Out Teach
Physical Science
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Primary
  • Density
  • Energy and Matter
  • Ifthen
  • Out Teach
  • Physical Sciences
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Radiation
  • Science
  • Thermal Energy
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    Education Standards

    Heat Transfer and Energy Conservation -- Out Teach

    Heat Transfer and Energy Conservation -- Out Teach


    Students will take temperature readings and collect anecdotal evidence to determine how different materials absorb the sun's heat.

    Background for Teachers

    Out Teach logo

    The denser a material, the more effectively it acts as a thermal mass, meaning that it holds on to the heat transferred to it.

    This lesson can be effective anytime but is much easier to observe on sunny days.

    Students should be given access to as many different areas and materials as possible to observe the different temperatures.

    Radiation is the method by which the sun transfers heat energy to other objects.

    The sun's energy agitates the particles of objects thereby raising the temperature.

    Key Vocabulary

    • Thermal energy

    • Density

    • Radiation

    Before the Lesson/Set-Up

    Try to ensure a variety of materials are set up for students to interact with. If you can stage the same type of object in the sun vs. shade (for example two rocks in different locations) it may help students to more readily observe the energy transfer.

    Guiding Question

    What can explain the difference in temperature between the different objects observed?


    Start by talking to students about the importance of energy consumption for our way of life and connect this to the production of energy: renewable vs. nonrenewable. Explain to students that most of the energy that is used in our homes comes from heating or cooling them. Ask them to imagine the impact on energy consumption if this wasn't an issue and inform them that they will be experimenting with heat during the lesson as a way to further understand this issue.


    Have students work in pairs or small groups, using thermometers to take different temperature measurements near the surface of a variety of objects.

    Have students record the location and a description of the object, the temperature, and any anecdotal description of how the object felt.


    Gather students and have them share some of their observations. Record some of the data on the board/paper.

    • Ask the students to compare the similarities and differences and begin to develop ideas about why they might be different.

    Lead the students to the idea that the sun is responsible for the energy transfer and explain how radiation transfers energy.

    Explain that the density of the objects is important for how much of the radiant energy it holds on to.


    • Ask students to work with their groups to brainstorm how they could design a house that could use solar energy to heat a home. Ensure that they understand the implications for needing to cool the home also.

    A more extensive elaboration could be an entire lesson where students use what they have learned to draw or model a heat efficient home.


    • Ask students to calculate the difference in the highest and lowest temperatures they observed from the lesson.

    • Ask students to write a short paragraph or create a quick diagram that explains how the sun heats objects on earth.

    • Ask students to write a one sentence response for why a car in a parking lot might be much hotter than the trunk of a tree.

    Extension Ideas

    Students can build model efficient homes.

    Students can experiment with placing different objects in sunny windows at home to see what heats up the most.

    Students can research solar heating.

    Career Connections

    The IF/THEN collection is the world’s largest free digital library of authentic and relatable images and videos of women STEM innovators.  


    Jasmine Sadler is a rocket scientist and ballerina. She owns her company, the STEAM Collaborative which focuses on STEM from an artistic perspective. 


    Have your students watch this video for inspiration about pursuing STEM careers, and read this profile to learn more about Jasmine's story.


    Thank you for creating a culture shift in how the world perceives women in STEM.