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Daily Classroom Special: Ice Cube House

About this Daily Classroom Special: 
Science to Go
provides easy yet meaningful science activities for grades k-8. Science to Go was written by Barbara Smith, Magnet Coordinator at Harvard Elementary, Houston (TX) and former Teachers Network web mentor.

Ice Cube House


Problem-solving, following oral and written directions, express data and information in appropriate form, make measurements using relationships to standards.


Identical ice cubes, balance (optional), watch, household items (see 4B), tape, stapler.


  1. Put an ice cube on a table or student desk and ask children to estimate the time it might take to completely melt.
  2. Allow students to observe and record melting time.
  3. Ask students to think of some ways to speed up or slow down the melting rate. Have them record their ideas.
  4. Ask them to design and construct an "Ice Cube House" that will prolong an ice cube's "life." The design speculations are that:
    • the "house" must fit in a shoebox (have one to show them), or no larger than a loaf of bread
    • they must use materials found at home (not buying anything new). I encourage them to use discarded materials such as styrofoam, plastic wrap, empty soda bottles, cardboard, to name a few.
  5. Have students build their designs in class or at home.
  6. Distribute identical ice cubes and place in houses.
  7. Every 5 minutes, quickly examine ice cubes (without touching, if at all possible). When you have 3 evident finalists, weigh their ice cubes, or view ice cubes at smaller time increments so as to determine the best insulation design.
  8. Have students examine designs that protected the finalists' ice cubes. What do they have in common? Why did they work better?
  9. Ask students what this has to do with real life. Which situations call for an object to be kept cool? How do we keep items hot or cold? What do we have in our homes and schools that are insulated?

Related Web Sites

National Insulation Association: What is insulation? History, uses of, careers.

Home Ideas: Click on Home Improvement Applets! This is an excellent web site for combining math and science in real-life application. Students can figure area for insulation, paint, carpet, wallpaper, tile, fencing, etc., and after sampling local costs for these materials, you can have them submit "bids" or "contracts" for homeowner remodeling.

Exterior FX Design Demonstration: Mix and match roofing and siding textures and colors.

Make A Pizza Box Solar Oven: Directions for making (and insulating!) a simple and unique solar oven.


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