Resource Image Energy: Thermal Energy, Heat, and Temperature
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Type of Resource: Science Object
Average Rating: Rating
 based on 15 reviews
Publication Title: None
Grade Level: Elementary School, High School, Middle School


Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the third of four Science Objects in the Energy SciPack. It provides a conceptual and real-world understanding of the relationship between thermal energy, heat, and temperature. The thermal energy of a material consists of the disordered motion of its atoms or molecules. Thermal energy can be transferred through materials or from one material to another by conduction (the collisions of atoms), or across space by radiation. If the material is fluid, convection currents aid the transfer of thermal energy (convection). When thermal energy is transferred it is called heat. Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of atoms and molecules in a material.

Ideas For Use


Additional Info

Science Discipline: (mouse over for full classification)
Energy transfer
Intended User Role:Elementary-Level Educator, High-School Educator, Middle-Level Educator, Teacher
Educational Issues:Inquiry learning, Professional development, Teacher content knowledge, Teaching strategies


Resource Format:
Size: KB
Installation Remarks:

National Standards Correlation

This resource has 10 correlations with the National Standards.  

This resource has 10 correlations with the National Standards.  

  • Physical Science
    • Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism
      • Heat can move from one object to another by conduction. (K-4)
    • Transfer of Energy
      • Energy is a property of many substances and is associated with heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion, sound, nuclei, and the nature of a chemical. (5-8)
      • Heat moves in predictable ways, flowing from warmer objects to cooler ones, until both reach the same temperature. (5-8)
      • Heat, light, mechanical motion, or electricity might all be involved in energy transfers. (5-8)
    • Conservation of energy and increase in disorder
      • Energy can be transferred by collisions in chemical and nuclear reactions, by light waves and other radiations, and in many other ways. (9-12)
      • As energy transfers occur, the matter involved becomes steadily less ordered. (9-12)
      • In all energy transfers, the overall effect is that the energy is spread out uniformly. Examples are the transfer of energy from hotter to cooler objects by conduction, radiation, or convection and the warming of our surroundings when we burn fuels. (9-12)
  • Process Standards for Professional Development
    • Research-Based
      • Address teachers' needs as learners and build on their current knowledge of science content, teaching, and learning. (NSES)
    • Design
      • Introduce teachers to scientific literature, media, and technological resources that expand their science knowledge and their ability to access further knowledge. (NSES)
    • Learning
      • Build on the teacher's current science understanding, ability, and attitudes. (NSES)

State Standards Correlation

Use the form below to view which of your state standards this resource addresses.

User Reviews

Energy: Thermal Energy, Heat and Temperature
  Yoli Gonzales (Boise, ID) on October 30, 2014
  Informative, easy to understand, lots of great practical examples, simulations and explanations. I would recommend it for any teacher who would like to understand how molecules respond under various temperatures and heat and how energy is transferred from one object to another via thermal energy, conduction, convection and radiation.

I Love Science Objects!
  Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA) on September 2, 2014
  I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Energy: Thermal Energy, Heat, and Temperature Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are really beneficial!

Thermal Energy, Heat& Temp
  Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA) on July 29, 2014
  This resource and the ones like it are particularly valuable for me for several reasons. First, I like the table of contents off to the left, which all ow me to keep track of what is coming up and see the entire lesson at once. Also, it is multisensory...engaging several senses. Finally, they are self paced, which I really need with my busy lifestyle.

  Tory Addison (Winter Haven, FL) on March 17, 2014
  Awesome simulations of heat transfer. Great explanation of conduction, convection, and radiation.

Great Content
  Kevin (Pittsburgh, PA) on November 21, 2012
  I recently started teaching an unit on energy. This science object was a great tool to help me refresh on the content before I teach it to my students! It also had some good resources for me to show and share with my students.

Review on Thermal Energy, Heat, and Temperature
  Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD) on March 1, 2012
  This presentation on the concepts of Thermal Energy, Heat, and Temperature made the dividing lines clearer and more defined than ever. Exciting, informative, and organized.

Engaging and informative
  Brandy Stewart on January 16, 2012
  I was thorougly engaged in this Science Object. I think that the interactives were very helpful and useful - even if in a classroom setting!

SciObject: Thermal Energy, Heat and Temperature
  Bambi Bailey (Tyler, TX) on November 9, 2010
  Heat and temperature are concepts that people have many misconceptions about. This SciObject uses simulations and animations to make the concept of heat and heat transfer concrete. It also includes embedded assessments so that teachers, elementary through high school, who enhance their content knowledge using this SciObject can gauge their progress. I once showed a college student one of the animations and she said that it was the first time she could actually "see" in her minds eye how energy is transferred. It is very well designed.

Very Good
  Liz M (Interlaken, NY) on August 8, 2009
  Great background information and demonstration idea. Not all concepts are appropriate developmentally for elementary students, but it's important for teachers to know this and to use these terms correctly.

Use for middle and high school students
  Ann McNicol on February 18, 2008
  Excellent learning object. The animations would supliment lecture, and the interactive concept checks are well dsigned

A great asset
  Jessica C on June 28, 2015
  In the description for this resource it says it can be used for elementary school. When using the tool to see what standards it aligns to, it does not mention 3rd grade for NC. I do believe that needs to be updated. The very first video of the food dye is perfect for 3rd graders demonstrating the difference between hot and cold. The application and assessment provided within this resource are very helpful and a great way to see if students understand the concepts being taught. I do believe some of the videos/simulations provided are above 3rd grade level and I can understand from that point of view as to why 3rd grade was not listed for standards to align to. This mainly applies to heating things up, convection and conduction. The simulation for the temperature of molecules is perfect for having students understand friction and giving them a visual to what happens to molecules as the temperature goes up and down.

Good beginning information on difficult concepts
  Arlene Jurewicz Leighton on October 28, 2010
  The terms Thermal Energy , Heat and Temperature are difficult for many to understand as the terms heat and temperature are often interchanged. . The animations and questions give a good building of knowledge approach to rather abstract concepts.

Great Explanations and Simulations
  Lesley on September 25, 2010
  Great basic explanations - very clear and supported with good visual simulations.

devil in the details
  Margaret (Rochester, NY) on July 9, 2009
  On the whole, this object is informative and the animations are very helpful. But I did find one major and one minor error. In the summary,it states "Heat always transfers from the object with more thermal energy to the object with less thermal energy" Temperature should replace thermal energy both times in this statement. An iceberg has more thermal energy than a cup of hot cofee, but heat would transfer from the cup of coffee to the iceberg. Also in the evaluation questions in the feed back on the carpet vs. tile question, it states that tile feels colder because it has more points of contact with your feet, but I believe it is really that the tile is a better conductor than the carpet is.

Cute, oversimplified, has some small error.
  Rafael Navarro (San Diego, CA) on May 15, 2008
  The animations successfully illustrate the general concept. The simulation that demonstrates molecular motion is not technically correct; all molecules have the same speed, which is not true, as stated in this module. I would suggest the construction of a more realistic model, perhaps an implementation of a Leonnard-Jones potential to model particle interactions. It is stated that heat always transfers from an object at a high temperature to an object at a lower temperature. This is not always true. According to the statistical mechanics the micro-canonical ensemble, a heat transfer from a low temperature reservoir to a high temperature reservoir is possible, but not very probable. Maybe the creator of this module should “Stop Faking It” a take some refresher courses in the non-equilibrium statistical mechanics to correct his or her misunderstandings.