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Hands on Virtual Physics
Online Physics Courses for Elementary and Middle School Teachers


Light Course

Electricity and Magnetism Course

Temperature and Heat Course

Teacher Comments



  The Virtual Course on Temperature and Heat
There are 10 units, as described below. Each unit starts with an exploration (simple qualitative investigations) of the subject of the unit, followed by two activities (more formal investigations, frequently having a quantitative component). The sections "About ..." are a few pages of text and pictures explaining the relevant scientific concepts. The final section "Discussion of ..." presents some questions for the participants to discuss. They email their discussion to the workshop instructors. In addition, many sections have an additional page "Why study (the subject of this unit)?"

Here are the activities of the workshop. Links are given to some sample pages.

  • Temperature
  • Thermal equilibrium
    Exploring thermal equilibrium; Equilibration of things initially at different temperatures. Thermal expansion
    Why study thermal expansion?
    Exploring thermal expansion; Making a temperature sensor;
    Making a thermometer "Liquid crystal" thermal sensing sheet
    Why study thermal sensing sheet?
    Exploring "Liquid crystal" thermal sensing sheet; Calibrating the liquid crystal. Thermal conduction
    Why study thermal conduction?
    Is glass cool? Is fur warm? (Exploration of thermal conduction); How long does your drink stay hot? Find the conductor (a puzzle based on thermal conduction).
  • Convection and Radiation
    Why study convection and radiation?
    Exploring convect
  • Conversion of other forms of energy into thermal energy
    Exploring energy conversions; Different methods to transfer heat; Does color affect how materials absorb heat? Phase change
    Why study phase changes?
    Exploring change of phase; What happens when water evaporates? What is the temperature pattern of ice water as the ice melts?
    The discussion questions page for this unit How temperature and energy are related
    Why study thermal energy?
    Exploring thermal energy; Calorimetry 1: If two objects are at the same temperature, do they both contain the same amount of energy? Calorimetry 2: Sharing heat among different objects; Calorimetry 3: Effect of using different materials Irreversibility
    Mixing and unmixing (exploration of irreversibility); How many combinations? Flipping a coin: random and uncorrelated events; A model for equilibration. Summary of the workshopOther useful pages Local materials This page explains what materials you will need to provide, and gives clear definitions of the terms used -- like, what we mean by "hot" water. Making graphs
  • Classroom implementation





Joseph P. Straley
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0055
(859) 257-3197