Background

PK-Grade 3:

At this level of education, students understand all matter is made up of tiny particles called atoms. They know the difference between the different physical states and properties of liquid, solid and gas. Students begin to ask questions and perform investigations. From experimentation they know when two substances are mixed together a new substance is formed with new properties. Students begin to form predictions of outcomes based on observation and understand scientist don’t rely on conclusions unless backed up by confirmed observations.

In this experiment, we will be making our own hair gel. Students will be able to identify the acid, Carbomer 940, and base, Triethanolamine, as liquids. Liquid is a state of matter that can flow and change in shape. They can begin to make predictions as to what will happen by mixing the two liquids. When mixing and stirring the two liquids, students will see a new substance formed. Students will learn hair gel is an intermediate between a liquid and a solid.

Grade 4-6:

At this level of education, students know atoms combine to form molecules. The students become familiar with the periodic table and how it is arranged. They know each element on the periodic table is made of one atom and the elements are arranged by chemical properties. Students are able to distinguish between physical and chemical properties of substances and know these criteria are used to identify compounds and separate mixtures. In addition, students know about chemical reactions and how the atoms on the reactant side are rearranged forming products with different properties.

In this experiment, we will be making our own hair gel. The students will be able to identify that both the Carbomer 940 and the Triethanolamine are liquids. Carbomer 940 is a polymer which is made of many monomers. Both monomers and polymers are made up of molecules which are made up of elements. This correlates with the student’s knowledge of elements from the periodic table. They begin to conceptualize how one atom forms an element, elements form molecules, molecules together form monomers, and many monomers form a polymer. Triethanolamine is the base used in the experiment and is composed of elements to form a compound. The students will be able to identify these elements. During the experiment the atoms of the reactants are rearranged thus forming a new product. By mixing and stirring the two liquids the product formed is an intermediate between a liquid and solid, a gel.

Middle school:

At this level of education, students know the atom is composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. They know by combining two or more different elements they form a compound. The compounds now have different properties from their constituent elements. Students are more familiar with chemical reactions and understand they usually release or absorb heat. They know whether a solution is acidic, basic or neutral. In addition, students understand chemistry has a vital role in the functions of the biological system. Students begin to make a connection between the different kinds of molecules like proteins and fats and how they play a role in living organisms.

In this experiment, we will be making our own hair gel. Hair gel is an acid-base chemistry reaction. Carbomer 940 is an acid and Triethanolamine is a base. Acids are proton donors and bases are proton acceptors. Therefore, in this reaction there is a transfer of protons. Acids can be neutralized with the addition of a base. The use of the Triethanolamine neutralizes the polymer, Carbomer 940. This neutralization causes a cross-linking in the polymer creating the gel. Students will be able to mix and stir this acid and base until these two liquids reach a gel consistency.

College level:

At this level of education, students know the properties behind acids and bases. They understand acids are donors of hydrogen ions and bases are acceptors of hydrogen ions. Students understand weak and strong acids and bases. The weak acids and bases will separate partially while the strong acids and bases will fully separate. In addition, they are knowledgeable about the pH scale and how to calculate the pH from the hydrogen ion concentration. The students know buffers stabilize the pH in acid-base reactions.

In this experiment, we will make our own hair gel. The Carbomer 940 is a polymer which is a great thickening agent for styling gels. Polymers in the gel enable the hair to become firm after application but yet soluble enough to be washed out. The firm hold the gel has on the hair is due to the polymers interacting with the keratin and amino acids of the skin.