The activities in this lesson will help students better understand heat energy, conduction, convection, and radiation.
For each group:
For each student:
For each group:
- Set of two clear plastic
- Container of ICE cold
- Blue food coloring
- Container of ROOM
- Container of BOILING
- Red food coloring
- Paper towels
For each student:
- Clear plastic cup (5 oz.)
- Small syringe
- Elmer in the Snow, by David McKee (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard
Books); ISBN 95077472
Teacher Resource Books
- Convection: A Current Events, (GEMS, http://www.lhsgems.org,
510-643-0309); ISBN 0-912511-15-X
- Hot Water and Warm Homes from Sunlight, (GEMS,
http://www.lhsgems.org, 510-643-0309); ISBN 0-912511-24-9
- Primarily Physics: Investigations in Sound, Light, and Heat Energy,
(AIMS, http://www.AIMSedu.org, 1-888-733-2467); Item 1104
- Heat, by Bill Nye (Disney Educational Productions,
Product ID: 68A71VL00
- The Transfer of Energy, (Schlessinger Media, 1-800-843-3620,
Background for Teachers
Particles that make up substances are always moving and always have
energy. This energy can be transferred from one object to another by
three means--conduction, convection, and radiation.
There is a difference between heat and temperature. Heat is the
energy that the object has because the particles are moving. Temperature is a way of measuring heat energy. Two scales that are commonly used to
measure heat are the metric system and the standard system. The metric
system uses Celsius (ºC), and the standard system uses Fahrenheit (ºF) to
measure heat. The measurement of temperature gives the average amount
of energy contained in the substance.
Heat always travels from hotter to cooler objects. It may seem that
when you are holding an ice cube, the ice cube is causing your hand to
feel colder. However, the real physics behind this heat transference is:
The feeling of coldness in your hand is caused by the heat flowing away
from your hand and into the ice cube. REPEAT: Energy from the faster moving
(hotter) particles transfer to the slower (colder) particles. The
transfer of energy goes on until all the particles in both objects are
moving at about the same speed. When the amount of heat energy of each
object is the same, both objects will have the same temperature.
When two objects come into contact with each other, heat energy
moves between them because the particles in one object collide with, or 'bing,' the particles in the other object. Transferred heat resulting from
the collision of particles is called conduction. Conduction works best
through solids, especially through materials such as metals. An example
includes observing a raw egg fry as it hits a heated frying pan.
Heat energy transferred by the movement of a liquid or gas is called
convection. When particles are heated, they move faster, expand, become
less dense, and 'bang,' the particles rise. As the liquid or gas cools, the
particles move slower, contract, become more dense, and 'bang,' the
particles sink. This movement of heating, expanding, rising, cooling,
contracting, and sinking is a continuous one. An example is to observe
the amount of wind in the early morning compared to the afternoon.
Wind is an example of a convection process in motion.
Conduction and convection need a medium to transfer heat energy;
however, radiation does not. Radiation uses electromagnetic waves such
as ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and microwaves, 'boom.' These invisible
waves carry energy through empty space, as well as through solids,
liquids, and gases. All objects give off electromagnetic radiation, which
means warm objects emit more radiation than cool objects. An example is
the radiation from a campfire making you feel warm as you roast
Intended Learning Outcomes
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
3. Understand Science Concepts and Principles
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
5. Demonstrate Awareness of Social and Historical Aspects of Science
6. Understand the Nature of Science
Invitation to Learn
Set up a microwave oven in front of the classroom and pop a bag of
popcorn. Ask students several questions relating to what's going on inside
the microwave oven.
- What type of energy is a microwave using?
- Why does it pop popcorn? Where did the energy come from?
- Why does the bag feel hot when you first pull it out?
- Why should you wait a few minutes before eating the popcorn?
- Where did the steam vapors come from?
- Feel the air just above the bag as you open it. Why is it warmer
than the surrounding air?
During this discussion, list student ideas on chart paper. Revisit this
list at the end of the heat unit.
Activity #1--'BING'--Melting Ice Using Conduction
Activity Time: 20 minutes
- This is a short demonstration with room temperature water and
ice. Using a thermometer, take the temperature of a glass of
room temperature water. Add several ice cubes to it and let set
for a few minutes. Take the temperature of the water after
having ice added to it. Have a short discussion about the
following question: When you add ice to warm water, does the
warm water melt the ice or does the ice make the water colder?
- Explain to students that they are going to see who can melt an
ice cube the fastest using only their hands.
- Give a container to each group of students filled with enough ice
cubes for every student to have his/her own.
Option: Place each ice cube in a Ziploc bag.
- Explain to students that they will all begin at the same time.
- Give the signal to begin.
- After the initial mayhem and students are complaining about their
hands freezing, ask students why their hands are so cold? Ask if
the ice made their hands cold or did the heat from their hands
cause the ice to melt? Ask how this experience relates back to the
initial question about the ice and water.
- Ask students what would eventually happen to the temperature of
the ice water if left alone for 24 hours.
Activity #2--'BANG'--The Effect the Convection Process has on
Activity Time: 75 minutes
The night before, freeze a large block of water (or several trays of
ice cubes) dyed with blue food coloring. In the morning, place blue ice
in a pitcher and pour a small amount of water over ice. Allow ice to
melt into a liquid state but keep as close to 0ºC as possible. When
pouring out ice water for each group, it is recommended that you use
Room Temperature Water
In the morning, fill enough clear plastic cups 2/3 full so that each
group has two cups as well as each individual student having one cup.
(Example: If you have 30 students, you will need 30 cups, plus enough
for each group to have two additional cups.) Water needs to be at room
temperature and not right out of the tap.
Note: It is suggested to make several extra for those students who
need a "do over."
Just prior to the activity, bring a pitcher of water to a boil and add
red food coloring to it. Caution students to be careful!! When pouring
out hot water for each group of students, it is recommended that you
use Styrofoam® cups.
- Give each group two plastic cups filled with room temperature
water, a container of ice water, and a container of hot water. Have
students take the temperature readings for the ice water and the
hot water and record their data.
- Give each group a syringe and discuss the appropriate use of this
instrument. Use the syringe to measure out 30ml of ice water
from the container and slowly put in one of the plastic cups
containing room temperature water. Have students make and
record observations of what happens to the ice water.
- Have another person from each group use the syringe to measure
out 30ml of hot water from the container and slowly put in one of
the plastic cups containing room temperature water. Have students
make and record observations of what happens to the hot water.
- Discuss in detail student observations on how the ice water
reacted and the hot water reacted in room temperature water. Ask
students why each type of water reacted the way it did. Use this
opportunity to connect with the convection process and the
movement of particles.
- Explain to the students that they will be making a patriotic cup
with layered red, white, and blue water. Emphasize to the students
that each layer is just water and that the amount of heat energy is
the only difference in the water's behavior.
- Discuss effective strategies on how to use the syringe to get the
best results. (Creating purple water is not the objective.)
- Before students begin layering their water, have them take the
temperature reading of the room temperature water and record
- Once students have their water layered in red, white, and blue,
have them draw diagrams of their observations in four 15-minute
- After each 15-minute internal, have a short discussion about what
students are observing. Direct their focus on how the ice and hot
water's behavior is changing over time. Ask students why the blue
ice water is rising. Why is the red hot water sinking? What will
your water look like after 45-minutes? What effect is the
convection process having on layered patriotic water?
- After 60-minutes, have students take the temperature of their now 'purple' water. Have students explain this temperature reading
relating it to the convection process.
Activity #3--'BOOM'--Make It Fly With Radiation
Activity Time: 30-minutes
A warm, sunny day is recommended to do this activity.
- Take students outside on the playground and have them sit in a
- Unfold the black deflated solar bag in the center of the circle.
- Ask students to problem solve variables to be considered in order
to make the black solar bag fly.
- Choose one student to take the solar bag and run with it. When it
is full of air, tie off the ends.
- Place the semi-filled solar bag in the middle for further
- As the sun heats the air inside the solar bag, have students record
in their journal what is happening and encourage them to make
conjectures explaining what is happening in regard to conduction,
convection, and radiation.
Note: Make sure to tether the solar bag with string so it does not
fly away--especially with wind present.
Caution: Read all safety directions on your solar bag.
- Have several students share their conjectures and discuss how the
three means of heat transference all work together simultaneously
to make the solar bag fly.
Strategies for Diverse Learners
- Ask for parent volunteers to supervise small work groups.
- Pair students with special needs with peers who can help during group activities.
- Diagrams or explanations: Use short phrases with key words listed on the board. Verbal clues help with definitions.
- For a summary review, complete a hierarchy graphic organizer.
- Take the major big ideas regarding heat and have students create
pages (using 18” x 24” construction paper) that will be combined
into a class Big Book of Heat.
- In cooperative groups, students complete poster displays
explaining how the three types of heat transference are involved
with situations such as:
- a candy bar melting in the car
- a space heater warming up a room
- a frying pan cooking a grilled cheese sandwich
- a popsicle melting on the asphalt
- Have students write a reflection essay explaining why popcorn
pops in microwave and how the three types of heat transference
are involved in the process.
- Over a seven-day period, have students keep a running list of
examples of heat transference observed at home, with a short
justification and explanation for each.
- Have students become the science teacher at home by having
them replicate the popcorn in the microwave activity for their
families. Have the students then ask family members to explain
why a microwave can pop popcorn.
- Discuss with students the accessibility of electrical energy and the
ability to survive without it. Have students design a home project
that will assist people in time of power outages to have access to
energy using simple heat transference. Projects could focus on
helping people cook their food, heat water, keep warm, etc.
- Have each student make a solar oven out of a pizza box.
Encourage students to make at least one modification from the
instructions to make their solar ovens more effective.
- Place a thermometer in each solar oven. Take a temperature
reading prior to going outside and after the solar oven has been
sitting in the sun for at least 30 minutes. Record data. Caution
students not to pick up metal thermometers after solar ovens have
been outside for any length of time.
- Give each student the makings for a S’More and a small plate.
(They get messy!) Have students predict which will melt first: the
chocolate or the marshmallow. Have students place their S’Mores
in their solar ovens and make four observations: once every five
minutes over a 20-minute period.
- After eating their S’Mores, have students explain in detail how
the heat transference of conduction, convection, and radiation are
all involved in cooking the S’More. Include in the explanations
which melted first and why. Have students use science language
and the basic concepts learned about heat. Encourage students to
include diagrams with the explanations.
Make A Pizza Box Solar Oven
Suggested Constructed Response Activities
Choose one or more teacher demonstrations to do in front of the
class. Have students explain the science behind the demonstration(s)
using science language and the basic concepts learned about heat.
Encourage students to include diagrams with the explanations.
- Heating up a metal rod on a stand with attached wax balls.
- Compare the following methods of melting an ice cube:
- Place an ice cube under a heat lamp for several minutes to
cause it to melt.
- Place an ice cube in a large tub, pour a bucket of cold water
over the ice cube.
- Explain a wind machine.
- Heating up a metal ring and ball set.
- Galileo’s Thermometer
- A radiometer