different shapes and colors of mylar balloons inflated with helium

Chemical or physical change?

Hands-on activity for students who are blind or visually impaired to introduce concepts of chemical and physical changes.

Students are introduced to the concepts of chemical change and physical change in elementary school.  These concepts are covered in greater detail as students progress through middle school and high school.

A chemical change occurs when substances combine (the reactants)  to form new substances (the products) as atoms are rearranged. Common evidences of a chemical change include a change of color, odor, temperature, the formation of a gas, or a precipitate A physical change occurs when there is a change in physical properties of a substance but not chemical compostion.

Common physical changes include melting, change of size, volume, color, density, and crystal form.   The classic baking soda and vinegar reaction provides evidence of a chemical change due to the formation of a gas and a temperature change.  Students tactually experience the formation of a gas as carbon dioxide fills up the balloon and sense a change of temperature.

Related Vocabulary:

As students complete this activity they will immediately notice the production of the gas.  However, it may be necessary to ask the students to observe the temperature of the substance in the bottle after the reaction. It will be colder than before.

Please see the activity at https://www.perkins.org/resource/conservation-mass/ for a similar experiment with a focus on Conservation of Mass



Please note that this worksheet for the lab is available to be downloaded in regular print, large print, and Duxbury (contracted and uncontracted braille) at the bottom of this page under “Attached Files”.


Name:  _____________    Class:  ______________

Lab: Baking Soda and Vinegar

Problem:  What will happen if I mix vinegar and baking soda?  Is it a chemical change or a physical change?

Hypothesis:  _______________________________


  1. Measure 10 ml of baking soda using a measuring spoon.  Pour the baking soda into the balloon using a funnel.
  2. Measure 30 ml of vinegar and pour it into a water bottle.
  3. Put the mouth of the balloon onto the mouth of the water bottle but be careful to keep the baking soda in the balloon.  (The balloon will be flopped to one side.)
  4. Lift the balloon up and pour the baking soda into the bottle of vinegar.
  5. Observe for 1 minute. 

Results:  __________________________________

Conclusion:  ______________________________

Latex Free option:  This activity was recently chosen by a student of mine as the basis for her science project.  However, she is highly latex allergic.

We found a vendor for latex-free mylar balloons and he recommended using wine spouts to connect the balloon to the bottles as he had fielded this question before.

NGSS Standards

2nd Grade – Structure and Properties of Matter

PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
Heating or cooling a substance may cause changes that can be observed. Sometimes these changes are
reversible, and sometimes they are not. (2-PS1-4)

5th Grade – Structure and Properties of Matter

Structure and Properties of Matter

PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
 When two or more different substances are mixed, a new substance with different properties may be formed. (5-PS1-4)
No matter what reaction or change in properties occurs, the total weight of the substances does not change. (Boundary: Mass and weight are not distinguished at this grade level.) (5-PS1-2)

By Laura Hospitál

Attached File(s)

Collage of identifying chemical and physical changes with students who are visually impaired

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