Size and Scale: Probing and Predicting

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In this quick activity about predicting (located on page 2 of the PDF under Where's Nano? Activity), learners working alone or in groups will use toothpicks to probe a clay ball with a small object hidden in its center and then predict what's inside. Learners will share their predictions and how they came to these conclusions before opening the ball to see what is inside. This exercise illustrates how nanoscientists can still make discoveries studying things too small to see, using special probes to "feel" bumps at the atomic level. Also relates to linked video, DragonflyTV Nano: Where's Nano?

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • clay or Play-Doh
  • round toothpicks
  • several small objects such as: penny, marble, rubber band, raisin, marshmallow, paper clip, bead, etc.


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DragonflyTV


  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2008

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 741749