What are plastics? Part one

Lesson overview

How did plastic become so commonplace? In this lesson students explore the properties of different materials to see what makes plastic stand out. They learn how plastic is produced and then go on to investigate which material is most effective for the purpose of insulation. The lesson concludes with an overview of the historical development of plastics, with students locating significant events on a timeline.

Learning outcomes
  • Match materials to their properties
  • Understand the process of plastic production
  • Describe why plastic is chosen over other materials
  • Investigate which materials are the best insulators
  • Review the historical development of plastics
  • Reflect on why plastic is a versatile material
Lesson steps
  1. Properties of materials (10 mins)
    To recap prior knowledge students match material cards to their properties and uses.
  2. How is plastic produced? (10 mins)
    Students look at Gallery: How are plastic bottles made? illustrating how a plastic bottle is produced and then order the events.
  3. Why plastic? (5 mins)
    Discuss why plastic has become so popular, due to its versatility and low cost. Take feedback on what students know about the uses of plastics.
  4. Investigation (20 mins)
    Students conduct an experiment to find out which material is the best insulator. Using a hot drink, they make predictions, measurements and draw conclusions.
  5. Plastic timeline (10 mins)
    Students discover how recently plastic was developed through studying a timeline of significant plastic events.
  6. Innovation Diary (5 mins)
    Students complete the first entry in their Innovation Diaries reflecting on the various uses of plastic, its versatility and development.