Water Cycle - Weather (1)

  • Discovering how to use a thermometer.
  • Recording information on temperature.
  • temperature
  • thermometer

Students learn to use a thermometer.


Thermometers are useful in our everyday life. Students are familiar with their parents watching the morning news for information on the temperature. It helps them decide what to dress for the day. Temperature is a practical thing to know!

Many thermometers use mercury in a glass chamber. Mercury is an element that is liquid at normal temperatures and very sensitive to heat and cold. However, many thermometers today may have different substances in them. For instance, mercury with a little bit of nitrogen in it, will be more accurate and longer lasting. In schools, mercury thermometers have been banned by many school systems. Mercury, if ingested by children, can cause long term nerve damage. So many school thermometers have what many refer to as "spirit thermometers." The spirit is usually methyl alcohol, which is also sensitive to heat and cold.

  1. Ask students where they would normally measure temperature around the house. Make a list of these places which should include the following: oven, heater temperature, refrigerator, and fevers.
  2. You may want to tell students that the thermometer used to find your body temperature should not be used to measure ovens or refrigerators. Thermometers are made to measure different things.
  3. Measuring temperature can be exciting for students. Just to see the "red" liquid move up and down is somehow magical for children. In this exercise have the students use different containers of water and record on their lab sheets the measured temperature. You will be measuring in centigrade, but if you have other thermometers you can still use the worksheet. Have students label the degrees that are on the thermometer they are using.
  4. You may want the students to predict which one is hot and which ones are cold before they start measuring with the thermometers by putting their fingers in the cup. We do not suggest using hot boiling water.
  5. Tell the students to put the thermometer in the different containers and watch the red line go up or down. They should record the information on their lab sheets. On the worksheet there are 3 thermometers that the students can record. You determine what the students measure. If you want more than 3 stations you may want to provide students with more worksheets.
  6. If you have an outside thermometer you should measure the temperature outside over the next few days. Make sure the measurements are taken at the same time each day. Talk about which days were coldest, which were warmest, and which were the most comfortable.
  7. You will probably use a glass thermometer for this exercise. Caution the children to be careful. Do not push the thermometer into anything. But if a child does break one, tell them to tell you immediately. If the thermometers are alcohol, they will not cause any damage. In most place mercury thermometers for elementary age students are prohibited.

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