CPD Workshops

Investigate properties

by Fellowship Agency August 22, 2018

This activity was created as part of a Gratnells What’s In My Tray CPD workshop for primary science teachers to support practical work and delivery of the curriculum. It can be carried out as a stand-alone activity for students or combined with other activities from the session to form a STEM carousel.

Investigate – Properties

You will need (per team of 4):

  • 1 x Shallow Gratnells (F1) tray with lid
  • 1 x Deep or extra deep Gratnells tray with lid
  • Tap water sufficient to half fill the deep or extra deep tray
  • 4 x Magnets
  • Absorbent cloths or tea towels

Various items to investigate:

  • 4 x Paper clips
  • 4 x 5 cm2 pieces thick/extra strong tin foil
  • 4 x Conkers or acorns
  • 4 x Metal screws or bolts
  • 1 x Lego person
  • 4 x Ping pong ball
  • 1 x Small round bath/baby sponge
  • 4 x Large marbles
  • 4 x Green leaves
  • 4 x Sycamore or maple (helicopter) seeds
  • 2 x Pine cones
  • 1 x Large marble sized ball of sticky tack

Tips: use the absorbent cloths or tea towels to mop up water drips or spills and for drying wet objects at the end of each rotation (if you wish to repeat the activity with multiple teams). You could also place the deep tray inside in a large Gratnells art tray and work within the art tray, this would further contain any spills and drips.

This activity also works for individuals or smaller teams, just increase the amount of time allocated to complete it. All the equipment can be reused and the activity repeated by multiple teams.


  • Half fill the deep Gratnells tray with tap water and put the lid on.
  • Put all the other objects into the shallow Gratnells (F1) tray and put the lid on.

What to do:

  • Approach the trays and lift the lid
  • Investigate the properties of the objects in the shallow tray and identify which objects match up to the properties listed below.
  • Use your senses, the table, water tray and magnets to identify the properties of each item.
  • Write your answers down on the sheet provided <hyperlink to download>

For example, 1) red and wobbly = jelly

Tidy up time:

  • Dry each object before returning it to the shallow tray.
  • Replace the tray lids.
  • Take your answer sheet with you if you are moving on to another activity.

Match the objects to the following properties:

1) magnetic and sinks  =

2) magnetic and floats =

3) floats and rolls =

4) floats and goes back to original shape on its own after squashing in your hand =

5) natural and floats but does not roll =

Tip: There may be more than one object for each set of properties.


1) magnetic and sinks  = paper clip, screws/bolts, magnet

2) magnetic and floats = tin foil

3) floats and rolls = conker/acorn, pine cone, ping pong ball, sponge

4) floats and goes back to original shape on its own after squashing in your hand = sponge

5) natural and floats but does not roll = leaf, sycamore/maple seed

Please note: the answers may differ if the items provided for testing have different properties, for example, a rectangular sponge would not roll, a flat sided conker may not roll. Adapt the answers to suit the items you have provided.

Other things to try:

  • Swap the objects for different things and a new properties list and repeat the activity.
  • Invite the participants to create their own investigations and try it out on their friends.

Health & Safety

As with all Gratnells Learning Rooms What’s In My Tray activities, you should carry out your own risk assessment prior to undertaking any of the activities or demonstrations. In particular, when working with water, be sure to wipe up any drips or spills promptly to reduce risk of slips and falls.