Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

Mini Introduction to the Nanoscale Module

intro to nano
Info Sheet (PDF)

Size Dependent Properties
Surface Area and Volume

Design Project
Designing a Liquid Geyser

Through the following key select activities, students will learn that size does matter. They will investigate how changes in the shape or size of an object affect its surface area to volume ratio (SA/V), which can change dramatically in the nanoscale. When they complete the Activities, they will apply this knowledge to design an “exploding” liquid geyser.

MWM will give students an opportunity to understand the world around them in a way they have never experienced before. The modules promote an awareness of the roles science and technology play in society and guide students to take increased control of their work.

Module At-a-Glance

Module At-a-Glance

Activity 1: Size Dependent Properties
The importance of an object’s size manifests itself most significantly through interaction of its surfaces with the surrounding environment. This “hook”activity presents some intriguing phenomena that pique students’ interest in surface area effects, i.e., how physical form and size of a solid influences the degree to which it interacts with its environment. They find that the more finely divided (or more spread out) a solid is, the more surface is available for
this interaction.

Activity 3: Surface Area and Volume
To help students realize how and why surface area to volume ratio (SA/V) changes dramatically in the nanometer scale, students construct objects that varies in size, as well as shape. They begin by looking at twodimensional (2-D) behaviors involving perimeter and area, which has analogous relationship as surface area and volume, followed by exploration of how SA/V changes with the size or shape of 3-D objects.

Design Project: Designing a Liquid Geyser
Students are challenged to apply the concept of SA/V to a real-life experiment. They begin by evaluating the familiar “Coke™ fountain” experiment resulting from the heterogeneous nucleation of carbon dioxide gas on the surface of Mentos™ candy. Their task is to increase the SA/V and create a high surface area alternative to Mentos to make the soda “geyser” go higher.

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Connecting to Your Curriculum

Connecting to Your Curriculum

Materials World Modules are designed to be easily incorporated into any middle school science or high school science lab or lecture course. The chart below lists the subjects covered in the Activity and Design Project sections of this module.

Physics & Physical Science

  • Color
  • Capillary Forces
  • Energy Transfer
  • Quantum Effects
  • Size and Forces/Strength
  • Size and Dominant Forces
  • Size and Surface Tension
  • Size and Terminal Speed
  • Size and Thermal Radiation
  • Types of Microscopes
  • Astronomical Objects


  • Chemical Reactions
  • Food Chemistry
  • Hydrogen bonding Polarity
  • Surface Chemistry/Catalysis


  • Dimension
  • 2-D and 3-D Geometric Shapes
  • Scale
  • Estimation/Approximation
  • Powers of Ten
  • Logarithm and Exponents
  • Ratios and Proportions
  • Length, Area, and Volume Measurement
  • Surface Area to Volume Ratio
  • Graphical Analysis

Biology and Life Science

  • Size and Bone Strength
  • Size and Skin Coverage
  • Microscopy
  • Allometry
  • Size and Metabolic Rate
  • Size and Thermoregulation

Language Arts

  • Giants and Tiny Creatures
    in Fantasy Stories
  • Large and Small Scale Creatures/Devices in Science Fiction Stories
  • Numbers and Magnitude in Literature
  • Writing a report
  • Public Speaking

Standards Alignment

AAAS Benchmark Standards


NSES Standards

NCTM Standards

Grades 9-12


Grades 9-12


Grades 9-12

1. Nature of Science


A. Science as Inquiry


Numbers & Operations

Scientific inquiry

Ability to do scientific inquiry

Understanding number relations

2. The Physical Setting


B. Physical Science




Structure of Matter

Chemical Reactions

Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes
9. The Mathematical World  

E. Science and Technology


Use visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling

Symbolic Relationships

Abilities of Technological Design






Process Standard V

11. Common Themes










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