The goal of this activity is for students to recognize heat as an energy transfer and to devise methods to account for heat in energy transfer/transformation events. This activity is an open inquiry investigation.

In the Preliminary Observations, students observe an energy transformation event in which thermal energy is either added to the system or released to the environment. Students discuss what role thermal energy played in the demonstration and explore how to account for thermal energy in an energy model.

Students then choose, plan, and execute their own investigation into thermal energy and energy conservation. They can choose to investigate thermal energy in one of the demonstrations outlined in the Preliminary Observations or one of their own creation.


  • Design and perform an investigation.
  • Draw a conclusion from evidence.
  • Explore how to account for thermal energy transfer during energy transformation events.