Heat Conductivity

Heat is energy that has the ability to change the temperature of an object. Laboratory six very roughly explores the heat conductivity of various materials. Last spring I made an on the fly change to look at heat capacity.. That lab was based on a video that the class had seen the previous Monday.
Jackleen measures the conductivity of aluminum

During summer term the class does not see that video, hence my return to format used last fall. Laboratory six intentionally uses the most trivial and basic materials in terms of equipment, only the thermometers would be problematic in a local elementary or secondary school.
 Raynard makes repairs to the conductivity rig with a glue gun

In the first half of the laboratory the students work in pairs to measure the temperature rise in a cup of room temperature water connected to a cup with boiling water. The materials do not have common cross-sections, nor are the same materials tested at different cross-sections. The materials are whatever I scrounge up from around maintenance or the local hardware store.

 Tracy waits patiently for the temperature to rise

In the second half of the laboratory the student pairs team up to form groups of four students who then design a chart design to use to report their results. This term all of the cups started at 28 Celsius except for two cups which started at 26 Celsius on newer thermometers. A straight-forward column chart of the maximum temperatures yields an inaccurate reflection of overall temperature rise.

Lavanaleen makes notes

The design intent is to give the students a chance to problem solve as a member of a team. This design mimics that of many conferences where the participants break up into small groups, propose solutions, and then present their solutions to the larger group.

Lewis "Luke" Santos Jr. explains his group's chart concept

Although communication skills are an institutional learning outcome, "teacher talk" time still dominates the student's classroom experience. Laboratory six provides an opportunity for students to present to a peer group and gain experience in standing up in front of a group.


This structure has continued to work well over the past three terms. The result is a wider variety chart designs and greater individual participation in the design process than when I had the class work as a whole on laying out a single chart design. There is also the benefit of providing an opportunity for students to engage in an impromptu presentation, a skill that is often called upon in this world of conferences and participative decision making.


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