Highly Recommended
Like all our Science Reasoning Center activities, the completion of the Thermal Equilibrium activity requires that a student use provided information about a phenomenon, experiment, or data presentation to answer questions. This information is accessible by tapping on the small thumbnails found on the bottom right of every question. However, it may be considerably easier to have a printed copy of this information or to display the information in a separate browser window. You can access this information from this page

The Standards
The Thermal Equilibrium task describes a collection of experiments in which students mix unequal-mass samples of hot and cold water together and monitor the temperature until thermal equilibrium is reached. The task consists of five different activities, each taking a different angle on the experiments. Students ponder experimental design decisions, data analysis challenges, and other questions that can be asked and experimentally answered with the same or similar equipment.

This NGSS-inspired task consists of five parts. Each part involves a different type of skill or understanding. Collectively, the five parts were designed to address the following NGSS performance expectation:

HS-PS3-4:
Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that the transfer of thermal energy when two components of different temperature are combined within a closed system results in a more uniform energy distribution among the components in the system (second law of thermodynamics).

As a whole, the questions in this task address a wide collection of disciplinary core idea (DCI), crosscutting concepts (CCC), and science and engineering practices (SEP). There are 56 questions organized into 17 Question Groups and spread across the five activities. Each question is either a 2D or (preferrably) a 3D question. That is, the task of answering the question requires that the student utilize at least two of the three dimensions of the NGSS science standards - a DCI, a CCC, and/or an SEP.

The following DCI, SEPs, and CCCs are addressed at some point within Energy Stored in Fields:

DCI:  PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
• Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.
• Uncontrolled systems always evolve toward more stable states—that is, toward more uniform energy distribution (e.g., water flows downhill, objects hotter than their surrounding environment cool down).

SEP 1.6:  Asking Questions and Defining Problems
Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

SEP 2.6:  Developing and Using Models
Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

SEP 3.2:  Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.

SEP 3.4:  Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data.

SEP 4.4:  Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Compare and contrast various types of data sets (e.g., self-generated, archival) to examine consistency of measurements and observations.

CCC 4.1: Systems and System Models
When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

CCC 5.2: Energy and Matter
The total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved.

CCC 5.3: Energy and Matter
Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

Here is our NGSS-based analysis of each individual activity of the Energy Stored in Fields Science Reasoning task. The core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices that we reference in our analysis are numbered for convenience. You can cross-reference the specific notations that we have used with the listings found on the following pages:

#### Part 1: Planning the Investigation

This activity is a paragraph completion activity. Students are provided a paragraph with missing words and phrases; they must tap on the fields to select the appropriate word or phrase from a collection of options. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once all the missing words and phrases have been accurately identified.

NGSS Claim Statement: Plan a thermal equilibrium investigation by selecting the appropriate tools to show that changes in energy in a system can be described in terms of energy flowing into, out of, and within that system.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer PS3.B Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.   Uncontrolled systems always evolve toward more stable states—that is, toward more uniform energy distribution (e.g., water flows downhill, objects hotter than their surrounding environment cool down). Planning and Carrying Out Investigations SEP 3.4 Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data. Energy and Matter CCC 5.3 Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

#### Part 2: Conducting the Investigation

This activity consists of 12 forced-choice questions organized into four Question Groups. Students are presented some issues encountered when performing an investigation; three possible proposals for solving the problem are presented to students and they must identify the one proposed solution that will not work. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all four Question Groups.

NGSS Claim StatementConduct and refine a thermal equilibrium investigation making decisions about the system, boundary conditions, and the types of, quantity of, and accuracy of data needed.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer PS3.B Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.   Uncontrolled systems always evolve toward more stable states—that is, toward more uniform energy distribution (e.g., water flows downhill, objects hotter than their surrounding environment cool down). Planning and Carrying Out Investigations SEP 3.2 Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly. Systems and System Models CCC4.1 When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

#### Part 3: Analyzing Data

This activity consists of 12 forced-choice questions organized into three Question Groups. Students are provided a data table illustrating the initial conditions and must identify the appropriate outcome of the investigation. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all four Question Groups.

NGSS Claim StatementCompare and contract various types of data to track the flow of energy into, out of, and within a system in a thermal equilibrium experiment.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer PS3.B Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.   Uncontrolled systems always evolve toward more stable states—that is, toward more uniform energy distribution (e.g., water flows downhill, objects hotter than their surrounding environment cool down). Analyzing and Interpreting Data SEP 4.4 Compare and contrast various types of data sets (e.g., self-generated, archival) to examine consistency of measurements and observations. Energy and Matter CCC 5.3 Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

#### Part 4: Predicting Results

This activity consists of 16 forced-choice questions organized into four Question Groups. Students are provided a data table for a thermal equilibrium experiment. The table contains some incomplete cells; they must use an understanding of thermal equlibrium and energy conservation to determine the values in the missing cells. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all four Question Groups.

NGSS Claim StatementMake predictions regarding the final temperature of a mixture knowing that the total amount of energy in a closed system is conserved.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer PS3.B Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.   Uncontrolled systems always evolve toward more stable states—that is, toward more uniform energy distribution (e.g., water flows downhill, objects hotter than their surrounding environment cool down). Developing and Using Models SEP 2.6 Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems. Energy and Matter CCC 5.2 The total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved.

#### Part 5: Next Steps

This activity consists of 16 forced-choice questions organized into four Question Groups. Students are provided information about a lab groups investigation (data table, graph, procedure, etc.) and must determine from the information the question the lab group is attempting to answer or the problem they are attempting to solve. TStudents earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all four Question Groups.

NGSS Claim StatementAsk questions that can be investigated regarding thermal equilibrium by applying the idea that the total amount of energy and matter in a closed system is conserved.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer PS3.B Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.   Uncontrolled systems always evolve toward more stable states—that is, toward more uniform energy distribution (e.g., water flows downhill, objects hotter than their surrounding environment cool down). Asking Questions and Defining Problems SEP 1.6 Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory. Energy and Matter CCC 5.2 The total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved.

Complementary and Similar Resources
The following resources at The Physics Classroom website complement the Thermal Equilibrium Science Reasoning Activity. Teachers may find them useful for supporting students and/or as components of lesson plans and unit plans.

Physics Classroom Tutorial, Thermal Physics Chapter: What is Heat?

Physics Classroom Tutorial, Thermal Physics Chapter: What Does Heat Do?

Concept Builders, Thermal Chemistry and Thermodynamics: Measuring the Quantity of Heat

Concept Builders, Thermal Chemistry and Thermodynamics: Entropy

The Calculator Pad, Thermal Chemistry and Thermodynamics, Problem Sets TC1, TC2, and TC3