Big Things Come in Little Packages

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
As a group, learners investigate three packages which are all the same size and shape, but have different contents. One is filled with foam, one is filled with wood, and one is filled with metal. Learners are introduced to the concept of density, that objects with the same volume but different masses have different densities. Learners can extend their learning using one of the extensions provided: twenty questions to determine contents, determine the volume of the packages, determine mass and densities of the packages. Part of the 21-activity guide published by OMSI, No Hassle Messy Science with a Wow. All activities in this guide use household materials and all lesson plans include preparation directions, demonstrations, procedure sheets, cross-curricular connections, and scientific explanation of content.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • small boxes, all same size
  • coins, nails, screws, bolts, or other heavy metal scraps
  • wood blocks or scraps
  • foam rubber, Styrofoam peanuts, or large marshmallows
  • gift wrapping paper


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 2007

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation