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Simple Thermometer

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Children construct a thermometer and use them to observe temperature changes at home!

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Participants Enjoyed the Activity 
Participants Learned from This Activity 
Activity Instructions Were Clear and Easy to Follow 
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12/22/2017

A not-so-simple thermometer.

We ran this program during our weekly Story Time programming, as a part of a winter-themed day in which we discussed temperature and snow. I’m writing this the week before Christmas; here in northwestern Montana, we received six inches of snow this morning. It’s beautiful and we’re not yet sick of it, which makes this the perfect time of year to run a program like this! We paired the thermometer with another STAR_net Clearinghouse activity (“Ice-y Experiences”) and made use of one of that activity’s extension (cutting snowflakes) as it was more age-appropriate for our kiddos than the recommended extensions for this one (which are: building a wind gauge, building a weather station, and being a citizen weather reporter).

This is one of those activities which is a touch more situation-specific than many of the other STAR_net Clearinghouse activities we made use of in our library this year; it requires a certain amount of time, a certain mastery of theory and terminology on the part of the librarian or educator, and a certain degree of curiosity on the part of the children participating. I imagine that you *could* run this program with children of any age, technically, but it proved a difficult concept for our Story Time kiddos (ages 3 through 5) to grasp because they were not naturally inclined to be curious in this specific STEM concept. There are ways and means of cultivating that necessary “buy-in,” but this activity doesn’t make that easy for younger kiddos. This makes sense when you look at the “Correlation to Standards” section in the activity instructions … in a classroom context, I can see this being a more comfortable fit.

The thermometers themselves work exactly as advertised, and are a lot of fun. Not suitable for small hands, really, especially since single-use plastic water bottles in 2017 are much more lightweight and flimsy than they used to be, and often will spring leaks if crumpled by ungentle fingers. One might easily make use of other clear containers, however, where there’s an easy transmission of heat. (We used cheap little plasticware containers for some of ours.) And the straws really *must* be the clear kind, which were not easy for us to find in our community. If the straws are not clear, the children will have a hard time seeing the dyed water and alcohol mixture rising through the straws in response to rising temperatures inside the container.

For now, our perspective on this activity is that it has great underpinnings but a more difficult-to-manage execution than many others. Having run this activity once with young participants, we plan to run it again with older, school-aged children during our after-school Makerspace once schools are back in session next year. We will update our review with further insights then.

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Simple Thermometer

Simple Thermometer

Children construct a thermometer and use them to observe temperature changes at home!