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Heat Retention
Administration Procedures
Grades 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: Contributed by: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)


Students test 4 materials to see which would be best for use as a heat mass. They then graph the temperature versus the time of each of the substances and decide which material would make the best heat mass.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Heat Transfer

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying specific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

General Teacher Instructions:

Students will be working in groups of 4 - 6 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise. The following suggestions are offered to facilitate administration of the exercise.

  • Students need to be ready to work as soon as the period begins.
  • Group assignments should be made in advance.
  • The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible.
  • A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible.
  • The supply area should have any supplies from the kit that were prepared by the teacher as well as all of the school-supplied materials necessary for the experiment.
  • All the supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Heat Retention":

  • 4 250-ml containers
  • 4 thermometers
  • 250 ml sand
  • 250 ml gravel
  • 250 ml styrofoam peanuts
  • 150 W bulb
  • 4 colored pencils per student
  • one lamp per group, each lamp must be able to take a 150 W bulb
  • water
  • clock with second hand - one clock that is visible to the whole class will suffice or digital watch

National Science Education Standards:

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

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.

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

MEAS1: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement :
Grades 6-8 j. understand both metric and customary systems of measurement

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 c. use observations about differences between two or more samples to make conjectures about the populations from which the samples were taken

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

COM3: Analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of others:
Grades 6-8

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

Advance Preparation:

The teacher should verify that each student can read a thermometer.

Place the reflector of the lamp on the table and, using chalk, draw a circle around the reflector. Mark four positions, equally spaced, on the chalk circle with and X. Raise the heat lamp about 40 cm directly above the circle on the table top.

Students should be able to read the thermometers throughout the experiment, and the thermometers should all be at the same depth in each cup.


  • To expand and target the specific NCTM standard(s) to be measured, ask students to use and compare Fahrenheit and Celsius measurements


  • 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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