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Physical Sciences K-8: Heat and Temperature Units

Many students cannot discriminate between the terms "heat" and "temperature," and even use them interchangeably. The persistence of this confusion can present a barrier to understanding other important physical science concepts.

  The Relationship Between Heat and Temperature (12)

Lesson Plans:

The sun is the ultimate renewable energy source. This page provides step-by-step directions for constructing a solar oven using simple, easily-obtained materials. It includes a pattern for building the oven, detailed background information, and construction plans for student use.

Item Type: Project-Based Learning
Level: Grades 6-10

A great way to help students understand the relationship between heat and temperature is with a look at the behavior of gases in closed containers.  This set of 3 Java-based labs for grades 7-9 is fun and interactive, yet also meets rigorous standards.  Complete lesson plans are included.  Try teaming it with the PhET Gas Properties simulation.

Item Type: Interactive Tutorial
Level: Grades 5-8

A lesson plan for middle school designed specifically for use with the PhET simulation "Gas Properties" (see link under "Activities" below).  Printable worksheets make this a turn-key 50-minute activity.  This item was a PhET Gold Star winner.

Item Type: Lesson Plan
Level: Grades 5-8
Duration: One Class Period

Activities:

A web-based project for grades 3-8.  Students measure daily temperature and minutes of sunlight per day, then submit data online.  Using the web tools for graphing and data analysis, students share conclusions about variation in global temperatures.

Item Type: Data-Based Investigation
Level: Grades 3-8
Duration: Multi-Day

In this entertaining simulation, students pump gas molecules into a chamber.  They can control volume, heat, and change gravity. A pop-up histogram helps them see the connection between kinetic energy and heat. This versatile resource can be adapted for a variety of courses and learner capability levels.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 6-12

Lots of bang for the buck in this simple Shockwave tutorial. Part 1 helps dispel the myth that "gas is weightless". Part 2 demonstrates density of gases as students place air, water, helium, and oil in a virtual cylinder. Part 3 explores what happens at the molecular level as gases are heated/cooled.

Item Type: Interactive Tutorial
Level: Grades 5-8

Students can interactively explore conduction, convection, and radiation. This resource was designed to help kids understand the three types of heat transfer and be able to classify examples from everyday life.

Item Type: Interactive Tutorial
Level: Grades 5-8
Duration: 20-30 minutes

This multimedia activity from the American Chemical Society takes a close look at what's happening on a molecular level to make the liquid in an alcohol thermometer go up or down. Animations provide visualizations of molecules moving in a solid, liquid, and gas. The module also includes a hands-on experiment and a lab where kids construct their own molecular models.

Item Type: Multimedia Lesson
Level: Grades 6-9
Duration: Two Class Periods

This activity combines a hands-on lab with a computer simulation as students investigate the changing temperature of a melting ice cube. They monitor the temperature of ice melting in: 1) water, and 2) salt water. Using interactive tools, students plot Temperature vs. Time for each environment. The activity concludes with a simulation of the atomic structure of a hot liquid vs. a cold liquid. What happens at the atomic level when they mix?

Item Type: Multimedia Lesson
Level: Grades 6-9
Duration: One Class Period

Content Support For Teachers:

Confused about the difference between heat and temperature?  You're not alone.  This is a well-organized primer written by teachers to help fellow teachers understand the basics of temperature and thermodynamics.

Item Type: Online Tutorial

A tutorial for teachers:
It is well known that many older students do not discriminate between the terms "heat" and "temperature," and even use them interchangeably when describing thermal phenomena. This confusion arises because, in the elementary grades, the words are used as though their meaning is obvious, with little attention paid to developing simple operational definitions.  This resource clarifies the distinct meaning of each of these terms and the relationship between them.

Item Type: Workshop Materials

Student Tutorials:

An online tutorial on heat transfer through radiation, conduction, and convection.  It is written in "bite-size" pieces so that adolescent learners can grasp the concepts more easily and connect information with prior knowledge.

Item Type: Student Tutorial
Level: Grades 6-9

  Teaching about Heat and Thermal Energy (8)

Lesson Plans:

A complete module for Grades 5-8 on the topic of Earth's Atmosphere.  It would be a great way to introduce the concept of heat transfer and thermal energy in a cross-curricular format that ties together physical science, geoscience, and the environment.  Included are seven labs with printable student guides.

Item Type: Teaching Module
Level: Grades 5-8
Duration: 5-15 Days

A lesson plan for middle school designed specifically for use with the PhET simulation "Gas Properties" (see link in "Activities" below).  Printable worksheets make this a turn-key 50-minute activity.  This item was a PhET Gold Star winner.

Item Type: Lesson Plan
Level: Grades 5-8
Duration: One Class Period

This excellent resource covers three difficult concepts in one multimedia package: 1) Substances change phase because of changes in the motion of their atoms or molecules, 2) Heating a substance increases molecular motion while cooling decreases it, and 3) Volume increases slightly when water is heated (in other words, volume is not always conserved in a physical change, though mass IS conserved.) Includes two interactive simulations and a hands-on lab.

Item Type: Multimedia Lesson
Level: Grades 9-12
Duration: One Class Period

Activities:

In this entertaining simulation, students pump gas molecules into a chamber.  They can control volume, heat, and change gravity. A pop-up histogram helps them see the connection between kinetic energy and heat. This versatile resource can be adapted for a variety of courses and learner capability levels.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 6-12

In this lab, students compare how light energy is absorbed by water, light-colored soil, and dark-colored soil.  Includes background information, printable student data tables, and assessment ideas.

Item Type: Lab Investigation
Level: Grades 5-8
Duration: 2 Class Periods

Well-organized Flash activity for middle school learners on methods of heat transfer, including conduction, convection, and radiation.   Registered users of Teachers' Domain can quickly correlate this item with their own state standards.

Item Type: Interactive Animation
Level: Grades 6-8
Duration: 20-30 Minutes

This activity explores the energy that can be provided by burning fuels. Students measure the energy transferred from the combustion of a chemical fuel such as paraffin (candle wax) or diethylene glycol (Sterno). The author has provided extensive support (illustrated diagrams, suggested discussion questions, data tables, safety guidelines).

Item Type: Lab Investigation
Level: Grades 6-9

Student Tutorials:

All objects emit infrared radiation, but human eyes cannot see these wavelengths. Infrared is essentially heat radiation and is emitted by anything with a temperature. This tutorial, produced with infrared photography, lets students "see" infrared images of a cup of hot coffee, Old Faithful geyser, ice cubes, cold and warm-blooded animals, hot springs, and more.

Item Type: Interactive Tutorial
Level: Grades 6-12

  Environmental Concerns: Global Climate and Greenhouse Effect (3)

Lesson Plans:

This lesson for grades 6-9 promotes understanding of the Earth's Greenhouse Effect:  without the heat-trapping capabilities of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, life would not be possible on Earth.  Yet as levels of greenhouse gases rise, global temperatures are going up.  This module explores the greenhouse effect through activities using 2-liter plastic soda bottles, thermometers, and a reflector lamp.

Item Type: Teaching Module
Level: Grades 6-9
Duration: 2 Class Periods

A week-long unit on the processes associated with global climate change.  Seven creative classroom activities promote understanding of the carbon cycle, transpiration, and how human activity is impacting the climate of our planet.

Item Type: Teaching Module
Level: Grades 6-9
Duration: One Week

Activities:

This thought-provoking simulation can be adapted for middle school students in the computer lab or as a teacher-led presentation.  The user selects from Ice Age, the year 1750, or the Present to see how changing greenhouse gas levels cause the climate to change.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 5-8

  Understanding Temperature and Heat for Teachers of the Early Grades (5)

Lesson Plans:

In this module for elementary grades, kids have fun learning about thermometers, temperature conversions, conduction, radiation, convection, and heat capacity.  Well-organized resource includes a teacher-led introduction, a hands-on class activity, and an inquiry-based lab.

Item Type: Teaching Module
Level: Grades 3-5
Duration: 3 Class Periods

Can heat move? This teacher-led demonstration lets students see how heat energy can travel though convection, as they watch food coloring being added to heated water. Includes a printable student worksheet on heat transfer and ideas for assessment.

Item Type: Demonstration
Level: Grades 3-5
Duration: 30 Minutes

A tutorial for teachers:
It is well known that many older students do not discriminate between the terms "heat" and "temperature," and even use them interchangeably when describing thermal phenomena. This confusion arises because, in the elementary grades, the words are used as though their meaning is obvious, with little attention paid to developing simple operational definitions.  This resource clarifies the distinct meaning of each of these terms and the relationship between them.

Item Type: Online Tutorial

Activities:

Students in Grades 3-5 explore the difference between heat and temperature as they construct their own thermometer scales.  The only safety precaution is that alcohol is used in the thermometer liquid mixture.  For a great introductory activity, see "How Hot Is It" above.

Item Type: Lesson Plan
Level: Grades 3-5
Duration: One Class Period

In this lab for Grades 3-5, students work in teams to investigate the heat capacity of various materials.  Printable student worksheets and data sheets are provided.  CAUTION:  Hot water is used in the lab.  Not appropriate for primary grades.

Item Type: Lab Investigation
Level: Grades 3-5
Duration: One Hour