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The Ups and Downs of Thermometers

Source Institutions

    American Chemical Society

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The Ups and Downs of Thermometers

In this activity, learners examine the parts of a thermometer. After placing a thermometer in hot and cold water, learners look at molecular model animations of the liquid in a thermometer. Learners then draw a model of the molecules of a thermometer after it has been placed in hot and then cold water. This lesson includes an optional activity in which learners make and test their own thermometers.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

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


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Student Thermometer
  • Magnifier
  • Cold water
  • Hot water (about 50 °C)
  • Goggles
  • Test tube, about 20 mL (optional)
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol, 91% (optional)
  • Small cup (optional)
  • 2 small disposable water bottles (8 oz. -- optional)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Parafilm (optional)
  • Thin transparent straw (Either cut from a dropper or from a Capri Sun® drink -- optional)
  • Hot water (optional)
  • Ice water (optional)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Chemistry
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


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  • Thumbnail SOS by rmerton on 2012-06-28