Bronxville News

Eighth Graders Design Ice Insulators
Bronxville, NY

Having been fully immersed in the study of energy, eighth graders recently built ice insulator devices as a culminating project to their studies in teachers Jean Windels’ and Jennifer Zopp’s science classes. 

As part of their studies on energy over the last month and a half, the eighth graders investigated thermal energy, conducted several investigations, drew models and figured out the different ways that energy is transferred from warmer to cooler objects. 

Equipped with different materials and adhering to certain size constraints, the students were challenged to design a device that would minimize the amount of mass that an ice cube loses while it is placed under a heat lamp for 20 minutes. While working in groups, the students were each given different types of insulation to incorporate into their designs, including wood chips, cotton, aluminum foil, synthetic fleece or no insulation. 

“The students really seemed to enjoy the whole process,” Windels said. “They really liked that they had the opportunity to design something using their own ideas within the constraints. It was fun watching them be disappointed when they got an insulation material that was not their first choice and yet be creative to make the most of it.” 

Throughout the learning experience, the students designed their devices, tested them and made changes to them multiple times. In addition, they collected and evaluated data to make a claim as to which was the best type of insulation.

“Making a claim for the best type of insulation was not so easy for the students,” Windels said. “The data did not necessarily point to any one type of insulation because the insulator designs were so different. Some groups used lots of insulation, some not so much. Other groups made small devices, while others made them as large as possible. All of the information had to be considered in the claim.” 

Windels and Zopp worked closely with technology teacher Greg DiStefano to create common language and procedures in the design and engineering process. With this project, the students incorporated science concepts into their devices, using techniques they learned in their technology classes.