Chemical & Physical Changes

Module Description

In this series of STEAM activities, students will engage in a variety of art forms exploring both physical and chemical changes. One activity will require that students use their bodies and movement to personify and dramatize physical or chemical changes. They will create a 2-part moving picture and dialogue to support their dramatization. Another activity in this module will use the visual arts process of indigo dyeing to help students apply their understanding of chemical and physical changes as they go through the various steps of dyeing fabric.

Learning Targets

“I Can…”

  • Use my body and movement to dramatize the changes of an object involved in chemical or physical change
  • Create a 2-part tableau and incorporate dialogue that helps communicate the story and my understanding of chemical and physical changes
  • Use art materials to engage in the artistic process of indigo dyeing
  • Differentiate between which steps in the visual arts process were physical changes versus chemical changes
  • Justify my artistic choices using my knowledge of both physical and chemical changes

Essential Questions

  • How can theatre and visual arts strategies be used to create works of art that assess students’ understanding of what constitutes a physical change versus a chemical change?
  • How can moving through two tableaux be used to dramatize materials as they undergo physical or chemical changes?
  • How can the artistic process of indigo dyeing be used to model and classify both physical and chemical changes?

Curriculum Standards

GA Performance Standards:

S5P2. Students will explain the difference between a physical change and a chemical change.

  1. Investigate physical changes by separating mixtures and manipulating (cutting, tearing, folding) paper to demonstrate examples of physical change.
  2. Recognize that the changes in state of water (water vapor/steam, liquid, ice) are due to temperature differences and are examples of physical change.
  3. Investigate the properties of a substance before, during, and after a chemical reaction to find evidence of change.

National Standards:

NS.5-8.2 PHYSICAL SCIENCE As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of properties and changes of properties in matter.

Arts Standards

GA Performance Standards:

TAES5.3 Acting by developing, communicating, and sustaining roles within a variety of situations and environments.

VA5PR.1 Creates artworks based on personal experience and selected themes.

  1. Produces artworks emphasizing one or more elements of art (e.g. color, line shape form, texture).
  2. Combines materials in new and inventive ways to make a finished work of art.

National Standards:

Theatre Arts Standard 2: Acting, assuming roles and interacting in improvisations.

Standard 5: Researching by finding information to support classroom dramatizations.

Visual Arts Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and works.

Content Vocabulary

  • Physical change: A change from one state of matter to another without a change in chemical composition
  • Chemical change: A change that produces one or more new substances and may release energy
  • State of matter: The distinct forms that different phases of matter take on: solid, liquid, gas and plasma
  • Substance: A type of matter that has a unique set of properties
  • Material: Relating to, derived from or consisting of matter
  • Heat: The movement of thermal energy from one place to another
  • Reversible change: A change that can be undone; often called a physical or temporary change
  • Irreversible change: A process that is not reversible

Arts Vocabulary

Theatre Arts

  • Tableau: A “living picture” in which actors pose and freeze in the manner of a picture or a photograph
  • Dialogue: A conversation between two or more persons
  • Scenario: The outline of action in a play
  • Thought-tracking: Drama technique in which individuals participating in tableau, or members of the class observing a tableau, are invited to speak the thoughts or feelings of a portrayed character aloud

Visual Arts

  • Indigo dye: An organic compound with a distinctive blue color. Historically, indigo was a natural dye extracted from plants, and this process was important economically because blue dyes were once rare. A large percentage of indigo dye produced today – several thousand tons each year – is synthetic. It is the blue often associated with blue jeans.
  • Indican: The compound that yields indigo blue, is a glycoside: a sugar (in this case a form of glucose) bound to another molecule, indoxyl. When the glycosidic bond is broken, the indoxyl is freed. When the indoxyl compound is oxidised, it becomes blue: indigo blue.
  • Shibori: A Japanese manual resist dyeing technique, which produces patterns on fabric.

Formative Assessment

  • Tableau Preparation Sheet (see Downloads)
  • Indigo Dyeing Chart (see Downloads)
  • Observations of students in the artistic process (rehearsing, performing, visual arts process)

Summative Assessment

  • Final performance of Chemical/ Physical Change with movement and dialogue
  • Indigo Dyeing Chart (see Downloads)


Theatre Arts:

  • Anchor Charts: Chemical/Physical Changes (see Downloads)
  • Tableau Preparation Sheet (see Downloads)
  • Suggested Prompts for Dramatization of Chemical & Physical Changes (see Downloads)
  • Markers
  • Index Cards
  • Pencils

Visual Arts:

Theatre Arts - Activating Strategy

  • Introduce the art form of Tableau with a warm-up: Silent Tableau
  • Students will form small groups. Groups will be asked to form various shapes within their groups silently. (Ex: circle, crescent moon, diamond)
  • Go over the Principles of Tableau (see Downloads: Anchor Charts-Chemical & Physical Changes)
  • Groups will then be asked to form various scenarios within their groups silently. Dialogue will be added into the silent scenes through thought-tracking. Groups will practice forming 2-part tableaux of a particular scenario.
    • Examples: On a picnic and it begins to rain; students are playing with a ball in the living room until someone hits a lamp and it breaks; group of friends wait to yell “surprise” for a surprise birthday party

Theatre Arts - Main Activity

  • Review the Science Concept: Physical vs. Chemical Changes
    • Model by tearing up a piece of paper. Ask class if this was a physical or a chemical change. As a class, create an anchor chart that lists the characteristics that classify a physical vs. a chemical change. (see Downloads: Anchor Charts-Chemical & Physical Changes, slide #2)
  • Divide class into small groups and assign a particular chemical or physical change on an index card. (see Downloads: Suggested Prompts for Dramatization of Chemical & Physical Changes)
  • Groups will discuss their change and determine together whether it is physical or chemical.
  • Then they will form a 2-part dramatization of the scenario undergoing the change. The two tableaux will dramatize how the change occurred and the cause and effect of the change.
  • Direct students to use the Tableau Preparation Sheet (see Downloads) to help with the next step.
  • In each scenario, students will create dialogue that helps support the type of change that occurred.
  • After the groups have had time to rehearse, groups share out their tableaux in a non-formal class performance. The goal is for the audience to be able to determine the materials that changed and whether it was a physical or chemical change based on the performance.

Classroom Tips:

  • Use cueing methods when directing tableaux in your classroom: “3-2-1- Freeze” and “Actor’s Neutral.”
  • Make your expectations for the tableau science task explicit and go over these before the group work begins. Write them up so that students can refer back to them if they need to during their group working time.

Visual Arts - Activating Strategy (5-10 min)

  • Review physical and chemical changes.
  • Introduce students to the Art of Shibori with images.
  • Shibori is a technique that results in both physical and chemical changes.

Visual Arts - Main Activity

This activity can be done in small groups or as a whole class.
Hand out the physical and chemical changes checklist. Students may complete this individually or in pairs. Students will complete the checklist during the process.

  • Fill a bucket with 4 gallons of water.
  • Add the thiox and soda ash to the water while stirring.
  • Add the reduced indigo.
  • Stir in a clockwise motion until indigo is dissolved, reverse the direction and place the lid on the bucket.
  • Let indigo sit for 20 minutes.
  • Demonstrate shibori folding techniques. Students should fold their cloth and bind to create a resist.
  • Remove lid from the indigo vat and remove the frothy bloom. The bloom is the result of oxygen leaving the vat.
  • Now the vat is ready for dyeing.
  • Put on rubber gloves.
  • Dip our fabric bundle into clean water and wring out.
  • Hold your bundle under the surface of the indigo vat, massaging the dye into the fabric for 1 minute.
  • Remove your bundle, notice the physical characteristics of the bundle.
  • It should be a yellow color that changes from green to blue as it oxidises.
  • The bundle may be dipped multiple times to obtain a deep blue color.
  • Allow the bundle to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Rinse under water.
  • Unbind your bundle and admire your design.
  • Hang to dry.

Reflective Strategies

  • How did engaging in the arts support and build upon your understanding of chemical and physical changes?
  • How did this STEAM activity help you understand chemical and physical changes in the world around you?
  • If you were to go through this artistic process again, what would you do differently? Why?

Additional Resources & Extension Activities


  • Ask students to predict their shibori pattern based on their folding technique.
  • Compare the predictions and final product.

Technology Extension

  • During the student performances of the tableau, digital pictures or video should be taken for integration on a final group presentation of a Thinglink ( The class will work in groups to create a Thinglink example of their physical or chemical change. They may link their digital pictures or videos to a place in the artwork. Other content to include on the Thinglink should be the definition of the physical or chemical change, other examples of the physical or chemical change, why the change is important, and a definition of a tableau.
  • Technology Resources Thinglink (also available as an App for Android and iOS Devices)