Hands-on Activity: Stop Heat from Escaping
Educational Standards :
Pre-Req Knowledge (Return to Contents)
Students should be familiar with the steps of the scientific investigation process.
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Each group needs:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
What does it mean to conserve energy? (Answer: It means using energy wisely and efficiently.) Sometimes people waste energy by not using it wisely. Buildings can often waste great amounts of energy. Most of a building's energy use is for heating or cooling. One way engineers reduce the amount of energy required to heat or cool a building is by using good insulation.
Insulation is a material or substance that is used to prevent the transfer of heat, electricity or sound. In a building, insulation is placed in the walls and roof. When insulating a building, the quality of an insulation material is measured by how well it keeps heat out. Typically, heat flows from warm areas to cool areas. When you touch something that is cold, heat is actually leaving your body to try and warm the cool surface, creating a balance of energy. Insulation helps to prevent that transfer of heat.
There are many different materials used for insulation. Engineers often use fiber glass, wool, cotton, paper (wood cellulose), straw and various types of foams to insulate buildings. A layer of trapped air can serve as insulation, too! Some insulating materials are suitable for sound proofing as well.
In this activity, a homeowner has heard about all the different types of insulation that are available to use in a new house and requests your help to decide between wool, newspaper, aluminum foil and a plastic bag to insulate the house. Let's conduct a scientific experiment so we have good information from which to help the engineering team decide which material would be best.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
If hot water is not available, use water chilled with ice.
Have a digital thermometer handy in case the change in temperature is not large enough to be read from a regular thermometer.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Drawing: Have the students draw pictures of a typical summer clothing outfit and a typical winter clothing outfit. As a class, discuss the differences and why.
Discussion: How do clothes serve as insulation for the human body? Ask the students what type of clothes they wear in the summer and what they wear in the winter? What is the difference between the clothing? (Possible answers: Summer clothes allow the heat created by our bodies to dissipate into the surrounding air. Winter clothes, such as heavy winter jackets, sweaters, mittens and hats, trap our body's heat to keep us warm.)
Activity Embedded Assessment
Worksheet: Have the student teams complete the Stop Heat from Escaping Worksheet to guide them through the activity. Review their answers to gauge their mastery of the concepts.
Discussion: Which material provides the best insulation? Which would you wear to keep warm in the winter? We all use too much energy. If we were to reduce the amount of energy we use each day, then we would cause less pollution of the environment and our fossil fuels would last longer. Engineers find many ways to conserve energy in our homes, schools and offices. If we built houses with better insulation, less heat would escape through the walls, roof and windows. Light bulbs with lower energy demand also help conserve energy.
Insulation Application: Insulation prevents the transfer of heat, electricity or sound. Have students design a different product using insulation. How many things can they think of that would use the idea of insulation? Examples include a swimming pool, a house in an extreme environment, clothing, ear plugs, a coffee mug, an electric plug or an auditorium.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Follow the same procedure using ice-cold water.
Have students measure the temperature on the inside and outside of the bottle and examine the transfer of heat through the insulating material.
Have students research the types of materials used in the construction of buildings and houses, coffee mugs and winter jackets.
Using the information learned from this activity, have students create small model homes using the insulation materials, and test the temperature readings on the inside and outside.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
References (Return to Contents)
EERE Consumer's Guide: Your Home: Insulation and Air Sealing. Content last updated September 12, 2005. Energy Savers, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. Accessed September 18, 2006. http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11220
Energy Conservation: Yesterday and Today, Chapter 5. Renewable Energy Curriculum, TVA Kids for Teachers, Tennessee Valley Authority. Accessed September 21, 2005. http://www.tvakids.com/teachers/pdf/elementary_ch5.pdf
ContributorsSharon D. Perez-Suarez, Natalie Mach, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise Carlson
Copyright© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0226322. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder
Last Modified: April 18, 2014