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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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