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Any activity on temperature should open up the eyes of third grade children to not only use a thermometer and learn to record the results, but also how to examine what these results mean. Comparing the temperature of one item against another should make them think about which is the hottest one. There is also a great opportunity with these activities to cross-over subjects by incorporating math, geography, and environmental issues.
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Learning to Use a Thermometer & Record Results
The best activity to start looking at temperatures in the third grade involves how to use a thermometer and how to record the results of what they find.
Start out by measuring the temperature in the classroom and getting the students to record their findings on a thermometer chart. These are simple enough to draw up by hand and should include a simple, enlarged diagram of a thermometer with a bar measuring 1/2 inch thick, with appropriate °F on one side and ° C on the other, using your practical thermometer as a guide to the increments used. The students can then color in their charts up to the temperature they recorded.
With these basics covered, you can then move the class outside to measure the temperature and again get them to record the results.
You can now get a little more scientific by getting your third graders to participate in measuring the temperature of everyday items they are familiar with. A cup of ice is a great way to introduce "cold" and "freezing" temperatures. You can now get them to measure the temperature of a warmed apple pie, cool yoghurt, or a beaker of warm milk, for comparison.
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The Big Wide World
With a large world map on the wall, make sure the equator line is highly visible. Explain to the class about countries close to the equator having higher average temperatures than those furthest from it, such as Antarctica. You could also include some geographical facts about Antarctica, as it is so different then their natural environment. Point to countries either above or below the line, calling out the name of the country, and ask them to shout out if it's a cooler or hotter place. You can then get more scientific and tell them some average temperatures of these countries, again getting them to record them on their thermometer charts and writing down the temperature in number form.
Promote further comprehension of these facts by asking questions like:
- Where would you rather live, in X or Y?
- Where would a polar bear rather live?
- Which country is hotter, X or Y?
- What is the difference in temperature between X and Y?
This will get the children to not only think of temperatures in technical terms, but also provides them with more of an understanding of what the temperatures mean.
Seeing how the US is such a diverse country in terms of environment, you could give them facts about temperatures in different states compared to where they live. They could even compare temperatures at different times of the year. Again, follow this up with questions regarding which is hottest/coldest and what is the difference in temperature.
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By incorporating weather activities with activities on temperature, third grade students will become more aware of what kind of temperatures match up to which kind of weather. A lot of understanding of temperature and weather will now have been established, but you could remind your students that when it snows and is icy, it is as cold as the cup of ice they measured before, etc.
Weather lessons and meteorology facts are huge subjects in themselves, but you could simplify it, or use this activity as an introduction to an upcoming weather lesson. Draw up a chart with two columns, headed "warm" and "cool", and get the students to tell you which kind of weather belongs in which column. (You could use symbols for this to make it more visual). After completing the chart as a class, split the class into "warm" and "cool" groups and ask them to make some weather crafts relating to their group. This could be a simple mobile or a group collage. You could also try splitting the class into 4 groups reflective of the seasons, which would make for a superb collage that could then be put together as one giant wall collage for the classroom.
Temperature activities for third graders shouldn't only be technical and scientific exercises, they should open up the children's eyes to the world around them and get them to appreciate how temperatures affect their daily lives.