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CLEAN, Lawrence Hall of Science and Science Friday


3rd, 4th, 5th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Experiment
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus


Solar Convection

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  • In this experiment, students will observe the process of convection using colored water of different temperatures.
  • Students will learn how hot and cold particles have different densities, what happens as hot and cold particles mingle with each other, and how this process is related to the Sun.
Teaching Tips


  • The directions are written in such a way that students can easily perform this experiment at home with an adult or in the classroom with little guidance.
  • This experiment is a hands-on and engaging way to learn about convection in general, but also how it applies to the Sun.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The link to download the DIY Sun Science app is broken, but the app can be found in the app store on your device.
  • Some students may need the terms dense, float, sink, transfer, core, plasma, solar, granules, and others defined prior to performing the experiment.
  • Students should understand that the Sun is a star made of hot plasma.


  • Students can keep a scientist journal and use it to draw pictures and record observations about what happens to the water.
  • In classrooms where there is not 1:1 technology, the teacher can record a video for the students to look back on after they perform the experiment, or the procedures can be printed out.
  • Older students can discuss how convection works to heat the atmosphere and the effect that greenhouse gases have on that process.
  • To take this experiment outside, consider using the energy from the sun to warm up the red water and keep the blue water in the shade.
Scientist Notes
This resource from UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science is a simple activity to demonstrate convection to students. The activity has a limited amount of materials required and should present a clear visual of convective currents to students. The resource presents a concise description of the mechanics of convection and then links this to the Sun and solar granules. This resource could also serve as a great introduction to the role of convection in ocean currents. The only small issue with this resource is that the link is broken to the DIY Sun Science App, but it can easily be found in the app store. This activity is fun, informative and is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Language (K-12)
      • L.4.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).
      • L.5.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 5 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 5-ESS2-1. Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
    • PS3: Energy
      • 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
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