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Colored Drops
Administration Procedures

4th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: New York State Education Department (NYSED)
NYS Alternative Assessment in Science Project (1996)


Students will examine the properties of two liquids and their mixture. One liquid contains water and food coloring, while the other contains liquid detergent, water, and food coloring.

This task assesses students' abilities to observe, interpret data, describe properties of an object, and make reasonable explanations based on observations.

This task is designed to take students approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Properties of objects and materials

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • gathering data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data

National Science Education Standards:

4 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4
1.3 Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses. In early years, students develop simple skills, such as how to observe, measure, cut, connect, switch, turn on and off, pour, hold, tie, and hook. Beginning with simple instruments, students can use rulers to measure the length, height, and depth of objects and materials; thermometers to measure temperature; watches to measure time; beam balances and spring scales to measure weight and force; magnifiers to observe objects and organisms; and microscopes to observe the finer details of plants, animals, rocks, and other materials. Children also develop skills in the use of computers and calculators for conducting investigations.

4 B PS 1: Properties of objects and materials: Grades K-4
1.1 Objects have many observable properties, including size, weight, shape, color, temperature, and the ability to react with other substances. Those properties can be measured using tools, such as rulers, balances and thermometers.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

AL1: Understand patterns, relations and functions:
Grades pre K-5 a. sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties

COM1: Organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking through communication:
Grades pre K-5

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take most students 15 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually for the experiment/activity part of this exercise.

The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Colored Drops":

The teacher will need:

  • dropper bottoles labeled Y and B
  • clear dish detergent
  • blue food coloring
  • yellow food coloring
  • graduated cylinder (at least 50ml)
  • water
  • 5 X 8 plain white index cards

At each station students will need:

  • 1 test card
  • 2 dropper bottles labeled Y and B
  • 3 toothpicks
  • paper towels
  • wax paper
  • waste container (16 oz. plastic cup)

Advance Preparation:

  • Use permanent marker to draw 1 blue circle, 1 yellow circle, and 1 circle with both colors on the test card. Make each circle approximately 5 cm in diameter.
  • Laminate or cover the test card with clear contact paper.
  • Cut wax pape into 5" X 8" pieces to cover test card.
  • Place 50 mL of water and 3 drops of dish detergent and 2 drops of blue food coloring in dropper bottle B and stir gently.
  • Advise students to use separate toothpicks when making observations on each solution.
  • Pretest solutions to be certain properties observed are similar to those in the scoring rubric. Concentration in soap solution "B" may have to be adjusted.


  • Wear Goggles
  • Blot water drops with a paper towel before discarding wax test paper
  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.

Extensions and Modifications:

  • Task does not easily lend itself to including mathematical criteria in the rubric.


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