A Story About Insulators and Conductors, suitable for Grade 6, Cluster 3:Electricity (6-3-07) or Grade 7, Cluster 2: Particle Theory of Matter (7-2-08, 7-209) Paul was very excited; at any moment his grandfather would be arriving to pick him up. They were to go camping at a nearby lake. They would spend the day fishing, and then in the evening Paul would sit with his grandfather and listen to all the interesting stories that he had.
Earlier in the day, Paul had packed up all of his camping supplies. He had his fishing rod, sleeping bag, and some hot dogs for supper (just in case they didn’t catch any fish). Paul also made sure to pack a wire coat hanger so that they could cook the hot dogs.
Paul’s grandfather arrived and off they went to the lake. They fished and fished for hours, but unfortunately it was an unsuccessful day. The fish just weren’t biting.
Hungry and tired from an entire day spent on the lake; Paul and his grandfather went back to their campsite. Paul’s grandfather built a hot fire and then went to get some water. Paul figured that he would get supper started while his grandfather was gone.
Paul waited until the fire had burned down a bit before he started cooking the hot dogs. He unwound the wire coat hanger that he had brought with him and shoved a hot dog on the end of it. Paul sat down on a lawn chair and held the coat hanger over the fire.
“Aaaah, its so nice to sit here and relax,” thought Paul to himself. “These hot dogs are going to taste so good.”
Paul closed his eyes and began dreaming about catching a giant fish. He could feel the fishing rod in his hands and the fish that he was fighting. His hands were getting sweaty. The fishing rod was getting harder to hold, it was so…warm?!!
“OUCH!” Paul woke up with a start and dropped the coat hanger on the ground. His hand had a huge, red, burning welt on it. It wasn’t the fishing rod that had been hard to hold, but the coat hanger that he was using to cook the hot dogs.
“How on earth did the hanger get hot enough to burn me when the end I was holding wasn’t even close to the fire?” thought Paul to himself. Paul looked down at the hot dogs. They were only half cooked and the wire coat hanger was way too hot to hold. How was he going to cook the hot dogs without burning himself?
Paul’s grandfather had walked into the campsite just as Paul dropped the wire coat hanger. He noticed Paul’s dilemma immediately.
“Here, let me help you.” Paul’s grandfather pulled out his pocketknife and went into the bushes. He cut a thin branch that was roughly the same size and length as the coat hanger and put a fresh hot dog on the end of it.
“Try cooking the hot dog with this,” said Paul’s grandfather.
“But won’t the end of it get hot and burn me?” asked Paul.
“No. The wire hanger is made of metal. Objects made out of metal conduct heat. That is why one end of wire can be over the fire and transfer the heat to the other end where your hand is holding the wire. The wooden stick is an insulator and it does not transfer the heat from one end of the stick to the other very well. Your hand will not get burnt,” Paul’s grandfather replied.
Paul was still a little nervous about getting burnt, but he went ahead and tried cooking the hot dog for a second time. He carefully put the end of the stick over the fire and carefully rotated the stick so that the hot dog could cook evenly. After several minutes of cooking Paul’s hands still didn’t feel warm. The hot dogs had turned a nice golden brown color and were ready to be eaten.
Paul gave his grandfather the hot dog and grabbed another one to cook for himself. The stick still did not burn his hands even after cooking two hot dogs in a row.
“Wow Grandpa, you were right! My hands aren’t warm at all. I think I might even be able to cook some marshmallows for dessert!”