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Thermal Energy and Particle Motion

In middle school science students learn about thermal energy and particle motion. Students will learn that adding or removing thermal energy can lead to changes in particle motion as well as phase changes. Particles or molecules in matter speed up when heat is added and slow down when heat is removed. Thermal energy can cause matter to expand and removal of thermal energy can cause matter to contract.

Students will love conducting labs on thermal energy. In the first lab students will learn about the direction of heat flow. When one substance is warm and the other is cool and they come in contact with each other, which direction does the thermal energy move?

In which direction does thermal energy flow?
Thermal Energy Experiment

Students will also learn about different transitions to phases of matter. They will learn about condensing, melting, freezing, vaporization, sublimation, and deposition. They will learn that this happens at a fixed temperature, but that this fixed temperature is different for different types of matter.

Thermal Energy and Particle Motion is a complete unit to cover NGSS MS PS1-4. Students will learn about the kinetic theory of matter, particle motion, transitions, and phase changes. Students will learn about this in two informative slideshows, four hands-on labs, response pages, and an assessment. Answer keys are included. Students will love this engaging and comprehensive unit on kinetic theory and particle motion. See more on Heat Transfer

This comprehensive unit covers the following standards:

NGSS MS PS1-4  Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on qualitative molecular-level models of solids, liquids, and gases to show that adding or removing thermal energy increases or decreases the kinetic energy of the particles until a change of state occurs. Examples of models could include drawings and diagrams. Examples of particles could include molecules or inert atoms. Examples of pure substances could include water, carbon dioxide, and helium.]

Utah SEEd 6.2.2 Develop a model to predict the effect of heat energy on states of matter and density. Emphasize the arrangement of particles in states of matter (solid, liquid, or gas) and during phase changes (melting, freezing, condensing, and evaporating). (PS1.A, PS3.A)

Utah SEEd 6.2.3

Plan and carry out an investigation to determine the relationship between temperature, the amount of heat transferred, and the change of average particle motion in various types or amounts of matter. Emphasize recording and evaluating data, and communicating the results of the investigation. (PS3.A)

NJSL MS-PS1-4 Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.

Another interesting lab that is easy and fun to do is on thermal expansion and thermal contraction.
Thermal Expansion Lab

Students will also learn about particle movement through another hands-on experiment. How does heat affect particle movement? Students will also learn to consider the variables when they plan an investigation to make sure it is a fair test. It is easier to determine the cause and effect of something if you isolate the independent variable and keep specific control variables or constants.

This unit is available for download in two places:

Thermal Energy and Particle Motion
Comprehensive Unit on Thermal Energy and Particle Motion

Students will love these engaging activities. They include two informative slide show, 4 labs, response pages, interactive notebook inserts and an assessment. There are over 90 pages and slides in this unit!

  1. Teaching Science with Lynda on Teachers Pay Teachers
  2. Here on

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Thank you, and I hope you enjoy using this unit in your classroom!

Utah SEEd for 6.2.2 and 6.2.3 resources

Thank you for visiting my blog. You might also like this one on Molecules and Atoms or this one on Heat Transfer


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