Temperature Investigations

Kyle Gray
University of Northern Iowa
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Initial Publication Date: June 29, 2010


In this guided-inquiry lesson, students investigate three factors that control the temperature of a given location (surface albedo, surface composition, and sun angle).

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An inquiry-based earth science course for pre-service elemntary education majors. The course meets in two-hours blocks on Mondays and Wednesdays with a one-hour follow-up class on Fridays. The course contains minimal lecture with most days spent on guided or open-inquiry activities. Course topics include rocks & minerals, soils, earth history, weather, and astronomy.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be able to collect data and organize their results into graphs and tables.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity introduces the unit on weather and occurs approximately half way through the semester.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The temperature of an area is determined by a number of factors including: a) sun angle; b) surface albedo; c) surface composition.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students improve their ability to...
1) Use the scientific process to analyze a given problem
2) Design an experiment that controls for extraneous variables
3) Evaluate data and draw logical conclusions based on their data

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This guided inquiry activity uses a modified version of the Science Writing Heuristic to give undergraduate students an opportunity to refine their use of the scientific method and analytical skills while learning about the factors that influence a regions temperature. Student groups design three sets of experiments that investigate how temperature is affected by: 1) surface albedo; 2) sun angle; and 3) surface composition. For each investigation, the students must develop a research hypothesis, identify the corresponding variables, design and execute an experiment, analyze data, and communicate their ideas to their peers.

Determining whether students have met the goals

A worksheet contains open-ended questions designed to guide student thinking while providing a scaffold for their process skills. With each successive investigation the worksheet provides less guidance. Studnets must also orally present their data to their peers and individually write up their results in the form of a lab report.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Select References on the Science Writing Heuristic

Keys, C.W., et al. (1999) Using the Science Writing Heuristic as a Tool for Learning from Laboratory Investigations in Secondary Science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, v. 36, p. 1065–1084.

Rudd, J.A., et al. (2001) Using the Science Writing Heuristic to Move toward an Inquiry-Based Laboratory Curriculum: An Example from Physical Equilibrium. Journal of Chemical Education, v. 78, p. 1680-1686.

Burke, K.A. et al. (2006). Implementing the Science Writing Heuristic in the Chemistry Laboratory.
Journal of Chemical Education, v. 83, p. 1032-1038.