Heat transfer might not sound like an exciting topic to teach in middle school. But I have some fun activities that will help you transform teaching convection, conduction, and radiation into a week of fun!
Hook them with a chocolate bunny!
I always start the heat transfer unit by showing students a chocolate bunny similar to something you’d find in an Easter basket.
No bunny? No problem – just find a delicious picture online to give the students some inspiration.
I place students into small groups to brainstorm silly ways to melt a chocolate bunny. I give them 3 minutes – and they get pretty creative!
Then I show this video. The music is sad and melodramatic, but that’s part of the fun.
As I teach the three methods of heat transfer, we refer back to the bunny video for each type.
At the end of the lesson, students go back and categorize their methods into convection, conduction, and radiation.
Teaching Conduction, Convection, and Radiation in Middle School
I’m a huge fan of explicit instruction when it comes to teaching.
I use a PowerPoint presentation to help the students define and identify examples of each type of heat transfer.
We talk about how they work together in Earth’s atmosphere and why heat transfer is important.
After some explicit instruction, it’s time for practice!
My students love mazes! They color the path from start to finish. Because you’re looking for a pattern, they’re super easy to check!
Memory Tips for Teaching Heat Transfer
Some students have difficulty remembering the difference between convection, conduction, and radiation. I use these memory tips for teaching radiation, conduction, and convection, to give them an extra brain boost!
Try This Easy Convection Demo
I set up this convection demo (from Generation Genius) in the back of the classroom while teaching about heat transfer. This is a great way to help students visualize convection currents, and the mica helps students see the convection pattern as it heats.
The recipe is easy:
Mix 1 cup of shampoo with mica, 3 cups of water, and about 20 drops of food coloring and slowly heat it on a hot plate.
***I used Suave keratin infusion shampoo purchased for less than $3.
Wrap Up Heat Transfer With the Campfire Lab
After a day or two of practice and mazes, I wrap up the unit with the convection, conduction, and radiation campfire lab – which is an enormous hit!
I love activities that have real-life applications! In this lab, students make a hypothesis to see which type of heat transfer makes the perfect golden-brown marshmallow.
During this lab, students complete 3 hands-on activities to test their hypothesis.
This lab is inexpensive and uses basic materials that include:
- heat lamp
- hot plate
- wooden skewers
- aluminum foil
- ring stand (helpful to keep a consistent height)
Inside this editable campfire lab you’ll find:
- easy-to-follow instructions
- detailed instructions for a successful lab
- conclusion questions
- a CER graphic organizer
- editable presentation that includes warm-up questions, objectives, lab safety expectations, instructions, and a sample data table
Learn more about the campfire lab here!
If you’re looking for easy-to-use, quick prep activities to teach convection, conduction, and radiation, you’ll love this heat transfer bundle!
You’ll find everything you need to teach students about the three methods of heat transfer, along with convection, conduction, and radiation worksheets and mazes that include answer keys to save you time!
Learn more about this all-in-one bundle here!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase with that link, I will, without additional cost to you, receive a small commission.