Marva Anyanwu - Wendell E. Green
World Of Plastics And Polymers
Return to Chemistry Index
Marva Anyanwu Wendell E. Green
1150 West 96th Street
CHICAGO IL 60643
Grade Levels 7-12 (Can be adapted for grades 4-6).
1. To show plastics are polymers (giant molecule) containing carbon atoms
forming long chains.
2. To differentiate and identify materials as synthetic or natural polymers.
3. To examine and observe characteristics of different materials that are
Materials are listed with each activity.
Display various grades of plastics and have students identify them. Spray
string confetti (toy store) around the room, have the students pick up the
string and feel and describe the texture. Present the new vocabulary in a
Materials: 500mL (2 cups) of whole milk, 150mL (2/3 cup) of vinegar, food
coloring, a strainer with fairly small openings, a small saucepan, a mixing
spoon, a stove.
1. Measure the milk and place in the saucepan. Slowly warm the milk, but
do not heat it even close to the boiling point.
2. Add several drops of food coloring to the milk so the object you form
will be colored.
Remove the pan from the stove. Slowly add the vinegar into the milk
in the pan.
3. Use your stainer to separate the solid that has formed from the liquid
in the pan. This solid is a plastic.
4. After the liquid has drained through the strainer, pour a little water
through the strainer to rinse the plastic.
5. Form the plastic into a ball and set it on a paper towel for a few
minutes to remove some of the excess moisture.
6. You should then be able to form the plastic into the object of your
7. When you have finished shaping your object, set it aside for a week to
dry. The object will probably shrink a little as it dries out.
Hint: Think of environmental concerns.
Activity 2: A Polymer
Elmer's white glue, small disposable plastic cup, saturated borax
1. Place 5 mL of white Elmer's glue in a small disposable plastic
2. Add saturated borax solution (4g sodium borate dissolved in 96g
water-wt-volume) dropwise as you stir. About 1 mL of borax
will be required. A sticky ball will form.
3. Remove the sticky ball from the cup and rinse it thoroughly with
4. Roll it into a ball. You can bounce it, when allowed to stand it
5. If the consistency of you polymer is not thick enough to form a ball
you may need to add more borate solution.
Note: The borax is cross linking the polymer chains in the white glue.
Activity 3: Plastics
1. Listening skill utilized. Teacher will read the instructions.
2. Place a small amount of acetone (very inflammable) in a 300mL beaker.
3. In the beaker place a small styrofoam cup containing a weight. It
will slowly dissolve in the acetone.
4. Add to the beaker containing the acetone and styrofoam cup a large
volume of foam peanuts used for packing fragile objects.
5. After the two have dissolved, allow the remaining acetone to
evaporate. A disc of polystyrene will remain in the bottom of the
1. Using illustrations students should be able to identify the different
kinds of chains carbon atoms form when bonded together during
2. Identify structural models of common organic compounds.
3. Describe the difference between a polymer and a monomer.
4. Classify substances as natural or synthetic polymers.
5. To make a model of a common organic compound such as polyethylene
polymer from which many products are made. Use any two types of
ball-shaped candies or fruit with toothpicks.
Many of the products or substances in our society are made by a process
called polymerization. It is a chemical process where small molecules
link up together to form large molecule chains. In polymerization when the
structure in the organic compound is changed, the arrangement confers
different chemical properties which enable so many polymer products to be
produced with diversity.
Price, Jack. Smith, Richard G., Smoot, Robert C. Chemistry A Modern
Course. Teacher Edition. Ohio: Merrill Publishing Company, 1990
Aldridge, Bill. Aiuto, Russell. Ballinger, Jack. Sydner, Susan.
Science Interactions Course 3. Teacher Edition. Ohio: Glencoe 1993