Separation of Mixtures with Ward’s Science!

So, how is everyone’s school year? I don’t know about you, but I feel like this year has zoomed from zero to seventy in no time flat. Busy, busy, busy!

Today I’m going to share with you a recent set of activities that I incorporated into my class using supplies from Ward’s Science. I was contacted by We Are Teachers about writing a blog post using the supplies of my choice from Ward’s, so I hopped right on it. Free science materials… hands-on activities…. that’s a win-win situation in my book.

I chose the following sets of materials: Separation of a Mixture: Physical Properties of Matter; and Properties of Matter: What is Oobleck? These were selected primarily because physical properties of matter is the first concept of the year.

Now I don’t know about you, but physical science is my least favorite topic. I’m more of a life science kind of gal, but we (the kids) always have a blast with the life science activities. (I often think that I do a better job with the topics that aren’t as personally interesting to me. But, that’s a topic for another blog post.)

I’ll start with the separating mixtures materials. The kit comes with small plastic cups, magnets, a set of small hand lenses, and containers of salt, sand, iron filings, and a sand and iron filings mixture. Also included are a teachers guide with lab sheets for guiding the students through separating the different mixtures. I didn’t use the lab sheets because I prefer my students to do all of their work in their science journals. I also assembled all of the group materials in little “science tubs” and I ended up adding a few extras like spoons, funnels, small foil baking pans, and extra cups. I also used larger hand wand magnets just because they were easier for my students to handle.

One of my science tubs ready to go!

We started off by brainstorming ideas of how to separate the sand and iron filings mixture. The majority of the students wanted to use a sieve, so we tried three different sized sieves and the students learned that the sizes of the different ingredients is of utmost importance when separating mixtures. A few students also suggested magnets! BINGO!!

We inserted the magnets into plastic baggies so that it wouldn’t be difficult to remove the iron filings. Just slip the magnet out of the baggie, and the filings just fall back into the mixture.

Next, we poured the mixture back into the cups and then filled the cups with water, and we brainstormed again how to separate the sand & iron filings mixture from the water. They wanted to use the sieve again, and again they realized that it wouldn’t work. They learned that we could decant the water (and we all learned a new vocabulary word),and that the still very wet mixture still went through the sieve. So… we were left with a dilemma…. how to easily separate the water. It was at this time that I also made a mental note to remember to put paper towels in the tubs next time. (I moved the cups with the remaining wet sand & iron filings aside intending to let the water evaporate and use these as an engage activity the next day. but the mixture took several days to dry and by then some of the iron filings had rusted. So, I have those set aside for a discussion later on… teachable moments!)

The next day we moved on with just giving the students sand and water to separate, and this is where I introduced the common coffee filter.

This entire time, I made sure the students were identifying why these different combinations were regular mixtures. I also made them explain why they were not solutions. After using the filter with the sand and water, the students had to come up with a plan to completely separate the sand and the water. They decided we should place the filters in the sun which we did. (It’s still hot here in Texas, and it didn’t take long!)

Next up was the mixing of salt and water, which of course makes a solution. We discussed the ways that we had separated our previous mixtures, and determined that more extreme measures were needed… evaporation. Some of the students thought that the salt simply disappeared when it dissolved into the water, and that nothing would be left after heating the solution. However, they soon discovered that only the water evaporated and the salt was left behind. (I forgot to take a picture!)

All in all, I must say that the kiddos really enjoyed these activities. The Ward’s sets provided just enough materials for my students to complete all of the activities, and the directions were easy to follow and implement. What I really liked was that I was able to implement the activities the way that best suited my students and my teaching style, and that by starting with a small number of materials I was able to teach a big concept! This is also the perfect jumping off point for building student background for separating more complex mixtures. Up next will be a lesson about the properties and states of matter with the What is Oobleck? activity set, and of course in conjunction with a fun Dr. Seuss read-aloud!

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Until next time… Happy Teaching!


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Offer valid on web only at To activate offer, use promo code at checkout. Offer expires 10/31/19. Free shipping includes standard ground shipping only and excludes items with hazardous shipping; standard hazardous shipping fees will apply. Unless otherwise specified, contract discounts and special offers may not be applied to any item priced with a final digit of ‘9’ (i.e. $6.99; $10.09; $129.99.) Offer excludes Somso models due to custom nature of the product. Offer excludes all Triumph Board products. Promotional discounts also may not be combined with other offers, discounts, contracts, or promotions. For more details, visit Selected items may be or contain chemicals, live materials, or hazardous materials and may be restricted for purchasing by educational institutions only. To purchase restricted items, please log into with your Full Web Profile, or create a new Full Web Profile here using your school’s Shipping Account Number. A full profile also allows you to pay with purchase orders, receive tax exemptions, contract pricing (if applicable), and other advanced features.  Don’t know your Shipping Account Number or not sure what it is? We can help. Email or Click to Chat on the profile registration page and a Ward’s Science Representative will help you locate your Shipping Account Number or apply for a new one.) 

Be sure to check out these other Ward’s Science Resources!

Ward’s Grants and Funding Services for Teachers 

2019 Ward’s Science Catalog

2019 Ward’s Science STEM Catalog

2019 Ward’s Healthcare & Medical Education Catalog

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