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How Creepy!

Grades: 5-8
Author: Tess Ewart
View Student Lesson Plan


Module Description

As a result of the presenter-conducted module, participants will use self collected data to make line graphs. They will discuss what elements are needed to make a good graph. Participants will design a lesson that will use graphing in their classroom. Participants will discuss limitations of models to represent the real world.


  • Participants will observe, measure, and make a line graph of a model of slow downslope movement.
  • Participants will design and implement in their classrooms a lesson focused on helping students make good line graphs from self collected data.


The materials the presenter will need depend on the "creeping material" chosen.

For the Glop the presenter will need:

  • Borax
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • White glue
  • Bucket
  • Stirring stick
  • Sealing plastic bag for storage

For Oobleck, the presenter will need:

  • Corn starch
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Stirring spoon

Or use commercially bought Slime.

At each station, participants should have:

  • At each station participants should have:
  • 125ml of "creeping material"
  • Beaker for "creeping material"
  • Clipboard or student tray
  • Transparency of metric ruler
  • Notecard
  • Blocks
  • Tape
  • Timer
  • Calculator (optional)



Show an image of a mountain range or a fault line. One that can be found at the following web sites:


NJESTA Website -

Georgia Perimeter College: Mass Wasting -

California State University: Tour of the Hayward Fault -

Earth Science World Image Bank -

Ask the participants: "How fast are the mountains moving? How fast are Earth's tectonic plates moving? (most can be measured in centimeters per year) How do you know? How do scientists know?" (accept all answers - scientists can use sensors to take detailed measurements)

Tell the participants that, "Scientists have to keep accurate data over time. They usually represent this data in graphs to convey their ideas to other people."

Ask the participants: "Why is it important for students to be able to read graphs effectively? (reading graphs effectively will improve the students' scientific literacy) What is the best way to have students work on this skill?" (The best way to improve the students' skills is to construct graphs of their own)

Discuss with the participants why it is important to have experiments repeated several times. (Repeating experiments several times ensures the validity of the results and conclusions)

Tell the participants that, "Scientists also use models to represent their ideas." Participants will now use a model to represent a type of slow mass wasting called creep.

Assessment: Participant discussion


How Creepy Lesson

  1. Set up the equipment exactly as it appears in the Picture. Specify 3 heights - determined by what is used to elevate the clipboard. Use the tape to hold the beaker in the correct location. ** The creeping material must flow down the metric scale on the ruler. **
  2. Turn the clipboard so the beaker is upright. Add creeping material to the beaker. Cover the beaker to hold the creeping material in when replacing the clipboard on the prop.
  3. Uncover the beaker and start the stop watch when the creeping material flows across the 0 cm line on the ruler.
  4. While the creeping material is moving down the board, take readings every half minute for a maximum of 10 minutes.
  5. Read, to the nearest tenth of a centimeter, the location of the front of the creeping material on the metric scale. Record your observations on the data table.
  6. After completing the readings, remove the clipboard and set it so the beaker is upright. Peel the creeping material from the plastic sheet, return it to the beaker, and cover the beaker.
  7. Adjust the clipboard to the next height. Repeat procedures.

Assessment: Completed participant answer sheets


Ask the participants, "What type of graph would be best to use for the data you just created? Why?" (A line graph would be best because it shows movement over time of the material.)

Have the participants create a graph for their data giving little guidance. When finished, have the participants share the graphs they created. Ask the participants, "What is similar about the graphs? What is different? (accept all answers) What makes a good graph?" (Every graph should contain the following elements: a title, labeled axes with the appropriate units in parentheses, axes that start at the origin (0,0), numbered axes in regular intervals (but it does not have to go by ones and the two axes do not have to increase by the same interval), and provide a key if you have more than one line.) The Dalton School: Graphing Guidelines -

Tell the participants, "Sometimes, scientists also use models to convey their ideas to people. These models have their limitations and do not totally represent what is occurring in real life. For example, a candy bar can be used to illustrate the movement of tectonic plates on Earth's asthenosphere. The movement of the "tectonic plates" in the candy bar is made by the person holding the bar while the motion of the tectonic plates in Earth is due to the convection currents within the asthenosphere." The limitations of models should be discussed with participants.

Assessment: Completed graphs and discussion


Ask the participants, "What do the graphs show about creep? (As the angle of repose [height of the board] increases, the material should flow faster.) What does this mean for hill sides? (The steeper the hill side, the more likely material will flow, the faster it will flow.) What would be some real life situations where creep would be an issue?" (accept all answers)

Make sure you stress to participants that while each group is doing one trial at different elevations, by having the whole group do the same three elevations, this would constitute repeated trials.

Have participants predict what would happen to the graph if the viscosity (thickness) of the material changes. Have participants predict what would happen to toothpicks that are placed in a straight line across the material. Participants should give their reasons behind their ideas. If enough time, have participants explore their ideas.

Assessment: Application of model to real life situations, graph predictions

Classroom Implementation:

  • Have participants discuss ways that they could use graphing skills in their classroom settings.
  • Participants should complete a lesson plan template for a graphing skill lesson that addresses grade level content indicators for use in their classroom. See Lesson Plan Template handout.
  • Further and on-going collaboration among participants should be encouraged.


From: National Science Standards A Grades 5-8:

The instructional activities of a scientific inquiry should involve students in establishing and refining the methods, materials, and data they will collect. As students conduct investigations and make observations, they should consider questions such as "What data will answer the question?" and "What are the best observations or measurements to make?" Students should be encouraged to repeat data-collection procedures and to share data among groups.

In middle schools, students produce oral or written reports that present the results of their inquiries. Such reports and discussions should be a frequent occurrence in science programs. Students' discussions should center on questions, such as "How should we organize the data to present the clearest answer to our question?" or "How should we organize the evidence to present the strongest explanation?" Out of the discussions about the range of ideas, the background knowledge claims, and the data, the opportunity arises for learners to shape their experiences about the practice of science and the rules of scientific thinking and knowing.

The language and practices evident in the classroom are an important element of doing inquiries. Students need opportunities to present their abilities and understanding and to use the knowledge and language of science to communicate scientific explanations and ideas.

Mathematics is essential to asking and answering questions about the natural world. Mathematics can be used to ask questions; to gather, organize, and present data; and to structure convincing explanations.

Science Standards

NSES CONTENT STANDARD D: As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of the following Earth and Space Science topics:

  • Lithospheric plates on the scales of continents and oceans constantly move at rates of centimeters per year in response to movements in the mantle. Major geological events, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building, result from these plate motions.
  • Land forms are the result of a combination of constructive and destructive forces. Constructive forces include crustal deformation, volcanic eruption, and deposition of sediment, while destructive forces include weathering and erosion.

NSES CONTENT STANDARD A: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of the following Science as Inquiry topics:

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry.
  • Mathematics is important in all aspects of scientific inquiry.

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD A: Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry. Science learning experiences for teachers must:

  • Involve teachers in actively investigating phenomena that can be studied scientifically, interpreting results, and making sense of findings consistent with currently accepted scientific understanding.
  • Address issues, events, problems, or topics significant in science and of interest to participants.
  • Introduce teachers to scientific literature, media, and technological resources that expand their science knowledge and their ability to access further knowledge.
  • Build on the teacher's current science understanding, ability, and attitudes.
  • Incorporate ongoing reflection on the process and outcomes of understanding science through inquiry.
  • Encourage and support teachers in efforts to collaborate.

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD B: Professional development for teachers of science requires integrating knowledge of science, learning, pedagogy, and students; it also requires applying that knowledge to science teaching. Learning experiences for teachers of science must:

  • Connect and integrate all pertinent aspects of science and science education.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Use of Models
  • Simulation
  • Inquiry

Time Frame

1-2 hours


Notify the participants in advance to bring their curriculum guide/map or textbook to facilitate their development of an implementation plan.

Prepare "creeping material" according to the following:

Directions for "Glop"

  • Dissolve 75 ml cup Borax in one liter of water and set aside (1:16 ratio).
  • Mix equal parts of white glue and water.
  • Add several drops food coloring to the glue mixture.
  • Measure 50 ml of borax solution and place in a sealing plastic bag.
  • Measure 150 ml of the glue mixture and place in a sealing plastic bag.
  • Just before using, combine the glue mixture and the Borax mixture, in a 3:1 ratio, seal the bag again and knead to form "glop".
    • Mix until the glop has the consistency of silly putty.
    • A more concentrated solution of borax will give you a stiffer mixture.
    • Store the glop in the sealing plastic bags.
    • Refrigerate in sealed plastic bags for long-term storage.
  • ***Do not use the fluorescent Elmer's Glue. It is not always successful.
  • "Glop" may be mixed and stored in any sealable container.

Directions for "Oobleck"

  • Materials: Cornstarch & water
  • Procedure:
    • Pour the water into a cup.
    • Add cornstarch a little at a time while stirring.
    • Keep adding more water or cornstarch until the Oobleck reaches the desired consistency

Exploration materials setup for each lab station:

  • Make a transparency of a metric ruler for each lab setup used. Make sure the metric ruler is in the center of the transparency sheet. It may be best to copy the metric ruler leaving a bit of space above the 0 cm mark for the beaker location.
  • Tape the transparency to the back of the clipboard. To make observations easier to make, place a piece of white paper underneath the transparency.
  • Rest the clipboard on a pile of wood blocks or other supporting material. The clip end should be resting on the blocks.
  • Place the creeping material into a beaker. Cover the top of the beaker to keep the creeping material inside until the exploration begins.
  • Use masking tape to keep the beaker steady on the clipboard by taping across the beaker onto the clipboard. The lip of the beaker should be on the tape at the 0 cm mark of the transparency.


Safety considerations will depend on the "creeping material" the presenter chooses to use.

The glop mixture contains Borax which is poisonous if ingested. If this material is accidentally eaten, call the poison control center immediately.

Borax is also an eye irritant. Eyes that may have been contaminated with glop should be flushed with water immediately. See Flinn Scientific website ( for MSDS.

Students should be cautioned before task and instructed to wash their hands after completing the task.

Be careful.

Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


Assessments can be found at the end of each learning cycle stage.

Have the participants "solve" the problems illustrated by the graphs from the following web sites:

NGfL: The Pet Graph -

Cynthia Lanius: The Hot Tub Lesson Plan -

Explanation of Science

Mass wasting is the name for all of Earth's processes by which gravity pulls materials down. Some of the processes, like landslides and avalanches, are rapid, while others, like soil creeping, occur so slowly that observations are difficult to obtain. Additional content information appears in the body of the module.


Graphing Student Answer Sheet


If the presenter would like to have participants explore computer graphing skills, see the lesson at

Lesson Implementation Template

Download Lesson Implementation Template: Word Document or PDF File


Issues to consider are the following: seating so everyone can see the display and graphs, make sure every person participates in discussions and exploration, and grouping with diversity in mind.


Adapted from PALS -

The focus of this module is graphing using a model of creep or mass wasting as a way of collecting data.


Adapted from PALS -