Unit planner: Year 3 Science school

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Students develop understanding of the concept of heat in a physical sciences context, specifically heat energy, its production and movement from one object to another. Students develop understanding of how heat can be produced in many ways and can move from one object to another in the context of creating a solar oven. Students will pose questions, actively investigate and gather evidence to support their claims. Students explore the idea that science knowledge of heat energy may contribute to sustainable practices. They will develop an understanding that much of the worlds population lacks access to modern energy, relying on wood, coal, charcoal or dung for cooking and heating. They will investigate how the use of solar ovens is contributing to sustainable practices and bringing long term hope to many in developing nations.




Critical and Creative Thinking
Ethical Behaviour

Personal and Social Competence

Intercultural Understanding



Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures





Biological Sciences 

Chemical Sciences  Earth and Space Sciences 

Physical Sciences

Nature and development of science

Science involves making predictions and describing patterns and relationships (ACSHE050)

Use and influence of science

Science knowledge helps people to understand the effect of their actions (ACSHE051)

Questioning and predicting

With guidance, identify questions in familiar contexts that can be investigated scientifically and predict what might happen based on prior knowledge (ACSIS053)

Planning and conducting

Suggest ways to plan and conduct investigations to find answers to questions (ACSIS054)

Safely use appropriate materials, tools or equipment to make and record observations, using formal measurements and digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS055)

Processing and analysing data and information

Use a range of methods including tables and simple column graphs to represent data and to identify patterns and trends (ACSIS057)

Compare results with predictions, suggesting possible reasons for findings (ACSIS215)


Reflect on the investigation, including whether a test was fair or not (ACSIS058)


Represent and communicate ideas and findings in a variety of ways such as diagrams, physical representations and simple reports (ACSIS060)

Prior Knowledge (Year 1 )

Everyday materials can be physically changed in a variety of ways (ACSSU018)

At this year level

Heat can be produced in many ways and can move from one object to another (ACSSU049)

Moving towards (Year 5)

Solids, liquids and gases have different observable properties and behave in different ways (ACSSU077)

Links to capabilities


This unit provides opportunities for students to develop their literacy skills as they:

  • Engage in discussions and record their thinking, ideas and questions in journals

  • Draw labelled diagrams

  • Read text and procedures

  • Present their information in an appropriate visual or written format


This unit provides opportunities for students to develop their mathematical understanding as they:

  • Measure time and temperature using a variety of equipment, with precision and accuracy

  • Draw and interpret graphs

  • Record and present data

Information and Communication Technologies

This unit provides opportunities for students to develop their ICT skills as they:

  • Use computers for research purposes

  • Use interactive technology to view, record and analyse information

Critical and Creative Thinking

This unit provides opportunities for students to develop their critical and creative thinking skills as they:

  • Pose and respond to questions for investigation

  • make predictions

  • Plan investigations

  • solve problems through investigation

  • make evidence-based claims

Ethical Behaviour

This unit provides opportunities for students to develop their ethical behaviour as they:

Personal and Social Competence

This unit provides opportunities for students to develop their personal and social competence as they:

  • Work together in teams to complete tasks

  • Participate in discussions



Through an investigation of energy use and the needs of the world’s population to use heat energy for cooking, students start to better understand that actions to improve sustainability are both individual and collective endeavours that must be shared across local and global communities.


Australian Curriculum: Mathematics at Year 3

• Fluency: using familiar metric units.

• Problem Solving: planning methods of data collection and representation.

• Reasoning: interpreting the results of data collections and data displays.

Australian Curriculum: English at Year 3

• Listen to and contribute to conversations and discussions to share information and ideas and negotiate in collaborative situations



Unit Outcomes

By the end of Year 3, students use their understanding of the movement of the Earth, materials and the behaviour of heat to suggest explanations for everyday observations They describe features common to living things. They describe how they can use science investigations to respond to questions and identify where people use science knowledge in their lives.

Students use their experiences to pose questions and predict the outcomes of investigations. They make formal measurements and follow procedures to collect and present observations in a way that helps to answer the investigation questions. Students suggest possible reasons for their findings. They describe how safety and fairness were considered in their investigations. They use diagrams and other representations to communicate their ideas.



Lesson Activities/ Teaching Strategies

Opportunities for Assessment


What is heat?

(How can we engage students and elicit their prior knowledge?)

This is one of the big ideas in Science and it is important to assess student’s prior knowledge and misconceptions about heat.

Teacher Demo: Whoosh Bottle

Have the demo set up before students enter the class. Write the investigation question for the lesson on the board.

  • What did you see, hear, feel?

  • Do you think the bottle is hot? Why?

  • Could you feel heat from where you were?

  • Where did the heat come from?

  • Why is heat important?

  • How do we use heat?

As students use new words in their answers, record these words and place them on a word wall.
Brainstorm: What is heat?

Students discuss in groups what they think heat is and place their ideas on post-its. These post-its are placed under the ‘T’ on the TWLH Chart.

Students generate questions about what they would like to know about heat and put these ideas on post-its under the ‘W’ on the TWLH Chart.

Share some of the ideas and questions with the class.

(Alternate is to do a Commit and Toss: students ideas about what heat is are written on paper scrunched into a ball and tossed to another student. After a few tosses each student reads the ideas they have on the piece of paper they caught.)

Read: The Mitten by Jan Brett

  • How many of you know this story?

  • By looking at the cover, what do you think it is about?

  • Why do you think the animals climbed into the mitten?

Consider the question Are the gloves hot? Is this why our hands stay warm? Place the signs ‘agree’, ‘disagree’ and ‘unsure’ at separate parts of the room and ask students to stand in front of their answer. Ask students to discuss with other students in front of the sign why they chose that answer.

Students complete a Claim/Evidence Chart in their Journals for the question: Are the gloves hot? Is this why our hands stay warm?
How could we find out if a mitten is a SOURCE of heat?

Diagnostic Assessment
Responses to questions/Class

Ideas on the TWLH Chart
Science Journal entries


How is heat produced?

(What hands-on shared experiences of the concepts are appropriate?)

Class Pictograph

Students gather pictures of things that produce heat in their home. These are placed on a class pictograph.

Discuss how they are different/the same as each other.

How is the heat being generated?

Friction e.g. rubbing your hands together

Motion e.g.

Electricity e.g. clothes dryer

Burning fuel e.g. cooking with gas/ Whoosh Bottle

Sun e.g. solar panels

Students record these heat sources and examples in their science journals.

Does the mitten fit here? Does a mitten produce heat?

Students should revisit their ideas on heat in their journals.

Ice Race Experiment

Give each group a Ziploc bag with an ice cube in it.

Students race to use whatever method they can to melt the ice cube.

Students record their process in their journals

  • What method(s) they used.

  • What sources of heat they used

  • What they did and how successful it was

  • What they would change next time.

As a class:

Which method worked the best? Why do you think this was the case?

Formative Assessment

Ice Race Experiment

The student will:

  • Carry out an experiment to determine how quickly they can melt an ice cube

  • Make predictions

  • Record results and observations

  • Evaluate their method and suggest improvements


How does heat (or lack of) change everyday situations?

(What hands-on shared experiences of the concepts are appropriate?)

Read ‘It’s much too hot’ by Bob Graham

What did heat do in these situations?

Try some of the activities in the book with the class:

1. Outline a puddle in chalk and after about 10 minutes, make another outline to see how much has evaporated.

2. Place a mixture of water and salt in a saucer and leave in the sun.

What is left when the water evaporates?

3. Time how long it takes for a block of ice to melt

Further investigations into the changes heat makes

Cooking an egg

  • What changes did heat make?

State changes; melting a choc bar

  • If you hold a chocolate bar in your hand for a while what happens?

  • Can you change it back?

Dissolving sugar in water

  • Does it dissolve faster in hot or cold water?

Formative Assessment

Following procedures

Making predictions

Recording observations


Can we measure heat?
(What hands-on shared experiences of the concepts are appropriate?)

Card Sort

Give each group cards with the words freezing, cold, warm, hot and boiling

Ask students to sort them on a vertical scale on a thermometer template

Students can paste the words onto the template and display them on the classroom wall.

Explain that these words describe the temperature of a place or object.

Measuring temperature: Discovery and Practice

Show students a display thermometer

  • What do the numbers mean?

  • What are the markings for? What is the scale?

  • What positions/numbers mean freezing, cold, warm, hot and boiling?

Give students real thermometers and let them investigate them for awhile.

Give students instructions on how to use the thermometers

Correct any problems before the investigation

Measuring temperature: Investigation

Each group is given three cups of water: one hot (no hotter than 40C), warm and cold

Each group member use their hands to feel and record a description of the temperature of the water

The group now must make predictions as to what temperature each cup will be measured by the thermometer. Record predictions

The group now uses the thermometer to measure the temperature of each cup of water. Ask students to start with the coldest cup first.

Record their data in a table and mark the temperatures on a thermometer diagram pasted into their books.

  • Why do we use a thermometer to measure temperatures?

  • Why did we measure the coldest cup first?

  • Were your predictions supported by the data collected?

  • How much hotter is the hottest cup than the coldest cup?

Formative Assessment of SIS

Measuring Temperature Experiment

The student will:

  • Carry out an experiment to determine the temperature of water

  • Make careful measurements

  • Make predictions

  • Record data and observations

  • Compare observations with predictions

  • Perform simple calculations

  • Reflect on the usefulness of thermometers


Can heat move?
(What are the current scientific explanations? How best can students represent their understanding?)

Show picture of chocolate being held and melting

  • Is heat moving in this picture?

  • What makes you think that heat is moving?

  • What is the source of heat in this picture?

Heat on the Move: Demo

To see if heat is moving we must look at what it does because we can’t see it.

Place small dots of wax equally spaced along a metal knitting needle.

Heat one end of the needle in a candle flame

Have the students time how long it takes for each wax dot to melt

Is heat moving?

What evidence do you have that the heat is moving from the source (the candle) to the wax?

Students record their claim and the evidence is their journals
This type of heat transfer is called CONDUCTION
Light bulb: Demo

Have students stand around an incandescent bulb (They must not touch the bulb!)

Can they feel the heat?

Is heat moving?

What evidence do you have that the heat is moving from the source (the bulb) to them?

Students record their claim and the evidence is their journals
This type of heat transfer is called RADIATION
Spiral: Demo

Hold a spiral made of paper over the bulb or the candle

What happens?

Is heat moving?

What evidence do you have that the heat is moving?

Students record their claim and the evidence is their journals
This type of heat transfer is called CONVECTION
Revisit the melting chocolate picture. What sort of heat transfer is this?
Draw a flow diagram of how you think heat moves from the candle to the wax.
It is important that students grasp the concept that heat Moves from hot areas to cold areas, hence, it is the flow of heat from warm areas to cold areas which we aim to slow down if we want to prevent something cooling down or warming up.
Go back to “The Mitten”. What does the mitten do? Does it add heat or stop heat from flowing from a hot area (your hand) to a cold area?

Formative Assessment of SIS and CCT

  • Present a clear and concise claims using evidence to justify your claim


How is heat transferred from one object to another?
(What are the current scientific explanations? How best can students represent their understanding?)

Student Investigation: Does Heat travel through some substances better than others?

Ask the children how they might prevent a cold thing from warming up or a hot thing from cooling down. ( A cold can of Coke on a hot day, or a hand on a cold day )

See if they can suggest a way of investigating this. Ask what they could use as a "test object" and how they

would test to see whether something is staying cold or not.

Help the children to plan an investigation to see what materials will keep an ice cube frozen for the longest time.

Discuss the need to make this a fair test and ask the children how they can make the investigation fair.

• Ice cubes must be same size and shape.

• Attempt to start all groups at the same time.

• Groups should only use one layer of insulating material.

• Groups should briefly check ice cube at regular intervals

In between observations, children produce drawings of what they did and describe procedure.

Compare the results of each group, discuss the class findings and conclude the best material.

A thermal CONDUCTOR is the opposite of a thermal INSULATOR. Whereas an insulator does not allow heat to pass through it, a conductor will readily do this.
Set up the following demonstration. Place a range of different spoons in a jug of hot water. After ten minutes or so invite groups of children to come and feel how hot the handles have become.

Ask the students to write a conclusion in their journals.



Which type of material conducted heat the best? (Which spoon got hot the fastest?)


How do you know that this material conducted heat the best?


  • Was this a fair test?

  • What type of spoon would you choose to stir a large pot of hot spaghetti? Why?

Items, which have become warm or hot, have been made from good conductors. The items, which have remained at room temp or only slightly warmer, are made from good insulators.
Make a chart of materials that are: Good Insulators/ Good Conductors

Student Investigation: Do some colours absorb heat better than others?

Students follow a procedure to test which colours absorb heat more than others.

See absorbing colours investigation planner

Formative (Summative?) Assessment of SIS and SU

Students complete an investigation in which they:

  • Work in teams to plan an investigation

  • Measure, observe, record data

  • Represent investigation results

  • Make claims based on the evidence collected

  • Apply knowledge to a new situation



How can we use heat from the sun?
(What student investigations or applications of knowledge would extend their understanding? What do you want students to be able to do? How will they demonstrate this?)

Construction of Pizza Box Solar Ovens

Students follow a basic template to build a solar oven

  • Based on what they have learned they choose what colour to paint the inside base of the box

  • Based on what they have learned about conductors and insulators they choose material to insulate the box

  • Draw a labelled diagram of your solar oven

Test the oven outside on a sunny day

Temperatures can be taken every five minutes and recorded in a data table and displayed in a column graph
What is the heat source? How is heat being transferred?

Can you improve the efficiency of your oven?

What did you do? Did your oven work better? Why?
Cooking with the oven

On a sunny day cook with the oven. (use oven gloves and wear sunglasses and hats)

Foods that could be cooked in the oven include popcorn, mini pizzas, s’mores
Launch a Solar Hot Air Balloon: Class Activity (can be done while the food is cooking!)

The balloon will visually demonstrate the power of solar energy.

  1. Fill the balloon with air. Tie the balloon.

  2. Add a long cord students have marked off in ten centimeter increments so that elevation can be measured.

  3. As the black balloon is allowed to sit in the sun, it will heat up and begin to rise.

  4. Start timing as soon as the balloon begins to rise. Record the elevation every minute. Use Solar Balloon handout to record the results.

  5. Each student now constructs a simple line graph of elevation vs time

Discussion questions: Why did the balloon begin to rise? Did it rise at a constant rate?

Summative Assessment of SU

Students complete an investigation in which they:

  • Work in teams to construct a simple solar oven
  • Measure, observe, record data

  • Present investigation results in a simple graph or table

  • Evaluate their method and suggest improvements

Summative Assessment of SIS

  • Measure, observe, record data

  • Construct a simple graph


How can we use solar energy to build a more sustainable future?

(What do you want the student to know? What representations will provide evidence that they understand the concepts?)

Teacher background information

In our modern day environment, flipping a switch to abundant energy supplies is usually an unconscious act with little awareness of the critical issues that lie behind it.  But many of the world’s inhabitants do not have a switch to flip. About half the inhabitants of the Earth cook over wood fires — 45% of the world’s wood is used as fuel.  But there’s not enough to go round:  some 2.4 billion people are now facing shortages of fuel wood. Meanwhile deforestation helps cause climate change, floods and soil erosion, increasing environmental degradation, and increasing poverty and hunger. Wood smoke from cooking fires is a major source of air-pollution and an outright killer:  it causes respiratory infections which kill at least 5 million young children each year. At the same time millions of people do not have access to clean drinking water, causing widespread disease, especially among children:  the WHO says diseases spread through contaminated water cause 80% of the world’s illnesses.

There’s a simple answer to help ease some of these problems, that can save millions of trees, provide clean, safe drinking water, doesn’t pollute, and that costs very little –a solar cooker.






As a class investigate how and why solar ovens are being used to better peoples lives in such places as Kenya, Rwanda and Afghanistan.

Each student can contribute ideas, thoughts, research, pictures or questions to a SOLAR SAVES project board in the classroom.

Summative Assessment of SHE, SU and Lit

  • Science journal entries

  • Class discussions

  • Science Project board contributions


Source: “Understanding by Design” Professional Development Workbook Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins ISBN 1 74101 694 0

Kate Dilger CESA 2011

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