Thermometers -- Tools of Polar Scientists

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SWBAT read a thermometer accurately.

Big Idea

Scientists need to be able to use tools of all kinds. Not all tools are easy and some require more practice and even cross over into other curriculum areas.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

This lesson may not feel as though it is connected to the polar regions, but it is a natural connection with cold temperatures and ice.  Of which both polar regions have an abundance.  ESS2.C focuses on the Earth's water in both frozen and liquid form.  Within this lesson students will be working with ice that eventually will melt and also thermometers to measure the temperatures of that ice and water.  

The lesson pulls in the skills of using scientific and mathematical tools (MP5). It is necessary to front load the ability to read a thermometer for the lesson that follows: Super Bowl Science. In this lesson, students investigate ice cubes and melting ice.  Part of the investigation requires the students to measure the temperature of the ice and the water. Students will not be able to do this, if they are not able to read a thermometer.  



10 minutes

I show the children a hand boiler (I purchased mine many years ago at Space Camp).  I use it as my hook to grab the children's attention.  It is a novelty, but quite effective.  I hold the boiler in my hand and let the bubbles begin to move and go crazy.  

The children are excited and want to know how it works.  The science behind a hand boiler, is really simple.  It is the warmth of your body heat from your hand cupped around the bulb of the boiler that warms up the liquid inside and begins to cause the reaction with the bubbles.  It is a fantastic demonstration of the Charles’s Law and vapor-liquid equilibrium.  However, I do not plan to even explain this or tell my students about this.  I simply want this to be the catalyst to my lesson. It is my gimmick to grab their attention and it works!

When the excitement dies down, I ask the children if they know what made the bubbles begin to move? Most of them have enough background knowledge to explain and make connections for themselves. I expect that they will explain it is the heat of my hand.  When I hear this, I ask them if they can tell me what temperature it would be?  At this point, I know I will hit silence....

I ask them to turn and look at the screen and I explain that in this lesson we are going to learn a bit about the thermometers.  


10 minutes

I have my Thermometers Power Point ready to go and move quickly to Slide 2. I begin with a question. I ask the children if they know what a thermometer is used for? 

I throw the question out for quick answers. I know that the children have had some experience with thermometers in First Grade and we briefly discussed a thermometer as a science tool early on at the beginning of the school year.

I don't want to spend a lot of time revisiting the concept of the use or purposes of thermometers. However, for those students who still may not have the background I want to quickly reestablish this concept. I explain to the children that we are going to have our table team talk with this question, but I am going to add a new element that we have not used before....Talking Chips.  

I use the Talking Chips Power Point to explain how the process will work for the students. I also put the directions into the Thermometer Power Point as well.  Mainly as a back up system.  This allows me to revisit it if it is necessary with the children.  

After the children understand what we are going to do, I move to Slide 4 and explain that when the children are speaking with each other, I want them to use the sentence stems that are on the screen to phrase their ideas.  I explain that scientists need to be able to speak clearly and really know how to present their ideas.  These sentence frames will help us to practice that skill. 


5 minutes

I really want to give my students a bit of history to understand thermometers, so I have a little bit of background prepared to share with them.  Slides 5 through 7 give some of that background knowledge to tuck away.  I don't spend a long time on this, but enough to keep their attention and fill those questions that some of the students have.  

Slide 8 moves to a new question for us to explore.  I purposely put a question back in during this time, because I want the children to be actively involved in this and not just me talking the whole time.  It also allows me an opportunity to hear what the children think before we continue to learn and practice with the thermometers.  The question asks the children to discuss why a scientist may need to use or know about thermometers.  I am hoping they will remember some of the conversations from much earlier in the school year when we discussed measurements and tools.  

I share Slide 9 with the children that shows the parts of a the thermometer.  I think it is important for the children to be able to accurately use the language of science and mathematics when using the thermometers so I put this information in with the lesson.  

When we reach Slide 10, they are ready for more conversation and this slide shows the differences between Celsius and Fahrenheit.  I really like the piece of information that explains that Fahrenheit is mainly used for weather forecasting.  I ask the children if they believe that scientists in the Polar Regions must use this often?  Of course, I see a sea of heads bobbing up and down frantically and I hear comments like...."OH! it is so cold in those areas, they have to know what the temperatures are." 



10 minutes

I explain to the children that we are going to practice reading the thermometer. So I click on the last slide of the power point.  It shows a thermometer with a link that when clicked opens up a Smart Board.  The Smart Board has another thermometer on it that is interactive.  It is a thermometer that comes as a option in the Smart Board software. It offers the ability to change it from Celsius to Fahrenheit and back again.  The mercury is interactive and can be slid up and down easily with your finger.  

We practice moving the mercury up and down and reading the temperatures on the screen.


10 minutes

To be sure that my students really know how to read a thermometer, I give them a formative assessment that I have created to test their abilities. 

Creating a formative assessment for thermometers is challenging.  You need clip art and alot of time to color in thermometers. I find that that I do not want to spend my valuable minutes doing this, so I use free worksheet creators on line that are designed for busy teachers to use in their classrooms. This is how I assessed my students for this activity.