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Teacher Investigations

The basic concepts of heat and energy will be investigated including conduction and convection, changes of state, and potential and kinetic energy. Teacher activities will deal with such things as convection, heat absorption, evaporation, melting and boiling points, and energy transfer. Videos and demonstrations will be utilized to better understand the concepts of heat and energy.



Each student will be expected to purchase a reading booklet at the time of registration or at the first class. This booklet contains material that should be read before the beginning of the second class.
Between the two classes, each student is required to research and build a project having to do with heat and the conservation of energy. The primary consideration is your understanding of the project, your ingenuity in producing it, and your description of how other teachers could also use it. A short typed description (perhaps only 2-3 pages) must be handed in giving resource material, instructions for building and using the item. A short discussion of how this project might be useful in the classroom would be appropriate. Also during the second class you will give a short (5-8 minutes) presentation to the class. A list of possible projects is given in this booklet, but each student is expected to do further research to improve on the ideas presented here. Do not just copy what is given here. Try to improve it. The handout is only a beginning. You are expected to do additional study and improve on the handout.


Because this is a graduate level class, only passing grades of A and B (with + and - possible) are given. A C grade is failing. It is also possible to audit the class, but ALL the work must be completed, including the project. Grades will be primarily assigned by the local adjunct professor and will depend on class attendance and participation as well as the presentation of the homework project. This presentation includes the oral one before the class as well as the document handed in describing the project. See the discussion above in Assignments.


Reading booklet:

A reading booklet will be prepared for class members that includes useful information on heat and the conservation of energy as well as possible homework projects and teacher applications. This booklet will be available at the first class. The booklet contains descriptions for the hands-on teacher activities we will perform during the class. The booklet also contains a set of hands-on experiments on heat and the conservation of energy from the American Association of Physics Teachers project: Powerful Ideas in Physical Science. We will use these experiments as our primary learning tool. Before the second class please read the Focus on Science sections.


Instructor Contact:

Contact the local adjunct professor during the first class for her/his address and office hours. Professor Thornton may be contacted as described on the previous page. He will try to respond and will inform the adjunct professors of any decisions concerning the class.


 Lesson Plan

1st Class Day (full eight hour class)

8:30 - 9:00 a.m.

Videotape of philosophy and outline of course, and introduction.

9:00 - 10:00 a.m.

Investigation H1:Melting Ice

10:00 a.m. - 10:40 a.m.

Investigation H2:Telling Hot from Cold

10:40 a.m. - 12 noon

Videotaped lecture on Heat and Temperature

12:00 - 12:30 p.m.


12:30 - 3:00 p.m.

Investigation H3:Conservation of Energy Model & Teacher Activities

3:00 p.m. - 3:50 p.m.

Do Teacher Activities. Do only Activities 1-1 through 3-14.

3:50 - 4:20 p.m.

Videotaped lecture on heat conduction and thermal expansion.

4:20 - 4:30 p.m.

Do evaluations. Sign up for homework projects.

2nd Class Day (full eight hour class)

8:30 - 10:20 a.m.

Present homework projects. Do teacher activities 1-1 through 3-14 if finish early.

10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Investigation H4:Change of State

12:00 - 12:30 p.m.


12:30 - 1:20 p.m.

Investigation H5:Other Forms of Energy

1:20 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.

Videotaped lecture. Summary, heat convection. Conservation of energy.

2:20 - 3:10 p.m.

Investigation H6 Disorder

3:10 - 3:55 p.m.

Teacher activities. Do any of them.

3:55 - 4:20 p.m.

Videotaped lecture.

4:20 - 4:30 p.m.

Fill out evaluations.



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Teacher Activities

 The following is a list of Teacher Activities that are available in the course. We have attached several of the activities. Click here to see some TEACHER ACTIVITIES.




Melting Ice


Blowing Up a Balloon With Heat


Telling Hot from Cold


Cooling or Warming Breezes?


Bouncy, Bouncy, Oh My Rubber Ball!


Expansion Joints: Why Do We Need Them?


Investigating Popcorn


Convection Currents #1


Convection Currents #2


Flying Napkin


Summer and Winter Colors


Heat Absorption by Can Surface


Hot and Cold Sensations


Cold Gas


Evaporation Cooling


Heat Storage: Nails and Bolts


Heat Transfer


Hot Potato


Conduction in the Kitchen


Fire Extinguisher


Squeezing Ice Cubes


Cutting Through Ice Cubes


The Melting Pot


Boiling Ice Water


Melting Ice Below Freezing?


Water from Fire


Boil Water in a Paper Cup


Causing Water to Change Its State


Heating a Raisin


Gettin' Hot in a Bottle


Making Heat by Friction


Heat from a Rubber Band


Bend a Wire to See It Heat


Potential Energy vs. Kinetic Energy: Dropping a Book on a Stick


Potential Energy vs. Kinetic Energy: Spinning Ring


Transferring Energy in a Double Pendulum

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 Teacher Projects

Only one person in a class can do a project unless otherwise indicated below. Some reference material is contained in the Teacher Project folder that your Instructor has, but we do not have copyright permission to make copies. A list of references follows the list of Teacher Projects.

1) Build a hot air balloon. ref. 7, p. 64. Use hair dryer and plastic trash bags. This is a great project, especially when you get it to work. Someone must do this one.

2,3) An expanding rod. In this project, we heat up a metal rod and actually measure its expansion. Two different people can do this project (not a joint project, but separate). Ref. 4, p. 44; ref. 5, p. 214; ref. 7, p. 44.

4) The expanding wire. By heating a long wire tied between two objects, we can actually measure how much the wire expands. Ref. 5, p. 216.

5) An expanding metal tube. Use a hair dryer to cause a metal tube to expand. Ref. 10, p. 110.

6) Converting energy. We use electricity to heat water to boiling. The escaping steam turns a windmill type device and can do work. Several kinds of energy are present. Ref. 5, p 186.

7) Build a perpetual motion machine? In this project, we use a strong bar magnet and steel ball to demonstrate what might appear as perpetual motion. This is a great project. Uses a magnetic source of energy, ref. 5, p. 187.

8) Using soap bubbles to demonstrate fission and fusion. This is a nice project as is, but it must be extended to study what happens with the bubbles above air that has been heated. Study the effects on the bubbles of convection. Try different sources of heat and try to get your bubbles to last awhile. Ref. 5, p. 188.

9) Greenhouse effect. Use test tubes to demonstrate the greenhouse effect. In addition to the test tubes, you should show other ways to demonstrate the greenhouse effect. See how many ways you can trap the sun's energy. Ref. 5, p. 189.

10) Measuring food calories. Show us how to measure food calories. What is the difference between food calories and heat calories. Do some library research for this one; is this really correct? Ref. 6, p. 147.

11) Unbalancing a metal rod using heat. In this experiment a metal rod is balanced near the middle. By heating one end of the rod, the expansion is enough to unbalance the rod. Ref. 5, p. 215.

12, 13) Fire. This is not a joint project, but two separate persons can do this project. We want to study what is required for a fire, study the components of a fire, study the flame, and make some fires. Lots of references here: Ref. 1, p. 89; ref. 4, p. 47; ref. 4, p. 47; ref. 5, p. 218; ref. 5, p. 200; ref. 5, p. 190.

14) Thermal expansion. page 22 in teacher booklet in physics demo book. Rod on top of 2 liter bottles. Heat and shine light on mirror connected to rod that lengthens as it is heated. This is a good teacher project.

15) Convection of liquids. ref. 6, p. 131. Series of demos showing convection, thermal layers, thermoclines. Looks sort of neat. A little complicated to do. Ask Rachel to set this up.

16) Heat conduction. This is a neat project to study whether aluminum, copper, or iron wires conduct heat the best. It is similar to a demo that is done in class the second Saturday. This should be fun. Ref. 5, p. 203.

17) Comparing heat insulators. Compare the insulation capabilities of several materials around a jar of hot water. Ref. 3, p. 52.

18) Converting potential energy into kinetic energy. Design at least two systems that will allow you to convert potential energy into kinetic energy using water. Examples are a water wheel and a turbine. Build and demonstrate your two systems. Ref. 5, p. 192.



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1) Herb Strongin, Science on a Shoestring, 2nd ed.(Addison-Wesley, Menlo Park, 1991).

2) The Exploratorium Science Snackbook (1991).

3) Judith Hann, How Science Works (Reader's Digest, Pleasantville, NY, 1991).

4) Alfred E. Friedl, Teaching Science to Children, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1991).

5) Tik L. Liem, Invitations to Science Inquiry, 2nd ed., (Science Inquiry Enterprises, 14358 Village View Lane, Chino Hills, CA 91709, 1987).

6) Thomas Kardos, Physical Science Labs Kit (Center for Applied Research in Education, West Nyack, NY, 1991).

7) Bill Nye, The Science Guy's Big Blast of Science(Addison-Wesley, Menlo Park, 1993).

8) Janice Van Cleave, Physics for Every Kid (John Wiley, New York, 1991).

9) Muriel Mandell, Physics Experiments for Children (Dover, New York, 1968).

10) Robert W. Wood, Who? Famous Experiments for the Young Scientist (Tab, New York, 1995).

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Teacher Investigations:

The following is a list of Teacher Investigations that are available in the course. We have attached a few of the investigations to illustrate the format of the investigations and the course. Click here to see some TEACHER INVESTIGATIONS.

Investigation H1:Melting Ice


Activity H1.1

How long can you keep an ice cube?

Activity H1.2

How quickly can you melt an ice cube?

Activity H1.3

Ice cube melting II

Investigation H2:Telling Hot from Cold

Activity H2.1

Is it hot or cold?

Activity H2.2

Can you tell hot from cold?

Investigation H3:Conservation of Energy Model Development

Activity H3.1

Can you predict the temperature?

Activity H3.2

Charting method for mixes

Activity H3.3

More mixing of like substances

Activity H3.4

The Water Equivalent

Activity H3.5

Comparison of materials

Activity H3.6

Flame temperatures

Investigation H4:Change of State

Activity H4.1

Freezing and melting

Activity H4.2

Freezing water

Activity H4.3

Energy to melt ice

Activity H4.4

Condensing Steam

Investigation H5:Other Forms of Energy

Activity H5.1

What are some familiar forms of energy?

Activity H5.2

Introduction of the energy of motion and position

Activity H5.3

Systems and energy of position and motion

Activity H5.4

How general is the hypothesis?

Investigation H6:Disorder

Activity H6.1


Activity H6.2

Disorderly activities

Activity H6.3

Relationship between increasing disorder and probability I

Activity H6.4

Relationship between increasing disorder and probability II


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SOLs Covered:



Grade 1

1.1, 1.6

Grade 2

2.1, 2.3

Grade 3

3.1, 3.11

Grade 4

4.1, 4.2

Grade 5

5.1, 5.4

Grade 6

6.1, 6.2, 6.3

Physical Science

PS.1, PS.2, PS.5, PS.6, PS.7

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