Comparing Surface Temperatures


  • Heat lamp
  • Stand
  • Clamp
  • Infrared Thermometer
  • 6 beakers each of sand, water, gravel (other items can be used, or more than 3 can be added)
  • Meter Stick
  • Handout with instructions, data collection, and questions (Google Doc)
  • Google Sheet for graphing (Google Drive)
  • Newsela Reading – Heat Islands & Questions (Google Doc)


Day 1:

Explore the campus on a sunny day and select both natural and manmade surfaces and record data. Enter data into spreadsheet – what patterns do you notice?

HW: Read newsela article and answer questions, discuss next class, how does this relate to our findings today?

Day 2:

Set up heat lamp experiment for a minimum of 25 minutes, make predictions, which surface will heat up the most? How hot will it get? What location (1-6)? Enter data and discuss results.

HW: Lab write up and discuss results next class

This was the first time I did this experiment, and seeing the results definitely had the ‘wow’ factor with my 6th graders, seeing the temps was actually surprising, esp for the rocks under the heat lamp. Many students thought the sand would be the hottest from their experience walking on hot sand at the beach in July/Aug. Also, the surface temp of the playground was surprising since it was a rubbery light colored composite and not dark colored asphalt. Prior to this activity, we took notes and discussed heat – radiation, convection, and conduction, and notes on sunlight and how it causes the seasons and different climates on Earth. Under the heat lamp, position 1 was analogous to being at the equator while position 6 was at the poles. The Google Sheets will automatically graph your results once the data is entered.

If you use this activity, would love to see your results!

Heights Lab – How tall is the average 7th grader?

Heights Lab (Public).jpg

This introductory lab is a fun way to analyze data and the students look forward to finding the results each year. Who will be taller, boys or girls? Will we be taller than last year’s class? You can really analyze the data in multiple ways, you can also add the concept of min, max, mode, and range in addition the mean, you can look for trends, and you can talk about sample size, etc…


  • Heights Lab Introduction and directions (Google Slides)
  • Data Collection (Google Sheets)
  • Heights Lab Template (Google Doc)
  • Construction paper taped to wall/column
  • Metric Tape Measures attached to wall or column over paper
  • Marker
  • Ruler



Real Time Earthquake Data Mapping Activity

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 10.53.35 PM
Image Source: USGS

Essential Questions:

  • Where do earthquakes occur?
  • How are earthquakes recorded and measured?
  • What is the relationship between earthquake location and magnitude?
  • How do earthquakes impact humans and the environment?


  • Internet Access & USGS Earthquake Data
    • this link is set to the following settings: 30 days, 2.5+ magnitude, terrain, and no plate boundaries
  • Google Sheets Template – one per table top map
    • Earthquake Data Mapping Activity (Public Template)
      • to edit this spreadsheet, make a copy for each map, then share editing rights with each group of students who will be working on that map
        • if you don’t use Google Drive, you can download the Google Sheet as an Excel spreadsheet
      • ex: Map A data is shared with 4 students from period 1, 4 students from period 2, 4 students from period 3, 4 students from period 4, and 4 students from period 5. When done, they will have 200 EQs plotted and color coded on the table top map.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 11.02.27 AM.png

  • Colored pencils or markers per map
  • 1 Table sized map per lab group (3-6 students) – printed and assembled
    • The map will remain on the table, as the next class comes in, they will add the data for their assigned region(s) to the same map as the class before them

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 2.26.55 PM


  1. Assemble one table map and materials per lab group.
  2. Show students how to use and navigate the USGS website, find EQ data, and how to record their data on the Google Spreadsheets.
  3. Assign each group a map and 1-2 regions of the world. They will collect 25 data points for each region. They can choose any EQs over a magnitude of 3.0 for their region(s).
  4. Once they have all of their data, they will plot the EQs onto the table map. The magnitude of the EQ is the color they will plot onto the map.
    1. ex. Magnitude of 7.5 will be a purple dot
  5. Students will analyze their data and look for patterns
    1. What regions of the world have EQs?
    2. What regions of the world had more EQs? Less?
    3. What regions of the world had lower magnitude EQs? Higher?
    4. Why are EQs located where they are?
    5. etc…
  6. After this activity, I introduced Plate Tectonics and we discussed the relationship between EQs and tectonic plates.