Physical science investigations to support any middle school curriculum

Tap into students’ everyday wonderings about the world with ready-to-use investigations from BrainPOP Science.

Take students on adventures in physical science

BrainPOP Science investigations immerse middle schoolers in exciting and relatable phenomena to activate their innate curiosity and send them on a path of three-dimensional learning. Our collection of comprehensive units and resources empower students to ask questions and make their own discoveries—just like real scientists. 

Instead of receiving content on chemical reactions, for example, students are presented a guiding question like: why can’t you unbake a cake? Our built-in Claims-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) process supports students as they explore and collect evidence within BrainPOP 3D Worlds™, simulations, and data manipulatives. Investigations wrap up with students synthesizing what they learned through written arguments where they back up their claims with evidence.

Here’s a look at a few ways BrainPOP Science investigations bring physical science to life.

Investigation—Identifying Matter

Activate inquiry-driven learning with real-world phenomenon

Guiding Question

Can biting a metal object tell you if it's made of real gold?

Credit: RedCap/Shutterstock

Phenomena-centered instruction is a critical component of three-dimensional science instruction. Guiding questions anchor each investigation in phenomena that students connect with and can’t wait to learn more about. More than just a fun hook, BrainPOP Science phenomena activate prior knowledge and motivate students to figure out how things work for themselves. Middle schoolers really see themselves as scientists as they apply concepts and tools to situations that are powerfully relevant. At a pivotal age, students discover that science is everywhere and are equipped with the skills to make meaning of the world around them. 

The BrainPOP Science investigation on Identifying Matter kicks off with an intriguing question about why athletes bite into their gold medals. By tapping into a seemingly ordinary phenomenon many students have seen or heard of, guiding questions inspire students to ask their own questions and drive the lesson forward.

Investigation—Balanced and Unbalanced Forces

Tackle challenges in simulations by PhET

Inquiry-based classrooms give the space and tools for students to experiment with what they are discovering about phenomena. PhET Interactive Simulations are systematically woven into BrainPOP Science investigations to help students actively apply their scientific thinking and problem-solving skills. Students interact with scenarios in an intuitive, game-like environment, while they continue to collect observations and data. These everyday encounters with physical science concepts like Newton’s Laws and static electricity give students first-hand knowledge about how things work and why. 

In this PhET simulation from the BrainPOP Science investigation on Balanced and Unbalanced Forces, students experiment with net force, motion, and friction and see the results in a tug-of-war scenario. Questions embedded in the simulation prompt students to record their findings to use later when constructing a written argument.

Investigation—Rainbow Formation

Strengthen critical thinking with primary sources

Primary sources enhance BrainPOP Science investigations with new perspectives into physical science phenomena. Students are challenged to dig deep with their critical thinking skills while they observe, analyze, describe, identify, explain, and make inferences about what they are seeing and reading. Hypotheses are tested and stretched as new information is merged with background knowledge. Primary sources are an effective platform for group work that launch lively scientific debate.

1. Identify the primary rainbow in each image, and explain your reasoning.

2. Form a hypothesis to explain the order of colors in a secondary rainbow.

3. Describe how the location of the photographer in the second image is ideal for observing a full circular rainbow.

As students work through the BrainPOP Science investigation on Rainbow Formation, they’ll encounter eye-catching primary source photographs of double rainbows. While they may have seen this phenomenon before, they’ll be prompted to think critically about what’s happening like a scientist. 

Physical science investigations for your middle school classroom

Explore a wide range of ready-to-use investigations designed to complement any middle school science curriculum and support all your instructional objectives.

Atoms, Elements, and Molecules

Compounds, Mixtures, and Solutions

States of Matter

Properties of Matter

Guiding Question

  • Atomic Structure
  • Atoms and Molecules
  • Periodic Table
  • Elements
  • Water Molecules
  • Metals, Nonmetals, and Metalloids
  • Acids and Bases as Compounds
  • Salts as Compounds
  • Mixtures
  • Solids, Liquids, and Gases
  • Phase Changes
  • Properties of Matter
  • Identifying Matter
  • Density of Matter

How does jumping on the Moon compare to jumping on Earth?

Guiding Question

How can a potato power a lightbulb?

Physical and Chemical Changes

Forces and Motion

Work and Simple Machines

Non-Contact Forces

  • Chemical Reactions
  • Conservation of Matter
  • Energy in Chemical Reactions
  • Introduction to Newton's Laws
  • Balanced and Unbalanced Forces
  • Newton's Second Law of Motion
  • Speed
  • Newton's Third Law of Motion
  • Work, Energy, and Forces
  • Gravitational Forces
  • Magnetic Forces
  • Electromagnetic Forces

Guiding Question

Why can’t you unbake a cake?

Thermal Energy


Wave Properties

Light Waves

  • EM Waves
  • Rainbow Formation
  • Refraction, Reflection, Absorption
  • Properties of Light
  • Kinetic and Potential Energy
  • Conservation of Energy
  • Water Power
  • Thermal Energy Transfer
  • Wave Properties
  • Sound Waves

Aligned to all state standards

Our three-dimensional approach to science is designed to complement the latest standards for all 50 states, including NGSS, the NRC Framework, TEKS, and NGSSS. Throughout BrainPOP Science investigations, teachers can leverage built-in formative assessments with question types that prepare students for the rigors of state testing.

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Ignite the power of inquiry for middle school students and help deliver powerful, standards-aligned instruction.

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