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Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education


4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans, 60 minutes
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Experiments
  • Activity - Outdoors
  • Worksheets
  • Assessments

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Midwest, Wisconsin



Taking Temperatures

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  • This inquiry-based lesson serves as an introduction to thermometers, the connection between temperature and molecule movement, thermal energy, the greenhouse effect, and climate change.
  • Students will learn how to measure temperature with a thermometer, how the laws of energy make a thermometer work, what factors contribute to warmer temperatures, and how human carbon emissions are contributing to climate change.
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson encourages students to think critically about the environment.
  • There are many topics this lesson seamlessly introduces students to, such as the Celsius scale of temperature, the scientific process, and the greenhouse effect.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The outdoor activity needs to occur on a sunny day.
  • It may benefit students to know what molecules are and understand the laws of energy.
  • The materials section references the DEN kit, which Wisconsin educators can borrow from UWSP. However, the materials for this particular lesson can easily be found online or even around the school, so this kit isn't necessary.


  • Using the final student question about measures people can take to reduce climate change as a starting point, teachers can extend learning with a lesson about alternative energy sources.
  • This lesson can be used to create free-response questions about climate change and its connection to extreme weather events.
  • This would be a great introductory lesson for units about climate change, greenhouse gases, carbon footprint, ecosystems and the importance of biodiversity, and other related topics.
  • This lesson can enhance a classroom discussion on how climate change alters the polar ice caps and why this alteration is concerning.
Scientist Notes
This activity is all about temperature, what it is, and how to measure it. It is very hands-on and allows students to thoroughly understand what the temperature is. Students will also learn about the connection between carbon dioxide, the earth’s temperature, and climate change. The resource includes directions, resources, and worksheets needed for the activity. This lab can easily be scaled up or down for different grade levels as it is similar to labs done in introductory college meteorology classes. The information presented in this lesson is accurate and this resource is recommended for teaching.

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

  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 4-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and that their uses affect the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
    • PS3: Energy
      • 4-PS3-1. Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object.
      • 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
      • MS-PS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
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