University of Alaska, Fairbanks, K-12 Outreach
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This lesson is part of a series of lessons developed in Alaska about changing climate and weather for grades K-1. In this short lesson students will investigate how the sun’s energy warms water after sharing the book, Temperature: Heating Up and Cooling Down by Darlene R. Stille and Sheree Boyd.


Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Early Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

K-PS3-1 Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface.

Clarification Statement: Examples of Earth’s surface could include sand, soil, rocks, and water

Assessment Boundary: Assessment of temperature is limited to relative measures such as warmer/cooler.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students will be observing water temperatures of cups placed in a sunny location and keep data to learn that the sun warms the water. After the investigation students should discuss how the sun warms water on Earth. The teacher could extend the investigation, and make it even more aligned to the Performance Expectation by helping the students explore the effects of sunlight on land (dark material) compared to water (which reflects a lot of light).

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students will need to have prior knowledge about how to use a thermometer. The data sheet kept by the group should be shared with the class when the lesson is completed. The lesson could be strengthened by including questions that directly compare the different data (e.g., Were all the results the same? How were they different? Why do you think the water in the sun was warmer than the water that was not in the sun?).

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
After students have observed the water temperatures in the cups and discussed their results, ask them if the temperature of the water would have been different if it had not been a sunny day when doing the investigation. Have the students to do the investigation again and try the cups in a new location with no visible sunlight available.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
After students have completed the investigation have them test other locations for the cups that have no available sunlight to observe any temperature change. Discuss and compare the results with the first investigation.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: In this lesson, sense‐making of the phenomena (how does the sun warm water) requires students to integrate the dimensions of the NGSS by observing, keeping data, and doing a simple test to show evidence. Students may need help with the data sheet at this age.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are experiencing phenomena firsthand by doing the investigation of observing the cups being “warmed” by the sun, and keeping data. The lesson has students discussing how warm water could affect the plants and animals in their local area. The website and lessons were created for use where Alaska Native languages are spoken, so it suggests that an elder teach the vocabulary using the local language.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Students are pre-assessed by asking them their understanding of heat and considering what is meant by the word “hot”. The teacher could review those responses after the investigation to show evidence of enhanced student understanding. A data sheet is kept by each student. Students could write and draw illustrations about the investigation on the back of the sheet. This information could be used for assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is a multi media section for the lessons on this site. There is one for the Changing Climate and Weather lessons at http://k12reach.org/grade_k-3index.php.