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


Students will design and carry out an investigation to test which material is the best insulator: they will predict which way heat energy will flow in a system and analyze the flow of energy in a system from one point to another and from one form to another.

The task assesses students' understanding of scientific inquiry including the following skills: observation, background research, scientific procedures (including investigation design, measurement techniques, and error analysis), data collection, data display, scientific questions, formulating an hypothesis.

This task is designed to take students approximately 3 hours over two weeks of class time.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Forms and behaviors of different types of energy
  Energy transfers and transformations

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.

1.8 Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Mathematics is essential to asking and answering questions about the natural world. Mathematics can be used to ask questions; to gather, organize, and present data; and to structure convincing explanations.

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

3.2 Heat moves in predictable ways, flowing from warmer objects to cooler ones, until both reach the same temperature.

(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

DAP1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them:
Grades 6-8 i. select, create, and use appropriate graphical representations of data including histograms, box plots, and scatter plots

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

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 6-8

RP2: Make and investigate mathematical conjectures:
Grades 6-8

CNX2: Communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others:
Grades 6-8

REP3: Use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena:
Grades 6-8

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 3 hours over two weeks of class time.

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 "Insulators":

The teacher will need:

  • bowls
  • baby food jars
  • graduated cylinders
  • thermometers
  • stopwatch, watch, or clock
  • assorted insulating materials such as newspaper, cardboard, polystyrene, materials from home.

Advance Preparation:

  • Students will design an investigation to test which material is the best insulator. The teacher demonstrates how to set up a control by placing an empty baby food jar in a small bowl. The teacher fills the jar with a measured amount of hot water. A thermometer is placed in the jar and the temperature of the water is noted. The temperature is recorded every 5 minutes until the water reaches and maintains room temperature.
  • Students are then given materials to set up other bowl/baby food jars and test different insulating materials.


  • 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.




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