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Thermodynamics: What’s that?

Have you heard about the laws of thermodynamics? No? Don’t worry, most people haven’t either. Yet, the study of energy, a.k.a thermodynamics is a key subject in science.

The laws of thermodynamics, in general terms, explain that,

  • energy cannot be destroyed or created but rather transferred,
  • energy will flow from one area to another and will be constantly changing until systems reach equilibrium, and
  • heat will flow from an area of more to an area of less heat.

We want new generations to be proficient in these concepts or at least aware of these scientific ideas because they have implications for everyday life. You can help your children be proficient in this topic, from home! Really! Here is an activity for the third law of thermodynamics. Enjoy! 

Gather materials

Go around the house and get a measuring spoon, tap water, iced water,  boiling water, a bowl, an empty cup and a thermometer.

Start experimenting

The steps of the experiment are simple. Mix a certain number of spoons of water at one temperature with a certain number of water spoons at a different temperature. You have three temperature options, it doesn’t matter which two you choose. Sounds complicated? Look at the table I created for you.

Experiment

This is the fun step- doing the experiment. Since this experiment recommends using boiling water, I suggest supervising children. Watch this short video for hints on how to do it.

Experiment demonstration (Don’t forget to record as you go.)

Analyze Data

Anyone can do experiments, but the critical thinking is what helps us move forward as a society. If your experimental error is somewhat low, your child should be able to notice two patterns:

  • The final temperature value is in between the two initial temperatures, and
  • The final temperature is closer to the temperature that had the most amount of spoons (mass.)

Are your results similar to the expected outcome? If yes, you have some experimental evidence to support the claim that “energy will flow from one area to another and will be constantly changing until systems reach equilibrium”. 

Are your results different? If yes, talk with your children about how the experiment could be improved to be a bit more precise. 

Do not forget that science is all about being inquisitive. Wonder away, the Chillax Science way and share with us your results! 

If you have questions about the experiment, please let us know in the comments section.

Published by Reizelie Barreto, PhD

Reizelie is a former homeschool parent and a trained science and Montessori teacher with a passion for curriculum development. She loves learning and teaching and on her spare time she helps families create home environments that enrich a child's learning. Reizelie has a PhD in science education and has been working in the field of education for the last 19 years. She loves helping teachers, schools, and homeschooling families improve their science curriculum in ways that are authentic to scientists' work.

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