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Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science

Heat and Temperature Featured Classroom: Paula Proctor; Worcester, MA

Paula Proctor; Worcester, MA

“I want there to be a dialogue of science in this school. From my point of view as a facilitator that means that I am constantly looking for new ways to interact with teachers and students about science”


School at a Glance:
Roosevelt School
Worcester, MA

  • Grades: PreK-6
  • Enrollment: 661
  • Students per Teacher: 15
  • Ethnicity:
    59% White
    28% Hispanic
    5% Asian
    9% African American
    1% American Indian
  • Percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch: 45% versus a state average of 28%

The Roosevelt School describes itself as “an environmentally-based health science academy.” Located about 40 miles from Boston, Worcester, Massachusetts, has the second-largest elementary educational system in the state.

Paula Proctor worked in the medical profession before getting her B.S. and becoming a teacher. She has been teaching in Worcester for the past 15 years and was the science facilitator at Roosevelt from the time the school opened in 2000 until recently when she was promoted to Assistant Principal. Paula is making an impact and proudly states, “I am happy to say I believe Worcester is in the forefront of making hands-on inquiry science available to all of our children.”

Lesson and Curriculum

Melting Point of Ice; Delta Science Modules

Lesson at a Glance:
Curriculum: Delta Science Modules “States of Matter”
Grade: Sixth
Topic: Melting Point of Ice

During the two weeks prior to the lesson seen in the video, the students had been studying various kinds of energy transfer with their teacher Gina Robertson. In this lesson, Paula asks the students to put a thermometer in a glass of ice and take a reading. They then remove the thermometer from the ice and place it in a glass of warm water. As the students watch the volume of the red liquid in the thermometer expand, they speculate that it is because it has absorbed “heat energy” from the warm water. Paula comments, “First I wanted to develop the idea that the same amount of matter, which is that red liquid, can somehow occupy two different amounts of space, and why that’s happening.”

The students then return the thermometer to the glass of ice and observe the red liquid contract again. “I hope we can get them to see that it is happening because there is heat being transferred into the molecules of the red liquid when it is in the hot water, and the transfer is out of the hot red liquid when you put it in the cool water. So it goes the opposite way and suddenly the matter takes up less space,” said Paula.

Later, the students pour some of the warm water into the glass of ice and carefully observe the red liquid in the thermometer. From this experiment, they were able to notice that there is a moment just before the ice begins to melt in which the temperature of the water is the same temperature that the ice was. Paula remarks, “This lesson is about the melting point of ice but, in actuality, what I am looking for is for them to develop ideas about the effect of energy on the change of state of matter, and the effect on the motion of molecules when energy comes in contact or transfers in or out of a state of matter, whatever that might be.”

Series Directory

Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science


Produced by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. 2004.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-749-5