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Measuring temperature

Students use a thermometer to measure the air temperature in the classroom, a cup of iced and/or warm water, and maybe outside air temperature.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Chemistry: States of Matter, Properties of Materials (K-7)
Earth/Space: Weather, Seasons, Climate Change (K, 1, 4, 7)
Lessons activity is in: 
  • thermometer, for each/pair of students - adapted if necessary by taping over numbers and adding new ones to make it easy to read.
  • coffee cup/styrofoam cup/metal cans
  • water of different temperatures - use kettle to make warm water fast
  • ice
  • optional: salt, 2 tablespoons per can

Temperature tells us how hot or cold it is.
Use a thermometer to measure temperature.

Optional: show chart of Vancouver temperature going up and down with the seasons.

You will each use a thermometer to measure temperatures.
Show the bulb that measures the temperature, which must be surrounded by the thing you want to measure the temperature of.

Start by measuring air temperature in the classroom, to check students are able to read the thermometers correctly.
Optional: write up/graph results and discuss why they are slightly different - air temperature varies slightly around the classroom; my thermometer are not the best, so are not calibrated so accurately.

Students measure temperature of water (in insulated cups if it is very hot/cold):
Hot/warm water.
Iced water.
Optional: add salt to iced water to make it even colder (can be combined with the frost activity and use a metal can).

Students enjoy watching the red alchohol line go up and down as they move it between water temperatures.
They can also experiment with holding their finger over the bulb to take the temperature reading of their hand.

Optional: talk about digital thermometers, that look different from these ones, that are in weather stations and other equipment.

Optional: measure the outside air temperature (may be with another outside activity).


This activity is easily extended to measuring water temperature in its different states, then graphing the readings. See

Grades taught: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Christy Wong
Daphne Gurney
Kecia Boecking
Nina Hooker
Taz Ismail
Teaching site: 
McBride Elementary
Tyee Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Scientist in Residence Program, Vancouver School District with teachers Ms. Wong and Ms. Boecking.

As part of the lesson plan: