Name of Activity

Tiny Homes – Temperature Control (House Insulation)




tiny homes, sustainability, materials, properties, shoebox, planning, building, insulation, conductivity



Grade Level

5, 6, 7


1 Hour

Brief Description

Continue planning and building as part of the tiny homes sustainability unit. This week students learn how different materials conduct or insulate heat and start to incorporate these ideas into their building. They may also start to think about how to heat or cool their homes from an energy source.

Learning Goals:

Students will practice working together in groups, forming new concepts of how the world works from their experience, and making modifications to an existing project.


Cotton balls, metal sheet or aluminum foil, wood (popsicle sticks), felt, plastic, glue gun, masking tape


Make a set of all the materials for each group. Have the students already split into their groups when you get there if possible.

Knowledge Background

Ideally the teacher should have some knowledge of conductive and insulating materials. The teacher should have divided the students into their groups with the intention of group members functioning well together.


  1. Recap the previous lesson, during which groups began building their tiny homes in shoeboxes. Recall how each tiny home exists in a different part of the world and will be subject to different environments.
  2. Give each group a set of materials. Ask them to sort the materials by how warm they feel. (5 min.)
  3. Ask each group for their results. Most groups will say that metal feels colder and cotton balls feel the warmest, with plastics and wood somewhere in the middle.
  4. Use this idea to introduce heat transfer, and how cold-feeling materials are actually moving more heat away from your body.
  5. Introduce the key ideas of insulation and conduction. Touch on how insulators tend to trap air, resulting in less heat transfer.
  6. If they seem to be following well you could also mention how convection (moving air) tends to cool things down. This is why homes in warmer climates tend to have bigger windows or fans to move air around.
  7. For about the last 30 minutes of class groups should have the chance to apply this knowledge to their tiny homes.
    1. Give each group any of the materials they want to help control temperature in their home.
    2. Allow students to add materials with masking tape.
    3. About halfway through take a short break to share results and review any concepts that they seem to be unclear on.
    4. If a group is happy with the materials they’ve added to their home you can hot glue the materials on to finalize the design.

Previous Activity (if applicable)

Tiny Homes- Planning and Building

Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable)

Tiny Homes and Renewable Energy

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