Cold Metal

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In this activity, learners discover that our hands are not reliable thermometers. Learners place their palms flat on various surfaces (metal, wood, glass, etc.) and compare how cold the surfaces feel. Learners are challenged to arrange the materials in order from cold to warm. Then, they use a thermometer to measure the temperature of each surface, only to discover that the surfaces are all at the same temperature. Use this activity to talk about temperature-sensitive nerves in skin as well as how different materials act as insulators and conductors of heat.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • Various materials (metal, wood, Styrofoam, glass, plastic, cardboard, etc.) with one flat surface larger than the size of your hand
  • A thermometer (liquid crystal thermometer cards work well)


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
      • Muscles and Skin
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Touch
      • Perception
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America