Name of Activity Insulating Materials
Author STOMP
Keywords ice, cup, insulation, insulating material, styrofoam, aluminum, cotton, properties
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will place ice into a small cup, surrounded by insulating material (Styrofoam from cup, aluminum foil, or cotton balls), surrounded by a larger cup. The cups will be placed in a baking pan, in which warm water will be poured into when every group is ready. The time it takes for the ice to completely melt will be recorded.
Lesson Objectives: To learn about material use and properties.
Materials Needed: Ice cubes
Four 3 oz. Plastic cups
Clear plastic cups
Warm water in a pitcher
Insulating materials
Foam cup
Aluminum foil
Cotton balls
Rubber bands
Plastic wrap
Baking pan
Large book or magazine
Preparation and Set Up: Arrange students into groups of 2 – 3.
Distribute necessary materials.
  1. Have each group break their foam cups into small pieces, tear and loosely crunch the aluminum into pieces, and pull the cotton balls apart and flatten them to look like pancakes.
  2. Place some of each insulating material into its own cup so that it coves the bottom of the cup. Leave one cup empty (air is the insulator).
  3. Place a small cup in the center of each large cup.
  4. Fill the space between the cups with the same insulating material that is on the bottom of the cup.
  5. Place three ice cubes in each cup, cover the large and small cups with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band.
  6. Lay the cups in a baking pan and fill the pan with warm water. Place a book on top so they won’t float away.
  7. Check every 10 – 15 minutes to see when the ice has melted. When it has, record the data.
    1. Which one seems to be melting first? second? third?
  8. Discuss as a class:
    1. What does “insulate” mean?
    2. What other materials could be used for insulation?
    3. In which cup did ice melt first? second? third?
    4. Do these results make sense?
Reference 1
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