The Big Melt

In this unit the students experiment with a variety of materials used for insulation against changing temperatures. They use what they learn about insulators to keep an ice cube from melting for as long as possible.

Time Frame
Learning Objectives TEKS Teacher Background Materials
  Advance Preparation Procedures Assessment  


Time Frame: 4-5 Class Periods
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Learning Objectives:
The students will develop and discuss strategies for solving a specific problem.
The students will listen to others and respond appropriately.
The students will draw models of three-dimensional figures.
The students will construct three-dimensional figures.
The students will collect and organize information from investigations.
The students will record and display data collected from investigations.
The students will use appropriate measuring equipment with increasing precision.
The students will use the concepts of length and volume in the context of their investigations.
The students will recognize and select factors that need to be kept constant or changed in an investigation.
The students will develop conclusions about what was found out in the investigation.
The students will handle and explore a variety of materials which using a variety of tools.
The students will choose appropriate materials for their product.
The students will test out ideas and rework anything that needs to be changed.
The students will recognize that a system is made up of several parts and when the parts are put together they perform a function.
The students will communicate solutions effectively.
The students will communicate strategies and processes used to solve a problem.
The students will relate solutions and strategies to new situations.
The students will pose new problem situations.
The students will interpret and compare information from their work with others.
The students will exchange information through varied media.
The students will used scientific language to communicate findings of an investigation.
The students will discuss what their products can and cannot do.
The students will evaluate the outcome of their work to what they were asked to do.
The students will discuss the capability of their products.

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TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills):

Science 112.4.1(A) Demonstrate safe practices during field and laboratory investigations.
Science 112.4.1(B) Make wise choices in the use and conservation of resources and the disposal or recycling of materials.
Science 112.4.2(A) Plan and implement descriptive investigations including asking well-defined questions, formulating testable hypotheses, and selecting and using equipment and technology.
Science 112.4.2(B) Collect information by observing and measuring.
Science 112.4.2(C) Analyze and interpret information to construct reasonable explanations from direct and indirect evidence.
Science 112.4.2(D) Communicate valid conclusions.
Science 112.4.2(E) Construct simple graphs, tables, maps, and charts to organize, examine, and evaluate information.
Science 112.4.3(C) Represent the natural world using models and identify their limitations.
Science 112.4.4(A) Collect and analyze information using tools including calculators, safety goggles, microscopes, cameras, sound recorders, computers, hand lenses, rulers, thermometers, meter sticks, timing devices, balances, and compasses.
Science 112.4.4(B) Demonstrate that repeated investigations may increase the reliability of results.
Science 112.4.5(A) Identify and describe the roles of some organisms in living systems such as plants in a schoolyard, and parts in nonliving systems such as a light bulb in a circuit.
Science 112.4.5(B) Predict and draw conclusions about what happens when part of a system is removed.
Science 112.4.7(A) Observe and record changes in the states of matter caused by the addition or reduction of heat.
Science 112.4.7(B) Conduct tests, compare data, and draw conclusions about physical properties of matter including states of matter, conduction, density, and buoyancy.
Science 112.4.10(A) Identify and observe effects of events that require time for changes to be noticeable including growth, erosion, dissolving, weathering, and flow.
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Teacher Background:
This activity encourages students to experiment with a variety of materials used for insulation. Students may get involved in the size of the ice cubes, and see the need for controlling the variables. The activity could be conducted such that each group uses a different method and then the results could be compared. From this, individual interests may be sparked and further investigations carried out.
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Ice cubes
Plastic bags
Card stock or poster board
Cotton fabric
Wool fabric
Styrofoam pieces
Stopwatches (1 per group)
Design Process Worksheet (Click here for.pdf version to print out)
Copy paper

Card Stock

Polydrons (optional)
Is it a Net for a Cube? student worksheet

Triple Beam Balances or similar scales
Ice cubes
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Advance Preparation:

Duplicate the Design Process Worksheet on the copy paper. Copy 1 worksheet for each group of 4-5 students.
Assemble the remainder of the materials.
Establish a rubric for the presentations. An example is listed below. You might try letting the students create the criteria in what to observe as they present what they have learned.
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Divide the class into groups of 4 to 5 students. Give each group a Design Process Worksheet. Call on a student to read the design brief out loud.
Ask the following questions. What do you already know about ice cubes? What happens when you pour a liquid over ice cubes? How might you keep drinks cold for a picnic? What materials will you investigate? How are you going to keep a record of your work? Let them develop the plan for testing four of the materials listed on the design worksheet and recording the results.
As the students work with and explore the materials, circulate through the groups. Make sure that each group understands what is to be achieved and that they are aware of the need to control the variables as they test various materials. Be sure that every material is tested in exactly the same manner. For instance, everything should be in a plastic baggie when tested. Ask, How are you going to observe the changes in the ice cube? How are you going to know when the ice cube has melted completely? How are you keeping a record of the time passing and a record of your results?
(For example, each group chooses 4 of the materials to test. Each group is then given 4 ice cubes of approximately the same size. To be exactly correct, the ice cubes should be weighed--but this is time consuming and does not work well with young students. One student in each group is responsible for testing one material. The responsible students each put an ice cube in their test material in a baggie at about the same time. After 10-15 minutes, the students remove the cubes from the bag and compare their relative sizes. They then rank their tested materials from 1 to 4, with 1 being the material that best preserved the ice cube from melting. Have each group report their results. Keep a chart or table of the whole class results.)
The students are limited to four of the materials listed on the design worksheet when constructing their ice cube keeper. Since they must choose the card stock to construct the keeper and a plastic baggie to put the ice cube in, they are able to choose two other materials to put in their keeper. They must construct their container out of 1 sheet of card stock.
Optional Activity: Have the students print out the student page, Is it a Net for a Cube? Make sure that they predict whether each image is a net for a cube prior to doing the activity. This activity will help them when they make a container for their ice cube.
Have the students make a plan of their container on the design process worksheet. (They do not have to make a cube; they can make the container any shape that they want. Let them practice making different shaped containers using the triangular, square, or rectangular polydrons.) As they work together to make the ice cube keeper, monitor to ensure that all students are engaged and on task.
After all of the groups have finished their containers and chosen their insulating materials, have the students test their ice cube keepers. Give each group an ice cube. Have them weigh the ice cube and record the weight. Tell them to put their cube in the container with the insulating materials that they chose. After 15 minutes, have them remove the ice cubes and weigh them again (if there is enough left to weigh). Let them find the percentage of the ice cube left by dividing the original weight by the ending weight after being in the container for 15 minutes.
As each group presents their project, ask questions such as those listed here. What materials did you use to insulate your ice cube? What percentage of your ice cube remained after 15 minutes? What did your group find the most surprising? Why? Did you try more than one way to solve the challenge? Explain. How do your results compare with the other groups? Why might there be different results between groups? What did you learn from this activity? What science concepts were involved in this activity? What math concepts? How does what you found out help others? Share how you all worked together as a group. What other investigations would you like to try now? How does what your group worked on relate to the real world?
Use the rubric below to evaluate their presentations. Use the rubric on the design process sheet to evaluate their projects.
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Summative Assessment:

Work is incomplete and nothing is shared.
Work is completed.
Product is messy or does not work.
Students talk about the work, but there is no order to their sharing.
Students share their work.
They describe what they did.
Product works and is good.
Students can answer others' questions.
Product works and is good.
Product is different and excellent.
All work done by the students is neat.
The students share their work in the sequence in which they completed it.
They can answer others' questions.
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These pages were made through TeacherTECH, the teacher professional development component of GirlTECH, which is sponsored by the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education (CEEE) with support from the National Science Foundation through EOT-PACI, RGK Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, Rice University, and HiPerSoft.

Copyright June 2002 by Shirley Willingham