Using NetLogo for the States of Matter

Elementary Science

Topic: Chemistry – Gas

Misconception: Gases are not matter because most are invisible

Gas can be a difficult concept for children since those commonly experienced, like air, are invisible. Stavy (1988) suggests this invisibility prevents children from forming a concept of gas spontaneously. She explains that instruction is important for children to acquire knowledge about gas properties. Using a T-GEM Model and NetLogo, students will work through a variety of experiments to construct a solid understanding of the states of matter, specifically gas.


iPad Book Creator App – to document KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn) about Gas knowledge

Computer – to access NetLogo (Students will use NetLogo to simulate and visualize the molecules inside a bicycle tire as it is being pumped up with air). Lesson can be found here:

Using a T-GEM Model

Assess prior knowledge: Students will begin by using a Know, Wonder, Learn (KWL) model developed by Ogle (1986), where students will write down what they already know about matter – gas before the science unit begins (Collins, 2011). They will also write down any ‘wonders’ that they want to learn about matter. Students will share their chart with a partner to compare and contrast. Khan’s T-GEM model (2007) follows three steps: Generate, Evaluate, and Modify. Students will generate their own ideas by predicting results through hands-on experiments and the use of NetLogo to simulate the molecules inside a bicycle tire. The Evaluate portion occurs after students have tested their predictions. Students will reflect and evaluate experiments, inquiring into the why and how by documenting their learning through Book Creator app on the iPads. The last part of the model is Modify, where students will look back at their KWL chart and compare their original beliefs to what they’ve learned. This will help clear up any misconceptions students may have had surrounding matter. It also allows for the teacher to check-in and ensure students understand if their original ‘know’ included a misconception.


Collins, J. W. (01/01/2011). The greenwood dictionary of education: KWL chartGreenwood.

Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistryScience Education, 91(6), 877-905

Stavy, R. (1988) Children’s conception of gas International Journal of Science Education 10 (5) 553 – 560


  1. Thanks Danielle for sharing! I like how you have incorporated NetLogo’s simulation of pumping air into tires (so relevant for elementary aged students). Tie in last weeks readings with some fun embodied learning activities to further visualize and “be” the molecules using students movement to also solidify their understanding. Topped off with your Book Creator app and your students have some incredible lessons on the properties of gas!

  2. Hi Danielle

    I like the fact that you shared some great resources.

    I wonder if somehow students can keep their KWL throughout their K-12 journey. The concept of gas is taught many times in k-12. As the students get older they learn more and more about gas. This is the same for many concepts and ideas. It would be interesting to read students thoughts as the progress from year to year.

    A good next step might find out if any research has been conducted on students keeping a KWL journal throughout their K-12 journey.

    To keep the conversation going — make sure to respond to at least two other learners as well respond to all learners that respond to your own post. When responding to other learners, expand the discussion and please use references to support your ideas/thesis/concepts etc.


    1. Hi Christopher.
      Yes, in fact with FreshGrade (ePortfolio), students are able to access work from years prior. This would work if more teachers were on board and using ePortfolios. I will look into research on a KWL journal for my Legacy of Learning project. Thanks for the guidance.

  3. Hi Danielle,

    Elementary students would benefit greatly from exploring gas and the states of matter using simulations within a T-GEM framework such as you’ve designed. I was wondering if there was an opportunity within your lesson design for students to share their findings after completing the “modify” portion of the lesson? It could be valuable for the students to discuss their misconceptions with the whole class group and highlight the new understandings that they are taking away as a result of their investigations using NetLogo.

    – Allen.

    1. Hi Allen. This is my hope with the Book Creator App. They will be able to share in small groups and with the class after. I think it’s also important for students to reflect on their findings.

  4. Hi,

    I like how you included a creation App like Book Creator into the T-GEM process. I find the more I consistency integrate the same flexible creation tools (i.e. Book Creator, iMovie, Explain Everything) the more they become tools students can rely on to seamlessly represent their understanding in a variety of ways.


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