the Concord Consortium
the National Science Foundation
This activity combines a hands-on lab with a computer simulation, as students investigate and graph the changing temperature of a melting ice cube. In the first step, learners use a sensor to monitor temperature as ice melts in a cup of water. In the second step, the ice cube is melted in a cup of salt water. Interactive graphs allow easy plotting of Temperature vs. Time. The activity concludes with a simulation of the atomic structure of a hot liquid and a cold liquid. Click "Withdraw the Barrier" and watch the changing kinetic energy of the cold liquid particles as they mix with the hot liquid. This resource is part of the Concord Consortium, a nonprofit research and development organization dedicated to transforming education through technology.
Please note that this resource requires
Editor's Note:Recently rewritten to HTML5. This resource is part of the Concord Consortium, a nonprofit research and development organization dedicated to transforming education through technology. The activity was developed for grades 6-8, but can be easily adapted to 9th grade physical science courses. Users who complete free registration may capture data, store student work, and customize existing models.
Metadata instance created
May 17, 2011
by Caroline Hall
August 15, 2016
by Lyle Barbato
Last Update when Cataloged:
June 30, 2014
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
1. The Nature of Science
1B. Scientific Inquiry
6-8: 1B/M1b. Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
4. The Physical Setting
4D. The Structure of Matter
6-8: 4D/M1a. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope.
6-8: 4D/M3ab. Atoms and molecules are perpetually in motion. Increased temperature means greater average energy of motion, so most substances expand when heated.
6-8: 4D/M3cd. In solids, the atoms or molecules are closely locked in position and can only vibrate. In liquids, they have higher energy, are more loosely connected, and can slide past one another; some molecules may get enough energy to escape into a gas. In gases, the atoms or molecules have still more energy and are free of one another except during occasional collisions.
6-8: 4D/M8. Most substances can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas depending on temperature.
6-8: 4D/M10. A substance has characteristic properties such as density, a boiling point, and solubility, all of which are independent of the amount of the substance and can be used to identify it.
4E. Energy Transformations
6-8: 4E/M3. Thermal energy is transferred through a material by the collisions of atoms within the material. Over time, the thermal energy tends to spread out through a material and from one material to another if they are in contact. Thermal energy can also be transferred by means of currents in air, water, or other fluids. In addition, some thermal energy in all materials is transformed into light energy and radiated into the environment by electromagnetic waves; that light energy can be transformed back into thermal energy when the electromagnetic waves strike another material. As a result, a material tends to cool down unless some other form of energy is converted to thermal energy in the material.
9. The Mathematical World
9B. Symbolic Relationships
6-8: 9B/M3. Graphs can show a variety of possible relationships between two variables. As one variable increases uniformly, the other may do one of the following: increase or decrease steadily, increase or decrease faster and faster, get closer and closer to some limiting value, reach some intermediate maximum or minimum, alternately increase and decrease, increase or decrease in steps, or do something different from any of these.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
6-8: 11B/M5. The usefulness of a model depends on how closely its behavior matches key aspects of what is being modeled. The only way to determine the usefulness of a model is to compare its behavior to the behavior of the real-world object, event, or process being modeled.
12. Habits of Mind
12C. Manipulation and Observation
3-5: 12C/E6. Use audio and video recording devices for capturing information.
6-8: 12C/M3. Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices.
Next Generation Science Standards
Matter and Its Interactions (MS-PS1)
Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed. (MS-PS1-4)
Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
Plan an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample. (MS-PS3-4)
Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)
Structure and Properties of Matter (PS1.A)
In a liquid, the molecules are constantly in contact with others; in a gas, they are widely spaced except when they happen to collide. In a solid, atoms are closely spaced and may vibrate in position but do not change relative locations. (6-8)
The changes of state that occur with variations in temperature or pressure can be described and predicted using these models of matter. (6-8)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
The temperature of a system is proportional to the average internal kinetic energy and potential energy per atom or molecule (whichever is the appropriate building block for the system's material). The details of that relationship depend on the type of atom or molecule and the interactions among the atoms in the material. Temperature is not a direct measure of a system's total thermal energy. The total thermal energy (sometimes called the total internal energy) of a system depends jointly on the temperature, the total number of atoms in the system, and the state of the material. (6-8)
Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)
Macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic and atomic-level structure. (6-8)
Graphs and charts can be used to identify patterns in data. (6-8)
Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural systems. (6-8)
Structure and Function (K-12)
Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts, therefore complex natural structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function. (6-8)
Stability and Change (2-12)
Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and processes at different scales, including the atomic scale. (6-8)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
Science assumes that objects and events in natural systems occur in consistent patterns that are understandable through measurement and observation. (6-8)
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)
Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to identify linear and nonlinear relationships. (6-8)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (6-8)
Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that describe phenomena. (6-8)
Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students' own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future. (6-8)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions. (6-8)
Conduct an investigation to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of an investigation. (6-8)
Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions. (6-8)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
Mathematical and computational thinking at the 6–8 level builds on K–5 and progresses to identifying patterns in large data sets and using mathematical concepts to support explanations and arguments. (6-8)
Use mathematical representations to support scientific conclusions and design solutions. (6-8)
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments
Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)
MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
Expressions and Equations (6-8)
Represent and analyze quantitative relationships between
dependent and independent variables. (6)
6.EE.9 Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation.
Define, evaluate, and compare functions. (8)
8.F.2 Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions).
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Heat and Temperature Unit Title: The Relationship Between Heat and Temperature
This activity combines a hands-on lab with a computer simulation as students investigate the changing temperature of a melting ice cube. They monitor the temperature of ice melting in: 1) water, and 2) salt water. Using interactive tools, students plot Temperature vs. Time for each environment. The activity concludes with a simulation of the atomic structure of a hot liquid vs. a cold liquid. What happens at the atomic level when they mix?
%0 Electronic Source %D June 30, 2014 %T Concord Consortium: Melting Ice %I The Concord Consortium %V 2016 %N 27 August 2016 %8 June 30, 2014 %9 application/java %U https://concord.org/stem-resources/melting-ice
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