The National Center for Quality Afterschool

Science After School (SAS) Consumers Guide  

GEMS Paper Towel Testing

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  • Cost Category: $1-$40
  • Duration: variable based on how instructors use activities
  • Format: Instructors Guide
  • Grades: grades 5 to 8
  • Target Audiences: Families
  • Suitable for Multiple Uses?: many times, reusable with parts or supplies, can be reused
  • Subject(s): math, multiple science topics
  • Part of Series?: No
  • URL:

These four inquiry-based activities help kids design/conduct experiments to test/compare advertising claims about wet strength and absorbency of 4 paper towel brands.   These are well designed and the teachers guide is elegantly clear and concise.

This unit is part of the Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) set of informal science instructional guides. Like the other 60 similar GEMS titles, this instructor’s guidebook provides simple, concise background information, discussion ideas, lab procedures and includes reproducible data sheets, extension ideas, suggestions for assessing participant learning, and information for assembling the (minimal) materials necessary for conducting this paper towel test which is designed for students in grades 5-8. Participants in the Paper Towel Test design and conduct controlled scientific tests to measure the absorbency and wet strength of different paper towel brands. Sure it's fun, and can get a bit messy, but behind the fun and ease are some basic concepts of experimentation, record-keeping, identifying and reporting results of experiments, and keeping track of tests and modifications, all skills that underlie scientific experimentation at all levels. The guide offers sufficient information to implement the activities, but professional development opportunities can be found on the GEMS website.

Click here to view the evaluation criteria used while developing the Consumers Guide.