This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled PRISM Workshop: Implementing Investigative Case-Based Learning at Center for Science Education in June 2003. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

Upcoming events                Investigative Cases

Investigative Cases
The Case: The Prom, the Party, the Problem

Page 1
The day has arrived. It is May 17th and at 7:30 pm the Junior/Senior Prom of Hayes High School will begin. Tori had just finished her breakfast when her boyfriend, Shawn called. He called to tell her that he wanted to go with her to the beauty salon to get his hair texturized. She couldn’t believe it. Her appointment was a still a couple of hours away but she was already nervous. After all, she was getting a permanent relaxer, too.

Page 2:
Tori checked the clock as she threw on her shoes. It was 9:30 am. She told Shawn to pick her up at 9:45 am, so they could make their 10:30 am appointment. Her stylist was a long time family friend and was expecting the two of them. As she walked through the great room, she noticed her daddy out by the pool. She opened the sliding door and asked, “What cha doing daddy?” Her daddy said, “Just looking at the water, baby. I want everything to be just right for your party tonight.” Tori replied as she walked towards the pool and her daddy, “Me too, daddy. It looks a little cloudy to me though. I mean, the weather cleared up real good, but this water is just too cloudy.” Her daddy said, “I know baby. It’s because of the rain we had last night, but I’m gonna get it straight for you. What time do you think this party will get going anyway?” Tori said,”Probably about 11:30 pm. I know that’s what time I plan to be getting here. Why? Is that too late?” Her daddy said, “No, I just wanted to know.” At that moment, Tori’s mom called out to her stating that Shawn was out front beeping his horn. Tori told them goodbye as she ran past her mom and said that she would be back from the beauty salon around 3:00 pm. She shouted to her mom, “Don’t forget, mom, say goodbye to this curly hair. It’s gone for good!!” End of Session 1

Page 3:
At 6:30 pm, when Shawn arrived, his hair was noticeably more manageable and it was apparent to Tori’s parents that he had done something to his hair too. They took several pictures of Shawn and Tori. Before they drove off, Tori’s mom couldn’t help but ask, “Shawn did you get your hair relaxed or something?” Shawn laughed and replied, “Naw, I just got a texturizer. It’s not the same as what Tori got.” Tori then said, “Mommy, doesn’t it look good? They are gonna go crazy when they see us. I can’t wait to get there!” Tori’s mom said, “The two of you look great. But don’t have so much fun that you forget about this pool party waiting for you and your friends.” Tori and Shawn said their goodbyes. As they drove away Tori’s mom asked her daddy if the pool water looked better. He said, “Not yet, but I super-shocked it this morning and it’s getting back right. I’m going to check the pH in a little while.” Tori’s mom said, “Well as long as it looks clear. I just want everything to be perfect for Tori tonight.”

Page 4:
At 2:30 am, Tori’s pool party was coming to an end. The water seemed to be clear all night and everyone appeared to enjoy themselves. Shawn swam all night and tried to convince Tori to join him in a volleyball game. Tori refused to enter into water because she didn’t want to destroy her new hairdo. She managed to stay clear of the water and kept her style all night. As they were saying goodbyes to the final guest, Shawn began to scratch his head furiously. He said it was itching like crazy. He said it was probably an allergic reaction to some of the seafood he had eaten at the prom. Tori told her mom how he was scratching his head uncontrollably and she advised him to make sure he shampooed his hair when he got home. She gave him a bottle of her neutralizing shampoo and he said he would use it when he gets home. End Session 2

Page 4:
Lab insert Complete test on a sample of pool water. Stabilize pool water to acceptable/safe values of pH, alkalinity and hardness. Also, perform an Acid/Base titration experiment.

Shawn went home and fell asleep without shampooing his hair. The next day, his hair was very hard and dry. His scalp was also very sore since he scratched his head all night in his sleep. He shampooed his hair and when he towel dried it, he noticed several bald spots on his head. He immediately called Tori and told her that he was losing all his hair. He was hysterical. He told her that he was going to sue her stylist since now he probably has to shave it all off. He continued hysterically telling her that he would NEVER listen to her again about his hair. She told him to calm down and asked him if he had shampooed his hair last night when he got home. After a brief silent period, he slammed the phone down. It took a minute for Tori to get over the shock of Shawn hanging up on her. She looked in the mirror at her hair. It was still intact and looking great. She had no regrets about getting her first perm. While looking at her reflection, she said, “Great party, but I’m glad I didn’t swim.” When her phone rang again, she knew it was Shawn. When she answered, she heard Shawn’s voice. It was soft and sweet. He asked, “Who should I let but my hair?”

Case Analysis

water quality
pool upkeep
chemicals used to make pool safe
chemicals used in hair perms
acid rain
acid/base titration

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


laboratory experience/ procedures
investigative approach
library research
internet research


1. Uses science process skills in laboratory or field investigations including observation, classification, communication, metric measurement, prediction, inference, collecting and analyzing data.

2. Uses traditional reference material to explore background and historical information regarding a scientific concept.

3. Learns and uses on a regular basis standard safety practices for laboratory or field investigations.

4. Gives examples of everyday processes that have been derived from scientific research and describe the impact on society.

5. Writes formulas for and names a variety of compounds.

6. Compares the descriptions of acid/bases including Arrhenius, Bronsted-Lowery and Lewis.

7. Writes formulas for and names a variety of acids, bases, and salts.

8. Uses experimentally derived pH to calculate hydrogen ion concentrations in solutions.

9. Explain the roles of indicators in determining relative pH of a substance.

10. Conducts neutralization reactions in a laboratory by titration method.


Investigations and Activities

acid/base titration lab
testing pool water to ensure its safety
study of chemicals involved in pool upkeep
study of chemicals involved in hair styling
Water quality analysis.



Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items


Student Products

Lab report, commercials describing pros and cons of using hair styling/perming products or describing pool upkeep elements, other visual forms of presentations. Water quality analysis report.

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Lab report, ruberic for visual presentations, water quality report.



Acid, bases and salts Chemical reactions Writing and balancing chemical equations

Course name:
Likely sequence in syllabus:
After Acid Base chapter
Time during term:
Spring Semester
6 - 8 contact hours
Students in course:
High school
Collaborative elements:
Environmental science, Biology, Ecology
Additional notes:



NSF grant supporting Prism fellows

ICBL Home              Back to list of investigative cases

Copyright 2009, Investigative Cased Based Learning Project