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Aquatic Ecology - Pre-site Activities/Teacher led

Grade Level: 5
Content Area: Science
Time to Complete: 45 minutes
Title of Lesson: Using a Thermometer

South Carolina State Standards Addressed:

5-1.1 Identify questions suitable for generating a hypothesis.
5-1.2 Identify independent (manipulated), dependent (responding), and controlled variables in an experiment.
5-1.3 Plan and conduct controlled scientific investigations, manipulating one variable at a time.
5-1.5 Construct a line graph from the recorded data with correct placement of independent (manipulated) and dependent (responding) variable.
5-1.6 Evaluate results of an investigation to formulate a valid conclusion based on evidence and communicate the findings of the evaluation in oral or written form.

Lesson Description:

Students will conduct activities to learn how to properly use a thermometer to determine the temperature of water, and conduct an experiment to determine how light affects water temperature.

Focus Questions for Students:

1. What is temperature?
2. What kind of instrument is usually used to measure temperature?
3. What are some factors that affect temperature?
4. Why would temperature be an important consideration when studying water quality?

Culminating Assessment:

1. Students will be able to graph their temperature readings, time versus temperature.
2. Students will be able to say that temperature is a measurement of the amount of energy in an object.


Alcohol-filled thermometers (1 per group) 50ml cylinders(1 per group)
250ml beakers (3 per groups) Timers

Teacher Preparation:

1. Read background information.
2. Be prepared to introduce temperature as a measurement of energy.

Background Information:

Temperature is a physical property of an object that measures the amount of energy in an object.  Temperature is read in degrees (Fahrenheit or Celsius).  Temperature is an important abiotic (nonliving) factor in the diversity of life in a place.  For example, there are many more plants and animals in this part of the world than in the cold Arctic.  Organisms have ranges of temperature within which they can survive.  The location of a place in terms of distance from the equator, how high up, or other climatic factors can determine temperature.  Changes in water or air temperature beyond an animal’s range will cause it to die.   Heating of water can change the oxygen level of lakes and streams, and affect the organisms that live there.  Pollution might raise temperature as it silts up the water, or reacts chemically.  Removal of trees and other plants that create shade or insulation can affect temperature.

The correct and safe way to use a thermometer:

1. Hold the end of the thermometer opposite the bulb.
2. Looking at the thermometer, notice marked numbers going up in specific increments, marked with a bold line. 
3. The distance between each number is consistently marked with the same number of small lines.  Each line represents a specific degree.
4.  An indicator line (usually red) will indicate the temperature.
5. Always put thermometer bulb end down into the substance being tested.

Note: Alcohol-filled thermometers are safer than mercury-filled thermometers, and do not need to be shaken to the lowest temperature before use.

Note: The thermometers are intended to be kept in their blue plastic case at all times.  If the thermometer has turned within the case, making reading it difficult, loosen the top and turn the thermometer back in place. 


1. Discuss temperature as a measurement of the amount of energy in an object. 
2. Demonstrate the correct and safe use of a thermometer.
3. Identify questions that could be used to generate a hypothesis.  For example, "Will the temperature of water rise if placed in sunlight, even though the room is air-conditioned? Come up with a hypothesis.  For example: If the closeness to sunlight within an air-conditioned room affects temperature, then the temperature of water will rise when near a sunny window, and fall when in a dark area of the room.

Divide students into groups of four or five.  There are enough thermometers for six groups with each group using one thermometer, one timer, and three 250 ml beakers.  The 50 ml cylinders can be used in an additional activity (see Differentiation of Instruction).


Collect three 100 ml samples of water from the coldwater tap.


Holding the end of the thermometer (opposite the bulb), place the thermometer in each sample for two minutes.  Let the bulb rest on the bottom.


Raise the thermometer and quickly read the temperature.  Place the thermometer back in water for one minute, then read again.  If the temperature does not change, record temperature.  If the temperatures are different, repeat steps 5 and 6.

8. Place one coldwater sample in a dark area of the room.  After ten minutes, read the temperature as described in step 7.
9. Place one coldwater sample in direct sunlight.  After ten minutes, read the temperature as described in step 7.
10. Leave one coldwater sample in an area with normal room lighting to act as a control.  After ten minutes, read the temperature as described in step 7.
11. Compare the initial temperature of the water samples to that of the samples after the ten minute period. 

Discuss why the independent (manipulated) variable was the placement of the beaker of water in each of 3 locations, the dependent (responding) variable was the temperature, and the controlled variable was the amount of water (100ml).

13. Students draw a line graph with correct placement of the independent (manipulated) variable, and dependent (responding) variable. 
14. With the students, come up with a statement of assumption that can be supported or refuted through experimentation.  For example: “The temperature of water will increase faster if food coloring is added to make the water darker, because darker colors absorb heat better.”

Discuss the role of temperature in determining what plants and animals can live in a place, since different organisms have different tolerances for temperature ranges.

Discuss factors that determine or change temperature, and the importance of knowing the temperature of the water, air, or soil when assessing water or soil quality.        

Differentiation of Instruction:


Change the color of the water sample to determine if color affects temperature.

2. Change the volume of the water sample (using the 50 ml cylinders) to determine the affects of water volume on temperature.
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