Heating and Cooling of the Earth's Surface

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Learners conduct an experiment to determine the rate at which two materials, sand and water, heat up and cool down. Then, based on their observations, they make hypotheses about why materials heat up and cool down at different rates. Learners conduct experiments with new materials to test their hypotheses and share their results with the group. Use the Science Flowchart to help learners examine their scientific process.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 500 ml beakers, two per group of four students (beakers can be any size, but all beakers should be the same size)
  • Thermometers, two per group of four students
  • Lights with incandescent bulbs, per group of four students
  • Stopwatches, one per group of four students
  • Sand
  • Water
  • A variety of other materials. Suggestions: Sand and water mixed together, salt water, tea (room temperature), dirt (or potting soil), mud (try several types of mud of different thicknesses, with different amounts of water), gravel, rocks, leaves, sticks, cut grass
  • Data sheets
  • Graph paper


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Skene, Jennifer


  • All rights reserved, The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and The Regents of the University of California, 2010