Sep 25, 2015

WonderWorks: The technology of thermometers

How do we measure how hot or cold something is?

Today's Topic: thermometers!
a variety of thermometers.  I found some at the dollar store and at Big Lots and I e-mailed participants to ask if they could bring any thermometers they had at home that were appropriate for sharing (i.e. not germy medical thermometers).
Ice cubes
hot water (I asked the coffee shop next door to make a carafe of hot water
red chenille stems
this printable thermometer

cover art Temperature : heating up and cooling down / Stille, Darlene R.
What I thought kids might do:
--make their own toy thermometers
--measuring the temperature of hot water, ice water and room temperature water
--measure their own body temperature and compare the temperatures of different parts of their body (we avoided the usual inside the mouth/armpit/unmentionable areas and instead I suggested the inside of the elbow or behind the ear)

What the kids actually did: 
Made their own toy thermometers!  (Note: one astute mom pointed out that 0 degrees Celsius doesn't actually line up with the 32 degrees Farenheit on this free printable. Sticklers for accuracy, beware!)
 The parents tried to have discussions about whether the temperature would be hotter at a higher number or lower number and the kids had very mixed responses.
 Measured the temperature of hot water

 Measured the temperature of cold water (using fancy thermometers!  I'd written an e-mail to the parents a day or two before class and asked if anyone had thermometers to bring into class to use.  This is a great technique if you don't want to buy a class set of a household item or don't want to store a class set when that particular lesson is over.  Plus, the kids get exposed to a much wider variety of types of tools!)
 Comparing the results on three different thermometers in the same water:

Taking their elbow temperature
 Taking their mom's elbow temperature (these thermometers were SLOW! Ah well, Dollar Store...)
 Taking BOTH temperatures and comparing them!
other kids tried:  transferring ice cubes from one cup to another (2 year old)
 pouring water from one cup to another
 my favorite moment of the day--when the water-pouring resulted in a wet mess on the table, one of the kids said we needed some paper towels to ABSORB the liquid.  Hooray for applying last week's lesson to this week's activity!
another perennial favorite activity: cutting straws into bits
 and threading them back onto the pipe cleaner

 This young engineer used two whole straws and some pipe cleaner to make....
 a very fancy (and somewhat fuzz-filled) bendy drinking straw (which she, yes, drank water through)!

Adult Challenge of the week: Ask your child to predict what they think the results will be!

Hindsight Tip:  waiting for thermometers to finish measuring the temperature is slow, and hard for preschoolers. I still think this is a good activity, but a heads-up to the parents to expect some antsy-ness while waiting and maybe some filler activities or questions might have been useful.

 Variations to try: 
--to further introduce the conversation about hot/cold temps being high or low on a thermometer, try this worksheet
--track the outside temperature for a week (or a month) and note the changes
--is a mitten warm by itself?

Related Apps: MarcoPolo Weather by MarcoPolo OR This is my weather by urbn; pockets

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