Sixth-Grade Consumer Product ExperimentsWritten by Friends Academy
Sixth-grade students in Dan Kriesberg’s classes are exploring the work of scientists and learning how to plan and conduct experiments. Right now, they are focused on consumer products and sustainable design. Individually, they chose a product and developed experiments to test three different consumer brands. The plan is for them to present their lab results to their peers and possibly publish them online. In conducting experiments, students learn to develop a question, plan for controlled variables, measure results with quantitative data, draw conclusions, and share results. “I want them to understand the nature of science,” Mr. Kriesberg said. “So that they can understand how much science issues impact our lives and current events.”
Mr. Kriesberg said he chose consumer product tests for his students to conduct because they are simple, inexpensive and the results have practical applications for their families. Margeaux Weinstein, for instance, found dollar store-brand napkins larger by area and more absorbent than more expensive napkins.
The work of consumer product testing can also save lives. In 2019, investigators at the New York Division of Consumer Protection conducted a random sampling of ten children’s toys for compliance with state and federal standards for lead and phthalates. A five-inch doll sold at Dollar Tree was found to contain more than 246 times the federally allowable limit of the chemical known as DEHP, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified as a probable human carcinogen. Dollar Tree responded by removing the product from shelves, according to the Division’s annual report.
“We are making decisions about how to live based on science,” Mr. Kreisberg said. “Medicine, climate change, diet and so much else is based on science. If as a country we want to make good decisions we need to understand the process of science.”