OpenSciEd: 6.2 Thermal Energy 5-Class Unit Kit


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Grades 6–8. In Unit 6.2 Thermal Energy, Carolina Certified Version*, students work to answer the Unit Driving Question: "How can containers keep stuff from warming up or cooling down?"

This unit on thermal energy transfer begins with students testing whether a new plastic cup sold by a store keeps a drink colder for longer compared to the regular plastic cup that comes free with the drink. Students find that the drink in the regular cup warms up more than the drink in the special cup. This prompts students to identify features of the cups that are different, such as the lid, walls, and hole for the straw, which might explain why one drink warms up more than the other.

Students investigate the different cup features they conjecture are important for explaining the phenomenon, starting with the lid. They model how matter can enter or exit the cup via evaporation. However, they find that in a completely closed system, the liquid inside the cup still changes temperature. This motivates the need to trace the transfer of energy into the drink as it warms up. Through a series of lab investigations and simulations, students find that there are two ways to transfer energy into the drink: (1) the absorption of light and (2) thermal energy from the warmer air around the drink. They are then challenged to design their own drink container that can perform as well as the store-bought container, following a set of design criteria and constraints.

Through these investigations, students:

  • Build on what they know about the particle nature of matter from 5th grade to develop a particle model of solids, liquids, and gases that includes both structure and movement of particles in relation to the temperature of a substance.
  • Plan and carry out investigations to systematically test the different parts of the cup system, tracking the flow of matter and energy into or out of the system.
  • Develop a model of temperature as the average kinetic energy of a group of particles.
  • Model the transfer of energy from light to kinetic energy of particles when light is absorbed.
  • Model thermal energy transfer between substances through particle collisions, or conduction, to change the average particle motion in a substance.
  • Revise their models to include factors that minimize energy transfer by reducing the absorption of light and decreasing the opportunities for particle collisions.
  • Apply what they have learned about features that can slow energy transfer to design, build, test, and revise a cup system to keep a drink cold.

This 5-Class Unit Kit includes basic teacher access to instructional materials on, plus the materials needed to teach 5 classes of 32 students per day (160 students).

Building Toward NGSS Performance Expectations

  • MS-PS1-4: Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
  • MS-PS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
  • MS-PS3-4: Plan an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample.
  • MS-PS3-5: Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the motion energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
  • MS-PS4-2: Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
  • MS-ETS1-4: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Focal Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • PS1.A
  • PS3.A
  • PS3.B
  • PS4.B
  • ETS1.A
  • ETS1.B

Focal Crosscutting Concepts

  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter
  • Structure and Function

*All enhancements to materials and instruction for this Carolina Certified Version of the unit are approved by OpenSciEd to preserve the integrity of the storyline and the instructional model.


Shipping Information or Purchase Restrictions
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What’s Included:
  •  Unit Technology Pack (basic digital access to teacher's guide and all instructional resources for the teacher)
  •  Bags, Plastic, Resealable
  •  Beads, Blue Pony
  •  Beads, Yellow Pony
  •  Beakers, 500 mL
  •  Clamp Lamps with Reflector
  •  Chip Magnets, Blue
  •  Chip Magnets, Yellow
  •  Cup, Plastic, Double-Wall, 16 oz
  •  Glass Marbles
  •  Light Bulbs
  •  Magnetic Marbles
  •  Neoprene Koozies
  •  Oven Mitts
  •  Pitchers
  •  Spoons
  •  Thermometers, Digital
  •  Timers
  •  Tray, Baking
  •  Aluminum Foil
  •  Cardboard Sleeves
  •  Note Cards, Ruled
  •  Container Lids, Plastic, 16/24 oz
  •  Containers, Plastic, 24 oz
  •  Cotton Balls
  •  Cup Lids, for Plastic Cups, 16 oz
  •  Cups, Plastic, 9 oz
  •  Cups, Styrene, 8 oz
  •  Cups, Paper, 16 oz
  •  Cups, Plastic, 16 oz
  •  Felt
  •  Foam Sheets
  •  Food Coloring, Assorted Colors, Set
  •  Note Pads, Self-Adhesive, Medium
  •  Plastic Wrap
  •  Rubber Bands
  •  Sticker Dots
  •  Straws
  •  Tape, Masking
Needed But Not Included:
Return Policy:

If for any reason you are not satisfied with this item, it is eligible for a return, exchange, refund, or credit up to 180 days from date of purchase. Restrictions may apply. Returns & Exchanges Policy.