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Conduction: which material is most suitable?

Target Audience
Key Stage 1/2

Link to the National Curriculum

Sc3 Materials(Yr 2)

Pupils should be taught to:

  • identify and compare the suitability of a variety of everyday materials, including wood,metal plastic glass,brick, rock, paper and cardboard for particular uses.


  • To enable children to understand that certain materials are best used for particular purposes because of their particular properties

Download worksheet

What you need

  • frozen peas
  • plastic and metal spoons of the same size
  • A supply of hot water*
  • timing device…large infant style classroom timer or stop watches
  • butter
  • Tumblers of equal size and made of the same material

* H/S precautions when handling very hot water, tumblers to be placed in large highsided plastic containers in case of accidental spillage.

What you do

  • See the video clip on the website: www.practicalprimaryscience.co.uk
  • Fill each tumbler with equal amounts of hot water placed in a safe environment (highsided plastic container)
  • Place one spoons in each tumbler,one plastic, one metal each with the same amount of butter stuck to each handle tip.
  • Start the timer immediately the spoons are placed in the water.
  • Observe carefully keeping an eye on the time.
  • Record the time when each pea slides off the spoon as a result of the melting of the butter due to the heat

Group /Class organisation

  • Depending on the number of adult helpers and apparatus available will determine how many groups of three / four children will take part in this practical activity.
  • If limited help is available then other children not involved directly in the practical activity should be engaged in associated work with the topic.

How it works

  • As all metals are better conductors of heat than other materials especially plastic it is sensible to have cooking utensils with plastic handles to reduce the danger of burning oneself

Preliminary Activities

  • This could take the form of a picture/worksheet highlighting dangers especially in the kitchen with children charged with the responsibility of finding the problem areas and dangers.

Follow up work

  • Look at other problem solving situations, this time where the insulation of heat is important e.g. which material is best for a pair of mittens or a tea cosy

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