Hands-on Activity: Do Different Colors Absorb Heat Better?
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Imagine that it is 100-degrees outside. How do you stay cool? What kinds of clothing do you wear? Any thought to color? (Listen to student ideas.)
What might be the influence of color and its relationship to heat? Can you think of any instances in which the color of something makes a difference in how hot it gets in the sun? (Listen to student ideas. Possibilities: Wearing white vs. black clothing on super hot days. Flat rooftops sealed in black tar vs. white polymer material. Walking barefoot across a black asphalt roadway vs. lighter concrete roadway. Choosing a white car instead of a black car if you live where it is sunny and hot all the time.)
The sun emits energy in the form of electromagnetic waves. We see part of the electromagnetic wave as light and we feel part of it as warmth. Darker colors absorb more sunlight than lighter colors, which is why darker colors get warmer more quickly in the sunlight than lighter colors. The lighter colors reflect more of the sun's radiant energy, so they remain cooler to touch in the sunlight.
Let's do our own testing to find out.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Investigating Questions (Return to Contents)
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
References (Return to Contents)
Cool Roof Resources for Federal Agencies. Federal Energy Management Guide, US Department of Energy.
Do Different Colors Absorb Heat Better? Grades PreK-2. Education Resources Information Center. Office for Technology and Industry Collaboration, Tufts University and Department of Education. (alternate online location for activity)
Richards, Roy. An Early Start to Technology from Science
White Roofs May Successfully Cool Cities: Computer model simulates impact of white roofs on urban areas. Posted January 28, 2010. Press Release 10-016, National Science Foundation News.
Copyright© 2004 by Worcester Polytechnic Institute, including copyrighted works of other educational institutions; all rights reserved.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last Modified: April 18, 2014