What are plastics?

Lesson overview

This lesson introduces students to a range of materials and allows them to compare and describe their properties. Students develop their understanding of what is meant by materials and discover four in particular; wood, metal, glass and plastic. They then discover why certain materials are chosen to make different products. Focussing on plastic, students explore the variety of items which are made from or contain plastic. They then conduct an investigation to find out which material is the most effective at waterproofing.

Learning outcomes
  • Identify, classify and describe a range of materials
  • Explain why materials are used in different ways
  • Identify a variety of items made from plastic
  • Investigate which materials are waterproof
  • Summarise some of the everyday uses for plastic
Lesson steps
  1. What are materials? (10 mins)
    Students are introduced to the concept of materials through identifying, discussing and comparing the properties of wood, metal, glass and plastic.
  2. What are materials used for? (10 mins)
    They then discover why certain materials are chosen for different uses and develop key vocabulary used in grouping materials.
  3. Where can we see plastic? (10 mins)
    Focussing in on plastic, students identify where we commonly find plastic and understand why it is so popular and what is meant by properties of materials.
  4. Materials investigation (20 mins)
    Students then conduct an experiment in which they test a variety of materials to see which ones are waterproof, concluding that the property of water-resistance is highly useful and found in most plastics.
  5. Everyday uses of plastic (10 mins)
    Finally, students summarise what they have learnt about materials, their properties and in particular the properties and uses of plastic.