Invite the children to experiment with the different materials provided. Ask them to fill one cup with sand, one with water, and one with shredded paper.
Place the three cups in the box with a thermometer in each cup. Allow a few minutes for the temperature to stabilize, and record the initial temperature.
Close the box, and put it outside in the sunlight for 30 minutes.
Carefully bring the boxes back inside. Ask the groups to open their boxes and quickly record the temperature for each cup.
Have the groups stir the contents of each cup and read and record the temperatures every 2 minutes for 10 minutes. If there is time, have the children graph their temperature recordings.
Bring the children together to share their findings.
Discuss how different materials retain the Sun's energy. Conclude from the experiment which material stored the Sun's heat most efficiently, and which one least efficiently.
Lead them in a discussion about how their new information can be applied to their own lives.
Adapted from Solar Now, Inc.at http://www.solarnow.org/experiment.htm
Connections to the National Science Standard(s)
Standards A&B (grades 5–8): Communicate an understanding that the Sun’s energy arrives as light with a range of wavelengths, including visible light and infrared, radiation, and two ways in which light interacts with matter are by transmission, absorption.
Standards A, B&D (grades 9–12): Understands through scientific investigation and effectively communicates that light waves have energy and can transfer energy when they interact with matter. Understands that our Sun is the major external source of energy.