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Do Different Colors Absorb Heat Better?

Teach Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

This is a STEM activity to learn how different colors absorb light better than others. Vocabulary and investigating questions are included to facilitate discussion, and a rubric is provided for assessment.

This learning activity takes one 60min class period

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Teachers must plan for a sunny day or provide heat lamps.
  • When using this lesson with younger students, the teacher may want to have the paper boxes prepared or semi-prepared ahead of time to avoid having the lesson bog down over box construction.
  • Note the real-world applications in the lesson plan.

About the Content

  • Students will do an experiment in which they observe how ice cubes melt in paper boxes of different colors.
  • The main scientific idea in this activity is that an object's color has an effect on its ability to absorb and reflect light.
  • The references provide background information for the teacher and resources for further exploration.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students will test whether the color of a material affects how much heat it absorbs.
  • Students leave ice cubes in boxes made of colored paper in the sun and predict which colored box ice cubes melt first. They record the order and time required for the ice cubes to melt.
  • This is a hands-on activity for small groups of students.
  • This is a simple but engaging and effective lesson.
  • The lesson design is clear and the objectives should be easily met.
  • The teacher plan is easy to follow and uses materials found in a typical classroom. The introduction, vocabulary, investigating questions, and rubric are helpful to guide students through the activity.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • There are no technological obstacles and needed materials should be easily found in the classroom, other than ice cubes.
  • A short video is included for teachers to preview the activity.
Entered the Collection: March 2023 Last Reviewed: July 2022

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