Color and Heat Absorption

3.4 based on 83 ratings

Updated on Jun 03, 2013


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.

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)

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

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

  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.

Charles R. Barman, John J. Rusch, Physical Science "Heat Absorption", Pages 260-261, Silver Burdett Company,1979.
Brooke Greco graduated from UC Berkeley, and has volunteered her time with several after-school learning programs over the last several years. Brooke served as a Citizen's Schools Teacher in Redwood City, CA, where she taught a course on the rain forest. In addition, Brooke served as a teacher at the New Era Galapagos Foundation and taught English and conservation practices to local youth of the Galapagos Islands.