Heat Energy Transfer NGSS MS PS3-3 and MS ETS1-1


In the Heat Energy Transfer mini unit, students learn that increasing global temperatures are endangering the tuatara population in New Zealand. They design, construct and test a tuatara nest to keep their ice cube eggs cool! Students analyze their own data about conduction, convection, radiation and insulation and apply this knowledge to minimize heat transfer.


Extension activities challenge students to maximize heat energy transfer as they build a solar oven and cook some nachos or s’mores!

Anchor Phenomenon Ideas: Take three cans of pop out of the refrigerator. Place one on the table, wrap one in a wool sock and wrap one in aluminum foil. Ask students to predict which can will be the coldest at the end of class - very few kids will guess the sock! Collect your data, discuss and use the questions your students come up with to make connections throughout your unit.

Students are highly engaged in this hands-on project that uses engineering to solve a real world problem. Many students say this is their favorite project of the year!

Learn more about the endangered tuatara here.

Tips and Tricks: Students are very excited to build their nests and sometimes start building without applying their knowledge. Ask kids what color house they will build and have them point to data that supports their choice. How will they stop conduction, convection and radiation? Raising their house onto "feet" or stilts, keeping their eggs in the "basement" and adding a reflective shield for the sun are all easy ways to combat heat transfer.

If you have a small budget (or no budget!) reach out to your parent community or a local no-waste group for donations of paper towel tubes, cardboard, insulating materials, fabric scraps and other miscellaneous items. Hot glue, duct tape or masking tape all work well for building.

Enrichment Ideas: Challenge students to research a local animal or plant species that is impacted by a warming climate. Is there a species that has recently moved into your area or has one disappeared? What are the drawbacks of losing or gaining this species? What are the benefits?