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Household Chemicals: Better by Design (Developed by SEPUP)

module #HC-2

Many different types of chemicals are used by industries to produce products. These products are advertised using strategies designed to create consumer demand.
Can we believe the claims of the manufacturer?
How should the product be used safely?

In this module, students explore their knowledge and attitudes about chemicals and chemical use. They use chemicals to produce a common household product (i.e. cleaners, food products, and toys), then test their product in various ways. The students come “full circle” by creating ads for their products. The ads are examined for accuracy and appropriateness.

This module provides many opportunities for students to design their investigations using an open ended inquiry model. Students are assessed in a variety of ways that measure their ability to design and conduct independent investigations.

This module includes a Teacher's Guide
Module requires 16 SEPUP trays (not included)

Accommodates five classes, each with 8 groups of four students


This module has 11 activities which will require 23 to 28 ~50-minute class periods to complete.

1. Evaluating Advertisements

Students begin to gain an awareness of the vast array of chemicals that is used in homes by analyzing advertisements. This analysis helps students learn to differentiate between evidence and emotion and to distinguish between qualitative and quantitative evidence.

2. Exploring Chemical Interactions Between Solids and Liquids

Students explore the interaction of three solids with three liquids. They observe both the process of dissolving, which is not a chemical change, and the formation of a new substance - gas bubbles - which is a chemical change. They learn that chemical changes are interactions that form new substances.

3. Exploring Chemical Interactions Among Liquids

As they continue to develop the criteria that identify a chemical change students explore the interactions among six liquids and observe the formation of a precipitate. They are introduced to the terms reactant and product, and learn to identify these substances qualitatively in the chemical changes they observe. This observation leads to a discussion of the particular nature of matter.

4. Surveying Students' Perceptions of Chemicals

Students make predictions about the nature of chemicals then take a survey about chemicals. They continue to develop their understanding of chemicals and learn that all things that have mass are chemicals. The survey gives the teacher a way to assess students' knowledge of chemicals, and to present relevant evidence about the nature of the materials around them.

5. Investigating the Effects of Bleach

As students explore the effect of bleach on a colored solution they are introduced to the concept of an optimum. This activity provides a good model of experimental design and helps students prepare to design their own investigations. Only one variable is changed – the number of drops of bleach – as students observe the time a color change takes in each trial.

6. Determining the Optimum Use of Bleach

As students explore the effects of bleach concentration and pre-washing on stain removal they learn about the importance of investigation to answering questions quantitatively.

7. Chemical Safety in the Home

Students discuss and come to a consensus on the statements in the Household Chemicals Use Survey. They then survey adults about the use of household chemicals. The survey results help determine what information should be included on the labels of the products students will design.

8. Product Testing: A Case Study

Students read about the qualitative and quantitative test procedures used for tires in the United States. They learn that the test goals are directly related to goals that drivers have for tires. This process, of identifying goals for a product and designing tests to determine if the product meets the goals, will be used by students as they design and test their products in Activities 9-11.

9. Designing a Household Chemical

Student groups start with the basic ingredients for one of four common household products made from chemicals (cleaners, food products, and toys) and develop goals and a design for this product. Students optimize the ratios of ingredients to meet the goals they set for their product.

10. Student-Designed Testing of Student-Designed Products

Students design and conduct an investigation to test the products they made and determine if they meet their goals. These investigations are based on the informal tests students conducted during the design phase of the project.

11. Making Evidence-Based Qualitative and Quantitative Claims

Students use data obtained by testing their products quantitatively to create an advertisement. They review the guidelines for the safe use of chemicals and include safety information on the advertisement.

  • A vast array of chemicals is used in homes. Every chemical has a unique set of chemical and physical properties that can be used to identify it.
  • Descriptive, qualitative observations differ from numerical, quantitative observations. Observations of both qualitative and quantitative data are useful to scientists.
  • A chemical change results when materials react with each other to form a new substance.
  • Students can design investigations to test specific qualities of a product.
  • Making decisions about complex issues often involves trade-offs and evaluating issues requires an analysis of both risks (costs) and benefits.

Content List in Household Chemicals: Better by Design (Developed by SEPUP) is as follows:

Quantity Description
1 Teacher’s Guide with reproducible masters for Student Sheets
750 Toothpicks, flat
250 Tasting cups
160 Salt packets
50 Taster spoons
40 Sugar packets
20 Denim Strips
24 9 oz plastic cups
24 30 mL graduated cups
16 LAB-AIDS® measuring/mixing spatulas
16 Droppers
16 Forceps
16 4X Magnifiers
8 Metric measuring spoons set
8 Vials of Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)
8 Drop control bottles of Bleach solution, household, 50%
8 Vials of Sand, 5 g
8 Vials of Calcite (CaCO3), crushed
8 Drop control bottles of "Household Vinegar", empty
8 Drop control bottles of "Water", empty
8 Drop control bottles of Universal Indicator solution
2 Tubes of toothpaste
2 Drop control bottles of Mineral Oil
2 Drop control bottles of Blue Food Coloring solution
2 Drop control bottles of Lemon Juice solution, simulated
2 Drop control bottles of Corn Syrup solution
2 Drop control bottles of Glycerin solution
2 Drop control bottles of Dishwashing Liquid
2 Packets of powdered milk
2 Tubes of tomato paste
1 Vial of Baking Soda, 90 g
1 Vial of Soap powder, 150 g
1 Vial of Iron Chloride, 15 g
1 Drop control bottle of Red Food Coloring solution
1 Bottle of Vinegar, 940 ml
1 Bottle of Flour, 950 cc
1 Fortune Teller Miracle Fish
1 MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets)
Number of students
Number of groups
Maximum 8 groups per period

This module has 11 activities which will require 23 to 28 ~50-minute class periods to complete. SEPUP modules employ the 4-2-1 model: each student is part of a team of 2 and each team partners with another team to form a group of 4 that shares some equipment.

Title Item # Price Quantity
Household Chemicals: Better by Design (Developed by SEPUP) HC-2 $690.05
SEPUP Tray Package of 16 SP-1CT $114.95
Household Chemicals: Better by Design TG HC-2PM $77.25
Household Chemicals: Better By Design REFRESH-A-KIT HC-2RC $265.00