Energy Learning Community

How Does Energy Move? Why Do Animals Care?

State Standards:

MA Physics standards:

MA Biology standards:

Lesson Question:

How does heat move thorough the universe? Why do animals care?


Energy is a difficult concept to explain, yet it's an idea that has been focused on in all of your past science classes. You probably remember that Energy cannot be created or destroyed, that it can be transferred, that it is the ability to do work or make change, and maybe some other things you've memorized over the years. But aren't you still wondering some things like, "How does energy move when it's transferred?" Heat, or thermal energy can be transferred from one object or material to another in different ways. We'll review the three ways heat can be transferred but more importantly, start to think about what this means for animals in ecosystems.


Over the course of the next few days, you'll be learning about how heat moves and the implications that has for organisms' choice of body plan, habitat and niche. You'll learn about heat transfer through videos, raps and discussions with your classmates. YOU will design and conduct your own investigation to determine how environmental conditions affect the Pipe Lizard's ability to heat up and cool down. You'll post responses via text message and the web. Let's go!

Part I

  1. Watch and listen to this rap/video about the differences between conduction, convection and radiation, the three types of heat transfer. Take notes on the differences between the three types of energy transfer.

  2. Next, in your usual lab group, move through the heat transfer demonstration stations. Discuss and determine the type of heat transfer demonstrated at each station.

    Station A: SPOON IT UP!
    Keep both spoons in the pot of hot water. Lightly touch the wooden spoon with your hand. Now, lightly touch the metal spoon. What difference did you feel? . Explain why the temperatures of the spoons are different in the same hot water: Which type of heat transfer does this demonstrate?

    Station B: DRIP . . .DROP
    Place one drop of red food dye into the “Hot” beaker and one drop of red food dye into the “Cold” beaker. Observe the patterns of the dye in the two beakers for 2 minutes. Explain the different appearances of the dye and identify the type of heat transfer demonstrated.

    Station C: MERRY GO-ROUND
    Observe the night light with the paper shade. If shade is not turning, lightly push it in a clockwise direction until shade begins to turn without your help. Why is the shade turning? Which type of heat transfer does this demonstrate?

    Station D: CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW???
    In pairs, take turns speaking to each other through the hand-held radios with one person standing in the hall with the door closed blocking your direct view of each other. How can the signal pass through the solid door? What type of energy transfer does this represent?

  3. Text your "Ticket to Leave" via

Part II:

  1. As a class, let's watch this video. Take note of new vocabulary. How does this compare to what you already know about heat transfer?

  2. Text in your answers to the video quiz. We'll discuss the results.
    Launch Poll Everywhere Window

Part III:

  1. Build a lizard from a coke or water bottle. You want your lizard to be able to warm up. What will it look like? What will you cover it with? Does the surface type make a difference?
  2. Determine a question you’d like to answer about the heating rate of your lizard, for example, “Does the angle of light affect the heating rate?” You may use any of the materials provided to simulate “environmental conditions” a lizard may be exposed to.
  3. Develop a testable hypothesis that may answer your question.
  4. Design a set up, using the materials available in the room that will allow you to test your hypothesis.
  5. Investigate
  6. Record your temperature data on a Google spreadsheet and take a picture of your set-up. These should be included with your lab write up.
  7. Discuss your findings with your table mates. Did your findings support your hypothesis? Why or why not? Were you surprised by your data? How? Why?
  8. Share lab report with me (if using Google drive) or upload to the class Moodle page under this assignment. (HW)


You have reviewed the three methods of heat transfer. You've texted info to indicate you can distinguish between them and identify examples of each type of transfer. You've learned new terms for cold blooded and warm blooded animals, ectotherms and endotherms. You've considered how heat may be transferred to your "lizard" to heat it up. You've designed an investigation to model environmental conditions that may affect the rate at which a lizard heats up, like wind, the substrate the organism sits on, whether it is wet or dry. Through discussions with your classmates, you may have determined new questions you'd like to investigate. You've complied all of your investigation information in a lab report and shared it with me or submitted it via Moodle. Can you think of other examples in nature where form may follow function, or behavior may have evolved due to energy considerations or heat transfer?


Part I- discussion & questioning while students work at stations, Pollanywhere "Ticket to Leave" questions (formative)
Part II "quiz" questions (formative)
Part III- lab report (summative)

Assessment Rubric
Assessment rubric thumbnail


Conduction, convection, and radiation rap video-
Thermoregulation video-
Google drive
part I
Station A:hot water, large beaker, two spoons of different materials; Station B: hot water beakers and cold water beakers, liquid food coloring; Station C: lamp/nightlight that spins via convection; Station D: walkie-talkie radios or two cell phones
part II
LCD projector or smart board, student phones or computer
part III
heat lamps, ring stands, different substrates (sand and rock of different colors), fans, thermometers, infrared temperature guns, computers or ipads, student smart phones