April 29, 2017

Summer STEM Challenge: Keep it Cool / Make it Melt

Are you getting the sense that your students are totally over this school year? Or maybe as the teacher you're feeling a little checked out. What you need is a few engaging end-of-year activities to get through it. Oh look, here's one now!

Summer STEM Challenge: In Keep it Cool / Make it Melt, students use one set of materials to create two devices: one to make chocolate melt faster and one to keep it cool longer! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.


Working against a Criteria & Constraints List, and armed with one set of materials, students must create two devices: one to make chocolate melt faster and one to keep it cool longer.

Hershey's is the best chocolate for this challenge.
Find out why in the video below!

Where Can I Find Out More?

If you're familiar with my work, you know I've been switching over to using video to explain the bulk of my challenges. It seems to be the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, demonstrations, and more!  Who has time to read all that?! However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Check out the video below to see Keep it Cool / Make it Melt in action:

Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 challenges for summer/the end of the school year! You can find the overview of each on this blog post. Each challenge is described in the post linked above, so be sure to check it out! 

Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram.

You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!


Summer STEM Challenge: In Keep it Cool / Make it Melt, students use one set of materials to create two devices: one to make chocolate melt faster and one to keep it cool longer! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.

Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to week three of the Summer STEM challenges. This one is actually more like two challenges in one. It's called Keep it Cool/Make it Melt. And as you probably already surmised, the students will be creating two devices. One to make the chocolate melt faster, and one to make it cool and prevent it from melting. Before I get ahead of myself, let's take a second to check out the materials in the STEM Challenge Cycle.

This is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I've defined each step in another video. I've added a pop-in card to that video here as well as a link in the description.

A couple of notes about materials. If you have a class set of reliable thermometers, go ahead and bring them out for this challenge. Likewise, if you have some digital cameras on hand or the students have cell phones, I like to let them take pictures of their observation intervals. I do recommend using Hershey bars for this challenge because there are so many changes for the students to observe. The chocolate gets sort of shiny and the letters get wobbly and lose their shape, eventually they can't read the word at all. And a bonus is that you can munch on some of the materials while the students are working. Don't worry, they won't notice.

You'll want to give students three pieces of chocolate. One, for make it melt, one for keep it cool, and one as a control. Of course if it is at all possible, you're gonna want to choose a very sunny and bright day to conduct the challenge.

The criteria and constraints are pretty simple. The students must design two devices from the same set of materials. One to make the chocolate melt faster and one to keep it cool for longer. Their designs have to contain the chocolate so that when it does melt, it doesn't get over the pavement or wherever their designs are sitting. You let students know that the designs have to be placed in direct sunlight and it has to be easy and quick for them to make observations. You can see the make it melt design has a clear view into the chocolate but the keep it cool design is covered but it has a lid that easily lifts off.

If you wanna add some difficulty, you can require that any material used in one design, must also be used in the next. You can require that the keep it cool design is open air on at least one side or you can require that the students make this a unified design where keep it cool is in one compartment and make it melt is in another, but they are connected.

To measure results, students are going to make observations of make it melt, keep it cool, and the control at intervals of five to 10 minutes. Obviously for make it met, they're looking for the shortest time possible to get the chocolate to complete liquid state. And for keep it cool, we're trying to prolong that amount of time. For the control, you can decide if you wanna have students place a piece of chocolate in just the small cup or a paper plate. Do be aware that sometimes the control will actually melt faster than the make it melt designs. When I've seen this in the past, it's usually because the control is on a paper plate that's in direct contact with very hot pavement. Whereas their designs sometimes are not in direct contact so don't benefit from that direct heat transfer. Students sometimes put it on a piece of cardboard, extra piece of paper that can make a difference.

Now, of course you don't want the students just sitting around watching the clock, waiting for another five minutes to pass, so you're gonna need to have something else planned during the observation period. I recommend having derp and dash relay race or working on one of the other summer STEM challenges. And of course another option is always to get a head start on those extension activities.

To extend anything to do with states of matter is gonna be great for this challenge. You can have students research, watch videos, maybe even create their own videos about the properties of each state of matter and what causes changes in state. You can have students do some research on insulators or conductors or even how color affects heat absorption. You can have students create their own experiments. If you don't have time to do a full second iteration of this challenge, I do recommend once the students have done some research on heat transfer to let them have a make it melt competition. They have another opportunity to create a new make it melt design based on all the things that they learned and it's a class competition. First piece of chocolate that melts wins.

If you're looking to tie in some ELA, I like to use this as an opportunity to practice personification. Have students write a short story or paragraph as though they were the piece of chocolate melting. You can also tell the students that frosty the snow man is just dying to take a vacation in San Diego, California. Have them write a short story about how he prepares, the adventures that he has, and any problems he encounters along the way.

You now have all the basics you need to conduct, Keep it Cool/Make it Melt in your classroom, on your own. But as always, I have worked tirelessly and packed this resource so full of goodies, take a second to check it out.

This time saving resource contains everything you need including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials of course but the rest is ready and waiting. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM challenge How-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge and the Keep it Cool/Make it Melt Materials list. In Teacher Tips, you'll find premise and set up, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the Criteria and Constraints list, measuring results in cross-curricular extensions suggestions. You'll find an editable Criteria and Constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students as well as an editable observation log. There are two versions of design analysis handouts, four-page expanded room for response for younger students and a two-page condensed space paper saver version. You'll get one set for keep it cool and a second for make it melt. You'll also find a set of group discussion questions.

In the Extension Handouts you'll find a states of matter research log as well as map extension process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Summer and Mega STEM bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

Make sure you're following my store in Teachers Pay Teachers and subscribe on YouTube. I'm going to be back next time with wicked fast water slide. Have an excellent week. I will see you next time.

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