Thermal Energy TV

EI TV - Educational Innovations BlogThermal energy—the energy that is generated and measured by heat—is such a wonderful topic that can be approached in many ways.  So many questions to explore!  What is heat?  How does heat travel?  What’s the difference between heat and temperature?  How do we measure temperature?  What are conductors?  Insulators?  And on and on…

There are times when a video offers the easiest, most accessible way to explain a concept.  This is certainly true when it comes to thermal energy.  Feel free to share this collection of videos with your students!   If you find a video on thermal energy that you think deserves to be added here, please let us know in the Comments section below.

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Thermal Energy Lesson

Lesson - Educational Innovations BlogWhen it comes to thermal energy lessons, we are reminded of the potato chip slogan, “Nobody can eat just one.”

There are so many awesome thermal energy lessons on the Internet, we couldn’t pick just one!  Take a moment to review the lesson plans and interactive classroom lab ideas below.  We’re certain you will find something to use with your students.

If you come across any thermal energy lessons you’d like to share, please leave us a comment below! Read the rest of this entry »

Everyone Loves a Mystery

Janice Van Cleaveby:  Janice VanCleave

Identify the Physical Properties of Mystery Artifacts

The mystery artifacts used for this investigation are special and can be purchased at Educational Innovations.   The artifacts are called “Ice Melting Blocks,” but this name gives too much information. Prior to the investigation, I suggest that you introduce them as artifacts, objects that have been intentionally made or produced for a certain purpose.


To investigate mystery artifacts and determine their possible purposes as well as the real or imaginary culture that might have made them. Set the stage by placing the mystery artifacts on a table and covering them with a cloth. If possible, screen off the investigating area so that only the “student science explorers” can view the blocks.

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Thermal Conductivity: If you Want a Good Thermometer, Don’t Use Your Body

Marty Sagendorfby: Martin Sagendorf

An Easy Question:  Which is warmer – which is cooler?

In the strictest sense, it’s a matter of energy.  And we use temperature as a measure of energy level.  As we all know, the greater the energy level, the higher the temperature… But, although this is absolutely true; sometimes it’s not exactly what we perceive in everyday life.  When asked, we all can testify that when we touch a piece of metal we’ll say it feels cold.  But is it really cold?  Is it or isn’t it ‘cold’?

The Answer Is…

… very simple.  If the piece of metal is at room (ambient) temperature it cannot be ‘cold’ – it must be at the same temperature as the temperature of the room.

But First:

Let’s discuss ‘perceived temperature’: this is what we ‘think’ the temperature is.  It isn’t always the actual temperature (of the object we touch).  Thus we enter a wonderful combination of both physics and biology.  Physics describes the absolutes.  Biology describes the biological reactions (interpretations) of our physical world.

It’s a matter of thermal conductivity and our nerves.  Some materials are good conductors of heat (energy) and some are not.  Our nerves sense only temperature – so if thermal energy is rapidly removed from the tissues surrounding our nerve endings (like at our finger tips), our nerves sense that the temperature ‘they feel’ is cooler – e.g. the material is removing thermal energy from the body tissue surrounding the nerve ends at a rate faster than our body can re-supply energy to the tissues – thus our nerves sense this as ‘cooler’.


A truly illustrative and memorable way to present the question: Read the rest of this entry »