Insulating Materials





Name of Activity

Insulating Materials




ice, cup, insulation, insulating material, styrofoam, aluminum, cotton, properties



Grade Level

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


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?

  • 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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