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Physical Changes vs. Chemical Changes

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11032

Would you rather eat raw eggs, flour, and salt, or a yummy freshly-baked cake? What is the difference? Snack your way to learning about chemical and physical changes with video and online exercises!


Physical Science

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What is the difference between mulch and ash?

Often times, matter undergoes changes.

Matter can change shape, color, temperature, form, and size. When matter experiences some type of change, it is classified as one of two categories: physical change or chemical change.

A physical change is when matter changes size, shape, or state of matter. When matter undergoes a physical change, it still retains its chemical properties. Even if it changes states of matter, what it is does not change.

For example, when water turns from a liquid to a solid, it undergoes a physical change. Even though it has turned into ice, it is still water. Other examples of physical change include cutting a pie into parts, molding play dough into a new shape, and wax melting on a candle. Can you think of another example of a physical change? Share it with a teacher or parent.

Chemical changes involve the transformation of the chemical properties of matter. This means the change that takes place is more than just a change in the stage of matter; there is a change in the actual molecular structure of matter. A chemical change results in one type of matter being turned into an entirely different type of matter. Typically, chemical changes cannot be reversed.

Examples of chemical changes include when food is digested in your digestive tract, exploding fireworks, and a nail turning rusty. Each of these examples involves changing matter into something new. What is another example of a chemical change? Share your example with a teacher or parent!

Continue learning about the differences between physical and chemical changes by watching the StudyJams! clip, Physical & Chemical Changes of Matter. When you get to the StudyJams! site, click on the green PLAY VIDEO button. Do NOT click the blue Test Yourself button. You will complete the test during the Got It? section of this lesson, after you have had the opportunity to learn more about physical and chemical changes.

Now, read the Chem4Kids article, Chemical Changes Versus Physical Changes, for a good explanation of how matter can be changed into something new.

Now that you have learned the difference between a physical and a chemical change, can you answer the question from the beginning of the lesson? What is the difference between mulch and ash? Explain your answer to a teacher or parent before reading on.

Mulch is an example of a physical change because the wood has just changed size and shape. Ash is an example of a chemical change because fire has turned the wood into ash, a different substance. Did you answer correctly?

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