In this article I introduce three lab activities, appropriate for a high school physics course, that are related to temperature and thermodynamics. The first of these is a graphing lab where a dual Fahrenheit-Celsius thermometer is used to create a best-fit trend line that serves to introduce this graphing skill. The second is an experiment to find the melting point of coconut oil, which is a convenient and widely available substance, with a phase change in a safe temperature range. The third is a safer alternative or follow-up to the classic “Burn a Peanut” lab, where I have students investigate how many calories are in a “heat pack” hand warmer. The labs are designed to be affordable, easy to set up, and work well as inquiry investigations.

I made a video about this experiment:
This version of the peanut experiment is similar to what I am describing:
Be sure to take all necessary safety precautions.
More specifically, calories = mass × Cw × ΔT, where the Cw is 1 calorie / gram / °C, the specific heat of water.
I do not know the author, but NCpedia has a similar lab:
Readers can view the appendix at TPT Online, under the Supplemental tab.
Thanks to Nancy Easterly for her ideas and comments on this experiment.

Supplementary Material

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