Color and Heat Absorption

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Author: Brooke Greco
See in slideshow:
Dog Days of Summer Science

Physical Science 


3rd - 5th grade

Difficulty of Project



$2 per student

Safety Issues


Material Availability

Easy; materials can be easily obtained

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project (Including analysis and write-up)

6 hours


What is the project about?

The heat experiment is an activity in which students can test how different colors absorb heat differently.

What are the goals?

The goal of the heat experiment is for students to compare how much heat is absorbed by black paper versus white paper. Students should learn that dark colors absorb more light and heat than lighter colors. Students can even apply this concept to real world situations, such as what color shirt to wear on a hot summer day. 

Materials and Equipment / Ingredients

What materials are required?
  • Glass jar or cup (2 of the same type per student)
  • Water
  • Thermometer
  • Rubber band (2 per student)
  • Construction paper (1 sheet of white and 1 sheet of black per student)
  • Cling wrap
Where can the materials be found?

Most materials can be found at an art store or all-purpose store (such as Target)



Research Questions

  • What is light absorbtion?
  • What is light reflection?
  • What colors are known to absorb heat more than others?

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

For the parent/student, what terms and concepts are required to better understand the project?
The concepts of absorption and reflection are essential.

Experimental Procedure

  1. First  wrap the black construction paper around one of the glasses/jars and secure it in place with a rubber band.
  2. Next wrap the white construction paper around the second glass/jar and secure it in the same fashion with a rubber band. Fill both glasses approximately 3/4 full of water (they should have the same amount of water).
  3. Cover each jar with cling wrap and secure with a rubber band if necessary.
  4. Put both glasses in direct sunlight for 5 hours.
  5. Remove the glasses from sunlight and measure the temperature of the water in each glass.

Bibliography / References to related books / Links to related sites on the web

Charles R. Barman, John J. Rusch, Physical Science "Heat Absorption", Pages 260-261, Silver Burdett Company,1979.
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