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CLEAN, Teach Engineering and CU-Boulder


K, 1st, 2nd


Science, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Experiments
  • Videos, 1 minute, 42 seconds, CC
  • Assessments
  • Worksheets
  • Activity - Outdoors

Regional Focus



PDF, Microsoft Word

Do Different Colors Absorb Heat Better?

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  • In this experiment, students will determine if certain colors absorb light energy better than others by creating different colored paper cubes to see how long it takes ice cubes to melt inside each box.
  • The experiment can be completed indoors with a heat lamp or outside in the sun and the more advanced steps can be skipped for younger students.
Teaching Tips


  • The video in the beginning does a nice job of demonstrating how to make the boxes.
  • The lesson gives examples of the use of color in managing heat absorption from the Sun.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The link for the activity worksheet listed under the Materials and Procedure sections will actually take you to the rubric, but the link under the Worksheets and Attachments section is correct.
  • Some vocabulary terms may be too advanced for younger students.
  • You may want to start off with just black and white paper for younger or less advanced students and discuss or display the electromagnetic spectrum prior to beginning this experiment for older students.


  • Students who are still working on fine motor and cutting skills may need the box template cut for them ahead of time.
  • Older students who have a basic understanding of solar energy can discuss what this experiment may mean for solar energy (there is no link for additional solar content in the resource).
  • Math classes can spend more time with the graphs and answer questions related to the graphs.
  • This would be a nice experiment to transition from a unit on states of matter to a unit on the sun, heat, and/or energy.
  • Connect this experiment to climate change by discussing why more melting sea ice that reveals dark ocean water might increase global warming.
Scientist Notes
This resource includes a video and lesson plan to complete an experiment testing how different colors absorb heat. The experiment can be connected to quite a few different heat or energy topics at many grade levels and resources are provided for teachers to do so. The experiment itself does not mention climate and climate change but it does have resources that connect concepts from this experiment to climate change. In short, heating and why things heat differently are an important concept for students to understand when talking about weather, climate, and climate change. The experiment is a good way to introduce basic heating concepts and show students how the scientific experimentation process works. The information presented in this lesson is accurate and this resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • K-2-ETS1-3 Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
    • PS1: Matter and its Interactions
      • 2-PS1-2 Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.
    • PS3: Energy
      • K-PS3-2 Use tools and materials to design and build a structure that will reduce the warming effect of sunlight on an area.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Measurement & Data (K-5)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.MD.A.2 Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has "more of"/"less of" the attribute, and describe the difference. For example, directly compare the heights of two children and describe one child as taller/shorter.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.MD.C.4 Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.D.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in a bar graph.
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