a spoon in a cup of tea

Conductors of Heat: Hot Spoons!

Hands-on activity to show students who are blind or visually impaired how different materials vary in their conduction of heat.


To show students who are blind or visually impaired how different materials vary in their conduction of heat. Tactually observing the transfer of heat and hearing an audible output thermometer add meaning to this activity for students with visual impairments.

Background information:

Conduction is the process of heat transfer in solids. This activity provides qualitative observations of increase in heat in an item.



Set up a ring stand for hands-free heating as described here. This setup can be used in many lab activities.

Place the heating element (hot plate, burner, etc) on the table. Set up the ring stand at a height above the heat source and substance to be heated. Place the head of a talking thermometer inside the ring while the bottom is in the substance and tighten the ring stand. This allows the student to use the ring stand as a tactual guide to the head of the thermometer, keeping hands away from the hot plate. Practice using the setup several times while the entire apparatus is cold until the student is familiar with the setup and location of all items.

Extra caution is still needed to avoid steam burns when pressing the button on the thermometer.


  1. Fill each beaker approximately ¾ full of water. And place one spoon in each beaker.
  2. Take a temperature reading at the beginning for each beaker to ensure that they all start at the same temperature.
  3. Tactually observe what each spoon feels like.
  4. Next place one beaker with a spoon in it on each of the hot plates.
  5. Set the temperature of each hot plate to medium and time for 2 minutes.
  6. Turn off the hot plates and carefully remove the spoons to a heat resistant surface. Carefully touch each spoon. (An adult supervisor should check the temperature of the metal spoon before allowing students to touch it. It should feel warm but not hot enough to cause a burn.)
  7. Describe the way each spoon felt. Which one was coolest which one was warmest? Why do metal cooking spoons have wooden or plastic handles?
  8. Using the setup described above, check the temperature of the water in each of the hot plates. Is the water all close to equal in temperature now?

Safety alert: Caution and supervision are needed to ensure safety during this activity.

Collage of heat conduction

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