All Lesson Plans

Make a Thermometer to Study the Temperature

Grade Range
3rd
Group Size
2-3 students
Active Time
100 minutes
Total Time
100 minutes
Area of Science
Weather & Atmosphere
Key Concepts
Temperature
Learning Objectives
  • Define temperature
  • Record temperature data with a homemade liquid thermometer
  • Make graphs representing temperature data
  • Interpret, compare, and explain temperature data
  • Understands that outdoor air temperature changes over time and with place

Overview

Students experience the weather every day: they feel cold spring mornings and warm summer afternoons. This hands-on lesson helps them quantify how hot or cold it is by using a thermometer they will make themselves! Based on their gathered data and observations, students can infer patterns about how temperature varies by location and time.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 3-ESS2-1. Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season.
  • 3-ESS2-2. Obtain and combine information to describe climates in different regions of the world.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
SEP 4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Represent data in tables and/or various graphical displays (bar graphs, pictographs and/or pie charts) to reveal patterns that indicate relationships.

Analyze and interpret data to make sense of phenomena, using logical reasoning, mathematics, and/or computation.

Compare and contrast data collected by different groups in order to discuss similarities and differences in their findings
ESS2.D: Weather and Climate. Scientists record patterns of the weather across different times and areas so that they can make predictions about what kind of weather might happen next.
Cause and Effect. Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change. Events that occur together with regularity might or might not be a cause and effect relationship.

Credits

Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies

Materials


Materials needed to make the thermometer as explained in this STEM activity

For each group of students:

  • Clear plastic drinking straw, preferably 0.2 inches in diameter. See the technical note for advantages and disadvantages of straws of different diameters.
  • Metric ruler
  • Fine-tipped permanent marker
  • Clean narrow-necked, small bottle with lid. Travel size bottles like these available from Amazon.com work well. Cleaned empty food coloring or vanilla extract bottles work well too.
  • Rubbing alcohol, 70% works well.
  • A few drops of red, blue, or green food coloring. Liquid food coloring works best.
  • Paper or cloth towels
  • Modeling clay. Air-dry clay works well. Ultra-light modeling clay is easy to model and clean.
  • Medicine dropper or syringe
  • Water
  • Small bowl
  • Ice cubes
Technical note:
When choosing the materials for the homemade thermometer, consider that narrower tubes (straws) result in a more accurate thermometer because the same expansion or contraction of liquid and air will cause a rise or fall over a longer distance. As a drawback, the narrow straw might decrease the maximum temperature that the thermometer can reach. It might also be harder for students to drop the liquid in the tube while making the thermometer. Science Buddies staff found that a 0.2 inch diameter straw works well.

For the class:

  • A store-bought thermometer. Kitchen or outdoor thermometers work well.

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Grade Range
3rd
Group Size
2-3 students
Active Time
100 minutes
Total Time
100 minutes
Area of Science
Weather & Atmosphere
Key Concepts
Temperature
Learning Objectives
  • Define temperature
  • Record temperature data with a homemade liquid thermometer
  • Make graphs representing temperature data
  • Interpret, compare, and explain temperature data
  • Understands that outdoor air temperature changes over time and with place