Phases of Matter

based on 2 ratings
Author: Janice VanCleave


To determine the physical properties of the phases of matter.


  • marker
  • 3 resealable sandwich bags
  • tap water
  • ice cube
  • drinking straw
  • 3 small paper or plastic bowls


  1. Use the marker to label one of the bags "Liquid," the second bag "Solid," and the third bag "Gas."
  2. Fill the Liquid bag about half full with water and seal the bag.
  3. Place the ice cube in the Solid bag and seal.
  4. Insert the straw into the Gas bag and close the bag as much as possible around the straw.
  5. Blow through the straw to inflate the bag. Then remove the straw and immediately seal the bag.
  6. Place all three bags on a table.
  7. Observe the contents of the Liquid bag. Then pour the contents of the bag into one of the bowls, and observe the contents of the bowl.
  8. Repeat step 7 with the Solid bag and then with the Gas bag.



The ice stays the same shape when poured into the bowl, but the water spreads out. The gas is invisible.


Matter is anything that has mass(amount of material) and volume (takes up space). The three common phases (forms) of matter are solid, liquid, and gas. Solids have a definite shape and volume. The ice was the same shape and volume in the bowl as in the bag. liquids have no definite shape but have a definite volume. The liquid water spread out in the bowl, but the amount of water was the same in the bowl as in the bag. Gases, such as the gas exhaled from your body, have no definite shape or volume. When confined in a container, such as a closed plastic bag, the gas had the volume of the bag. But when the bag was opened, the gas began to diffuse (spread freely) through the air in the room

For Further Investigation

An atom is a building block of matter. When two or more atoms are connected by a bond (force that links atoms together), a molecule is formed. In liquid water, the molecules are bonded (attached) to each other, forming short chains. These chains are flexible. In ice, six water molecules bond together to form a stiff hexagonal (six-sided) crystal (a solid that has its atoms arranged in a definite geometric shape). All the hexagonal ice crystals bond together, forming one large block of ice. Which do you think has a greater volume—liquid water or the same amount of water after it freezes? A project question might be, Given an equal number of molecules, how does the volume of ice compare to that of liquid water?

Clues for Your Investigation

Discover how the volumes of ice and liquid water compare by following these steps:

  1. Fill a plastic container to overflowing with water. Secure the lid, then observe any bulging of the lid.
  2. Take a photograph of the side of the container showing any bulge in the lid.
  3. Place the container in a freezer until the water freezes. This might take 6 or more hours. Observe the lid for bulging.
  4. Take a second photograph to document any bulging of the lid after freezing.


References and Project Books

Churchill, E. Richard. 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal,1997.

Doherty, Paul, and Don Rathjen. The Cool Hot Rod and Other Electrifying Experiments on Energy and Matter. New York: Wiley, 1991.

Edom, Helen. Science with Water. London: Usborne, 1990.

Reader's Digest. Did You Know? Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest, 1990.

Smith, Alastair, ed. The Usborne Big Book of Experiments. London: Usborne, 1996.

VanCleave, ]anice. janice VanCleave's Chemistry for Every Kid. New York: Wiley, 1989.

Add your own comment