Middle School: OpenSciEd Unit 6.2: How can containers keep stuff from warming up or cooling down?

Listings > Middle School: OpenSciEd Unit 6.2: How can containers keep stuff from warming up or cooling down?

OpenSciEd is a nonprofit organization that brings together educators, philanthropic organizations, curriculum developers, and professional development providers to improve science education through the development and implementation of high-quality, freely available science instructional materials. While this work has begun at the middle school level with Grades 6 through 8, the goal of OpenSciEd is to ensure that all educators, from elementary to high school, have access to a free, coherent, rigorous, research-based set of instructional materials that will support all students in meeting the vision for science literacy described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Score: 8

Awarded the NGSS Design Badge

Science Discipline: Physical Science,  Engineering

Length: Unit

Year Reviewed: 2019

This unit on thermal energy transfer begins with students testing whether a new plastic cup sold by a store keeps a drink colder for longer compared to the regular plastic cup that comes free with the drink. Students find that the drink in the regular cup warms up more than the drink in the special cup. This prompts students to identify features of the cups that are different, such as the lid, walls, and hole for the straw, that might explain why one drink warms up more than the other. 

Students investigate the different cup features they conjecture are important to explaining the phenomenon, starting with the lid. They model how matter can enter or exit the cup via evaporation However, they find that in a completely closed system, the liquid inside the cup still changes temperature. This motivates the need to trace the transfer of energy into the drink as it warms up. Through a series of lab investigations and simulations, students find that there are two ways to transfer energy into the drink: (1) the absorption of light and (2) thermal energy from the warmer air around the drink. They are then challenged to design their own drink container that can perform as well as the store-bought container, following a set of design criteria and constraints. 

Link to Materials

OpenSciEd Unit 6.2: How can containers keep stuff from warming up or cooling down? 


NGSS Design Badge

Awarded: Aug 15, 2019

Awarded To: OpenSciEd Unit 6.2: How Can Containers Keep Stuff From Warming Up or Cooling Down?



The NGSS Design Badge is awarded only to the version of this unit that was reviewed. If any modifications are made to this unit, the revised version cannot be promoted as having earned the badge.

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