administration student task rubric student work technical quality
Packing Materials
Administration Procedures

4th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: The New York State Education Department (NYSED)
1996 Administration


Students will test the solubility of different items used in packing. Based on their observations, the student will explain which of the materials would be least harmful to the environment.

The task assesses students' ability to make simple observations and make generalized inferences from their observations.

This task is designed to take students approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Properties of matter

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

4 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4
1.5 Communicate investigations and explanations. Students should begin developing the abilities to communicate, critique, and analyze their work and the work of other students. This communication might be spoken or drawn as well as written.

4 B PS 1: Properties of matter: 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.

4 E ST 2: Understanding about science and technology: Grades K-4
2.2 People have always had problems and invented tools and techniques (ways of doing something) to solve problems. Trying to determine the effects of solutions helps people avoid some new problems.

(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:

AL4: Analyze change in various contexts :
Grades pre K-5 a. describe qualitative change, such as a student's growing taller

DAP1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them:
Grades pre K-5 f. represent data using tables and graphs such as line plots, bar graphs, and line graphs

CON3: Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics:
Grades pre K-5

REP3: Use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena:
Grades pre K-5

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. 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 Packing Materials:

Central Supply:
  • water waste bucket
  • jug of warm water

At this station students should have:

  • 4- clear cups with warm water (at least 7 oz)
  • 4 stirring sticks (coffee stir sticks)
  • waste cup
  • 1 biodegradable (starch) packing pellet
  • 1 piece of freshly popped corn
  • 1 piece of newspaper (5cm square)
  • 1 Styrofoam packing peanut
  • hand lens
  • paper towels

Advance Preparation:

  • Cut newspaper into 5 cm square pieces.
  • Label cups A, B, C, and D for each student station.
  • Put warm tap water into each of the cups at the stations just prior to student testing.
  • Keep a jug of warm water handy to replenish cups C and D at each of the student stations after each student test.
  • Put cupful of each of the test items at each of the student stations. The children will then have access to the supplies and the teacher will not have to replenish after each student finishes.
  • After each student, cups C and D will need to be thrown out and replaced by the teacher.
  • Starch packing pellets can be obtained from a science supply company or mailing (UPS) center.
  • Popcorn should be freshly popped (within 24 hours).


  • Instruct the students not to eat any of the materials.
  • 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.


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

Advanced Preparation Set Up:

Label cups A-D.

Cut newspaper samples.

Prepare cups of materials.

Help students pour water into cups if necessary.


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