Elementary Heat Transfer Experiments

Written by kurt larsen
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Elementary Heat Transfer Experiments
The sun is the planet's primary source of heat energy. (Sun image by KPICKS from Fotolia.com)

Teaching children how to understand the basics of heat transfer can be rather difficult. Since many students do not fair well learning strictly through textbooks, elementary experiments can be crucial for teaching how heat energy can be transferred. A variety of heat transfer experiments can be conducted quickly and without the need for expensive materials.

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Coin Conduction Experiment

A simple experiment that utilises coins can be used to teach heat conduction. Place six pennies on a flat surface, which will represent atoms. Fling a "shooter" penny towards the group of coins, which represents an atom with excess kinetic energy. Observe the reaction of the other coins, which represents a transfer of kinetic energy; the same principle that can be found in heat conduction.

Sunlight Conduction Experiment

Sunlight conduction experiments are incredibly easy to set up and can effectively teach children how sunlight can be absorbed in water to create energy. Simply fill a container with ice-cold water and place outside of the classroom in a very sunny area. Ensure that each child feels the temperature of the water, and allow the water to sit outside for at least two hours. Take the children outside and ask each to feel the water's new temperature, which will be warm or hot as a result of its absorption of sunlight.

Dark vs. Light Experiment

Expanding on the sunlight conduction experiment, you can take things one step further by teaching your students which type of container absorbs more heat energy; a black one, or a white one. Using black and white construction paper, wrap two jars in each colour respectively and fill with water. Allow to sit outside for one hour and test the temperature of each jar. The black will almost always be warmer, since dark surfaces work as better conductors than light surfaces.

Radiation Experiment

Teaching children the basic principles of radiation can be done easily and safely. Take the class outside and stand in a shady location, asking them to decide whether they feel hot or cold in the current area. Ask them to move to a sunny location and repeat the analysis. The warmth of the sunny area represents radiation, which can be thought of as a series of waves emitted by the sun that warms the ground.

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