Skip to main content Skip to main content

Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science

Heat and Temperature Interactive Activity: 5-Question Survey

5-Question Survey: Heat and Temperature

The series of questions presented in this activity will help you find out your ideas or your students’ ideas about matter. As highlighted in this video series, when we articulate our misconceptions, we are taking the first step to rectifying them.

Surveying is one of many educational strategies that teachers can use to elicit ideas. Even a brief survey, such as the one presented next, can provide a learning opportunity for students and teachers alike. Students can reveal their misconceptions for the first time as well as open their minds to accepting scientific points of view. Teachers can form a basis for making instructional decisions, whether to validate students’ correct yet unsure ideas, confront student misconceptions, reinforce ideas that are forming, or complement ideas that are accurate but only partial explanations.

When viewing the answers to each of the survey questions, you will also see how others answered the questions.

Before you complete the survey, please identify who you are (pick just one):

I am a teacher. I instruct:
 Grades K-2
 Grades 3-6
 Grades 7-12
 College students

I am a student. I attend:
 Grades K-2
 Grades 3-6
 Grades 7-12

I am a member of the general public

Survey Question 1

A freezer is kept at 0°F. If you were to ask a scientist about the temperature of some ice cubes that had been in the freezer for a few weeks, you’d be told that the temperature of the ice is:

 A. at 32°F, the temperature at which water freezes.
 B. slightly below 32°F because the ice was able to absorb a little cold after it froze.
 C. at 0°F because the ice lost heat until it reached the freezer’s temperature.
 D. slightly below 0°F because ice must always be colder than its surroundings.
 E. well below 0°F because the ice has been sitting in the freezer for so long.

Survey Question 2

A condition called hypothermia can develop in a person who spends too much time in cold water, like a person left floating after a shipwreck. Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops to a dangerously low level. The body temperature of a person floating in cold water drops because:

 A. the person becomes exhausted and cannot keep warm.
 B. the person’s clothing is completely soaked by water.
 C. the person’s warm body absorbs cold from the water.
 D. heat energy flows from the person’s body to the water.
 E. water is swallowed by the person.

Survey Question 3

A bicycle is left in the shade on a warm summer day. When its owner goes to get it, she notices the metal handlebar feels cool. This cool sensation is caused by:

 A. the handlebar absorbing heat from the owner’s hand.
 B. the handlebar being at a lower temperature than the air.
 C. the owner’s hand absorbing cold from the handlebar’s metal.
 D. perspiration on the owner’s hand cooling the handlebar.
 E. the shiny surface of the handlebar reflecting heat.

Survey Question 4

Sue sticks one end of a metal rod into a box filled with ice:

The end of the rod that is covered with ice becomes cold. After a while Sue places her hand on the upper end of the rod outside the box and feels that it is cold. What do you think has happened?

 A. Cold has transferred from the lower end of the rod to the upper end.
 B. The rod gave up heat to the ice.
 C. Cold moved from Sue’s hands towards the rod.
 D. Heat moved from the rod to Sue’s hand.
 E. It depends on the original temperature of the rod.

Survey Question 5

5. As part of an experiment, Jason mixes 2 cups of water at 200°F with 10 cups of water at 50°F. The temperature of the combined water is:

 A. 200°F.
 B. closer to 200°F than to 50°F.
 C. 125°F.
 D. closer to 50°F than to 200°F.
 E. impossible to estimate.

Now that you’ve completed the survey, make sure to read the closer looks, if you haven’t already, to learn more about these topics.

Answer 1

The answer is C: at 0°F because the ice lost heat until it reached the freezer’s temperature. Although the temperature of a mixture of ice and water can never go below 32 degrees F, the ice is solid and so can be cooled further. A scientist would say that this means the average energy of motion of the water molecules is reduced even further. Heat will only be transferred if there is a temperature difference between an object and its surroundings, and once the temperatures are the same, no other temperature change can result.

Answer 2

The correct answer is D: heat energy flows from the person’s body to the water. When the temperature of an object drops, it is because the energy of motion of the particles which make it up has been transferred from the object to its surroundings. This brings the temperature of the object down and the temperature of the surroundings up. The ocean is so large, however, that it can absorb much heat from a person and not have its temperature rise a significant amount.

Answer 3

The answer is A: the handlebar absorbing heat from the owner’s hand. If the sun does not shine directly on the bike, its temperature will eventually be the same as the surrounding air–typically 80 or 90 degrees F. However, the temperature of the owner’s skin is higher (about 98 degrees F) and so when she touches the handlebar, heat will flow from her hand to the bike, leaving her skin at a slightly cooler temperature.

Answer 4

The answer is B: The rod gave up heat to the ice. Although the end of the rod that is in contact with the ice is the one that initially will transfer heat (energy of motion of the particles of which it is made), all particles in the rod are held together by forces. The particles in one end of the rod begin to vibrate more slowly, but since they are bound to their neighbors, the neighbors begin to vibrate more slowly. This process continues until the energy of motion of the particles in the entire rod has been transferred to the ice and we feel both ends as cold.

Answer 5

The answer is D: closer to 50°F than to 200°F. On a microscopic level, Jason combined 2 cups of fast moving molecules and 10 cups of slow moving molecules. After time, all this energy of motion will be shared equally between the 12 cups of water, so the average energy of motion will be closer to that of the 10 cups of cool water. The temperature (average energy of motion) is closer to the lower temperature because there was a much smaller amount of faster moving particles added in with the slower moving particles.

Series Directory

Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science


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