Temperature (page 2)
Temperature is a measurement of the warmth or coldness of air, water, or any substance or item. It is usually measured with some type of standard value, such as degrees Fahrenheit or degrees Celsius. What is the meaning, notion, or concept of temperature to a young child? Perhaps one of the first temperature-related words a toddler learns is “Hot!” When motivated by safety issues, careful caregivers are quick to help toddlers learn what is hot and why it is important not to touch or eat something too hot. Other contexts of temperature for young children include climate, cooking, a weather person, an indoor thermostat or thermometer, an outdoor thermometer, or a people thermometer.
As children experience temperature daily, they begin to have a sense of what happens to the temperature at different times of the day, season, or year. They may notice that in the morning when they go to school, they wear a sweater or a jacket. Then, during outside play later in the day, they are too warm to wear outer garments. Then at night they feel the temperature drop again. Observing these temperature changes helps children to suggest theories about what happens to the temperature across their day.
Likewise, as children experience changes in seasons, they begin to generalize what happens across the seasons. What types of activities or events happen in the summer and what activities or events happen in the winter? Children can begin to associate these events with climate and temperature. Broad ideas of temperature measurement can be made in these contexts. When it is in the 80s (degrees Fahrenheit), we want to go swimming and drink cold lemonade. When it is in the teens (degrees Fahrenheit), we want to bundle up, go ice skating, and drink hot chocolate. These broad generalizations help children to develop concepts for units of measure of temperature.
Children begin to understand that it snows when it is very cold outside, below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. Similarly, they want to wear shorts when it is very hot outside, say, in the 80s (degrees Fahrenheit) or in the 30s (degrees Celsius). Children also begin to notice what happens in their environment during different temperatures. A cold snap will cause leaves to change color; very hot temperatures without rain cause plants to wilt; an early frost will destroy some plants and vegetables; or certain temperatures will cause hail or sleet to precipitate from the sky.
As children are engaged in the many Concept Explorations of Part II, being aware of using temperature as a measurement is important. Recording the temperatures of the air indoors and out or taking soil or water temperatures can help children make generalizations about the effects of temperature on their experiments. Children can pose questions relative to measurement. For example, when exploring wind, they may ask, “Is it colder when it is windy?” or “Why is my breath cooler when I purse my lips and blow out air and warmer when I open my mouth and ‘huff’ out the air?” Similarly, when children are exploring growing seeds, they may wonder about how the soil temperature may affect growth or what would happen if you watered the plants with ice water instead of tepid water. Such inquiries and curiosities should be encouraged and modeled.
On a daily basis, children can be involved in finding out and recording the daily temperature and the weather conditions. In recording the daily temperature, whether you use degrees Fahrenheit or degrees Celsius does not matter (although Figure offers an easy way to convert between them and Figure lists some comparisons). What you are accomplishing is conceptual understanding of what that particular standard value means to a child on a personal level. What did the children wear to school today and what did the air feel like? These are the important connections that children can make between temperature and what it means to them. Comparing the temperature from day to day, from week to week, and then from month to month helps children see the trends and changes in temperature across time. Such observations can help children develop theories about what happens to the temperature across the school year. In a similar fashion, keeping track of the weather can support their developing ideas about what weather accompanies certain temperatures. Understanding about seasons and changes across time are important observations and perceptions for young children to experience.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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