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Ice Melting
Administration Procedures
Grades 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: Oregon State Department of Education


Students will design investigations to test various materials to prevent heat gain in frozen water.

The task assesses students' understanding of scientific inquiry including the following skills: observation, data collection, measurement, graphing, scientific questions, hypothesis.

This task is designed to take students approximately 3 class periods (about 45 minutes each).

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Transfer of energy

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data

National Science Education Standards:

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8

1.2 Design and conduct a scientific investigation. Students should develop general abilities, such as systematic observation, making accurate measurements, and identifying and controlling variables. They should also develop the ability to clarify their ideas that are influencing and guiding the inquiry, and to understand how those ideas compare with current scientific knowledge. Students can learn to formulate questions, design investigations, execute investigations, interpret data, use evidence to generate explanations, propose alternative explanations, and critique explanations and procedures.

1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

1.7 Communicate scientific procedures and explanations. With practice, students should become competent at communicating experimental methods, following instructions, describing observations, summarizing the results of other groups, and telling other students about investigations and explanations.

8 B PS 3: Transfer of energy: Grades 5-8

3.1 Energy is a property of many substances and is associated with heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion, sound, nuclei and the nature of a chemical. Energy is transferred in many ways.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

AL1: Understand patterns, relations and functions:
Grades 6-8 f. represent, analyze, and generalize a variety of patterns with tables, graphs, words, and, when possible, symbolic rules

AL3: Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships:
Grades 6-8 c. model and solve contextualized problems using various representations, such as graphs, tables, and equations

DAP2: Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data:
Grades 6-8 e. find, use, and interpret measures of center and spread, including mean and interquartile range

DAP3: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data:
Grades 6-8 e. use conjectures to formulate new questions and plan new studies to answer them

CNX2: Understand how mathematical ideas interconnect and build on one another to produce a coherent whole:
Grades 6-8

REP2: Select, apply, and translate among mathematical representations to solve problems:
Grades 6-8

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 3 class periods (about 45 minutes each).

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as periods begin. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Ice Melting":

  • newspaper
  • packing foam
  • straw
  • plastic bags (same brand/size through out)
  • foil
  • fabric
  • ice cubes
  • cups
  • thermometers

Advance Preparation:

Observation: As an ice cube melts, heat is transferred from the room to the ice cube.

Discuss: Brainstorm ways to prevent heat gain in the ice cube.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


  • To expand and target the specific NCTM standard(s) to be measured, ask students to compare data by calculating class averages.



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