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MIT BLOSSOMS Project-Based Learning Units—The Special Properties of Water

Grade Level Grades 9-12


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MIT BLOSSOMS has a Project-Based Learning site with six in-depth lessons designed for high school teachers who want to give PBL a try, but are not sure just how to get started. Each BLOSSOMS PBL unit is developed to provide a teacher with all the resources and scaffolding needed to conduct a three to five-week classroom project. Every BLOSSOMS unit kicks off with a BLOSSOMS video lesson, thus providing the anchoring content and direction for a follow-on project. Teachers new to PBL will also find on this site many answers to questions they may have, as well as invaluable advice on how to successfully lead a PBL unit. While we understand that most teachers won’t be able to devote three weeks completely to a Project-Based Learning unit, the units provided here can be presented on non-consecutive days, for example, two days per week. It is our hope that these units will be valuable stepping stones as teachers grow in confidence about developing their own PBL units! We encourage teachers new to PBL to visit the following resource on this site: Teacher Questions on PBL. To take a Video Tour of this BLOSSOMS PBL site, click here.

The Special Properties of Water: Driving Question
Why are water's unique properties so important for life on Earth?  How do those properties impact our lives and community?

The Special Properties of Water: Big Idea
When searching for life on other planets, it is the presence of liquid water that is the first requirement—as it is water’s unique properties that make it so essential for life on Earth. Students will do a deep learning dive into these unique properties of water through hands-on lab activities. Then, through research, interviews, and other methods of information gathering, they will have an opportunity to dive even further into one property of water (or more) that interests them most and explore how that property impacts their own lives and/or communities.

During this one month project: 

Students will learn:

  • The chemical basis for water’s unique properties
  • The shape of a water molecule and why it’s called a polar molecule
  • Why water is called the “Universal Solvent”
  • The cause of water’s surface tension
  • The molecular definitions of “cohesion” and “adhesion”
  • What causes capillary action
  • The definition of “heat capacity”
  • Why ice floats and why that is so important

Students will be able to:

  • Understand and explain to others the molecular basis for water's unique qualities and why those qualities are so essential for life on Earth
  • Collaborate with team members to deeply research one property of water (or more) that is relevant to our lives and/or community
  • Organize and structure their project approach
  • Prepare and present a 10 minute “lightning talk” accompanied by a slide presentation
  • Effectively present research results to a large audience
  • Thoughtfully reflect back upon one’s experience and performance as member of a project team

For all project materials, visit:


Will an Ice Cube Melt Faster in Saltwater or Freshwater
Remote video URL


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