ACS: Inquiry in Action - Properties of Materials (Lesson 1.3): Designing an Absorbency Test

Students plan and conduct an absorbency test on paper, plastic, aluminum foil, and felt to investigate the question: Which material absorbs water and why?


Students will plan and conduct an absorbency test on four different materials and be able to explain that when testing materials to learn about their properties, the materials need to be tested in the same way. Students will be able to explain that since the materials are made from different substances, they absorb different amounts of water.

Key Concepts

  • Testing materials can help identify their properties.
  • To compare a property of different materials, the materials all need to be tested in the same way.
  • Materials are made from a different substances and absorb water to different extents.

NGSS Alignment

  • NGSS 2-PS1-1: Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.


  • Students help design an absorbency test to see if they can observe a difference in the amount of water that different materials absorb.
  • Students place the same size piece of paper, plastic, felt, and aluminum foil in water and observe the amount absorbed.
  • Students watch an animation to help understand why some materials absorb water better than others.
  • Students apply what they learned to better understand why a towel and a sponge are good absorbers.


Download the Student Activity Sheet (PDF) and distribute one per student when specified in the activity. The activity sheet will serve as the Evaluate component of the 5-E lesson plan.



Science Topics
Chemistry, Matter
K-6, Educator
Descriptions of PDFs

Lesson Plan (PDF) | Student Activity Sheet (PDF) | Teacher Background (PDF) | Connections to NGSS (PDF)

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