020

MS-025. Reaction Time: This experiment serves as an introduction to, or reinforcement of concepts relating to reaction time and the nervous system. In this V-Lab, through a series of investigations, students will learn about how the human brain processes and develops a response to a stimulus. Following this, students will assess their visual reaction time through a series of challenges and ultimately connect reaction time to theories of learning. (MS-LS1-8-1)
March 9 – March 13, 2020

MS-026. Peppered Moths (Natural Selection): This experiment demonstrates Darwin’s theory of natural selection by focusing on the influence of human activity on ecological change. During Britain’s industrial revolution, pollution changed the environment causing a drastic reduction in the population of one type of peppered moths. Students will observe how a change in the environment can influence the success or demise of a species based on genetic variability. (MS-LS1-4, MS-LS1-5, MS-LS3-1, MS-LS4-1, MS-LS4-2, MS-LS4-4, MS-LS4-6)
April 13 – April 17, 2020

MS-027S. Massive Attraction – Gravity: Investigate the attractive forces of gravity and show that these attractive forces depend on the mass of the interacting objects. In the first part of the experiment, students depict gravity using the concept of gravity wells, which visually show the pull or depth of gravity that an object exerts in space. In the second part of the experiment, students will investigate how the mass and size of objects falling to the earth due to gravity can affect the depth and size of a crater. Using the equation for force, F=MA, students will demonstrate using calculations that force is proportional to the mass of the objects. (MS-ESS1-2, MS-PS2-4
Dec 16 – Dec 20, 2019

MS-028S. Go With The Flow: Students will learn about the human levels of biological organization starting from cells to tissues to organs to organ systems. It will be explained that an organism has multiple organ systems that branch off into even more organs, tissues, and cells. The experiments will focus on the circulatory/cardiovascular system and will demonstrate how the cells, tissues, and organs within the body work together and carry out specific functions in order to pump blood throughout the body. Students will investigate the components of blood, how the heart is a muscle responsible for blood flow and practice measuring their pulse. (MS-LS1-1, MS-LS1-3)
May 4 – May 8, 2020

MS-029S. The Dead Zone! Sewage run-off into large bodies of water can result in the formation of dead zones because excess nutrients naturally cause the dense growth of algae. The decomposition of these dense growths causes oxygen depletion through the process of eutrophication. To create a dead zone model, yeast will be used as the decomposers, milk as the run-off (nutrients), and methylene blue as an oxygen indicator. Students will learn that the process of decomposition takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide as a by-product, creating hypoxic conditions for marine life. (MS-LS2-1, MS-LS2-2, MS-LS2-4)
June 1 – June 5, 2020

MS-030S. Evo Devo: The study of similarities in embryonic development across multiple species helps scientists prove and understand the evolution of species over time. By dissecting a dicot lima bean seed and a monocot corn seed, it is possible to observe the different parts of the seed and its embryo. Moving on to more complex animal embryos, students will visually compare patterns in embryonic development that cannot be observed in the anatomy of fully-grown adult organisms. (MS-LS4-3)
January 14 – January 17, 2020

MS-031. Space Junk Clean Up! Space is polluted by satellites and other junk that is orbiting the Earth. Using their understanding of gravity, students will look closely at space junk and explore innovative space clean-up techniques, such as the construction of a satellite with a solar-powered laser that deorbits space junk. Students will learn about why it is important to take care of the environment around them and will brainstorm about more ways to clean up pollution in space. (MS-ESS1-2, MS-PS2-4)
Feb 24 – Feb 28, 2020

MS-032S. Shaking it Up! Natural Disasters and Earthquake Preparation: What causes natural disasters, specifically earthquakes? This experiment introduces concepts related to natural disasters, with a focus on earthquakes. Through a series of investigations, students will learn more about the causes of and the different types of earthquakes. They will be challenged to build a structure that can withstand a shake test to better understand natural disaster preparation. (MS-ESS3-2)
April 6 – April 10, 2020

MS-033S. The Sky is Falling (No Pressure): The motions and complex interactions of air masses result in changes in weather conditions. Students will create a cloud in a bottle, and construct two different working models of barometers to witness different air pressures based on the current weather conditions the students are in. After understanding the connections between barometric pressure and how they correlate to weather conditions; students will then use the knowledge they gained previously to observe, record and make predictions on the weather based on the two sets of barometers they created. (MS-ESS2-5
April 20 – April 24, 2020

MS-034S. 21st Century Frankenstein: Selective breeding of species occurs in animal husbandry, while genetic modifications (GMO’s) are common in food production and gene therapy is used to combat disease. Students will explore the technologies that humans have used to influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms. They will look at natural vs artificial selection and the impacts these technologies have on society. (MS-LS4-5)
June 1 – June 5, 2020

MS-035S. It’s Getting Hot in Here! Explore how greenhouse gases affect air temperature in the atmosphere by looking closely at evidence of anthropogenic global warming. By constructing a closed environment in which they can model the formation of greenhouse gases, students will synthesize data on global warming and investigate better ways to take care of the Earth and our environment. (MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4, MS-ESS3-5)
May 18 – May 22, 2020

MS-036S. How on Earth Does This Happen?: Embark on an adventure to discover the various climates that are present on the Earth’s surface. Through several investigations, students will learn about how certain characteristics, such as land formations, the rotation of the earth, altitude, wind patterns, and ocean currents, can influence local and regional climates. (MS-ESS2-6)
June 8 – June 12, 2020

MS-037S. Oxidation Makes it Happen (Redox Reactions): Have you ever wondered why the Statue of Liberty is green? In this experiment, we will answer that question through an exploration of oxidation and reduction (redox) reactions; looking for clues of a chemical reaction along the way. Students will also be introduced to chemical formulas and why it is important to keep them balanced; matter can neither be created nor destroyed! (MS-PS1-2, MS-PS1-5)
May 11 – May 15, 2020