Important Note

Tufts ended funding for its Open Courseware initiative in 2014. We are now planning to retire this site on June 30, 2018. Content will be available for Tufts contributors after that date. If you have any questions about this please write to

Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Fulcrum Institute Development Team

Interview Tasks

Tasks to probe children’s ideas about heat and temperature.

Two spoons and a cup of ice water: a heat transfer phenomenon

This is the task you saw Tracy Noble and Alisha discuss in the videotaped interview.

If you extend the interview beyond step 4, be sure to have the materials you need on hand.

1. In this task, the child is presented with a metal spoon and a plastic spoon that have been sitting at room temperature for a while. The child is asked to compare them in terms of how hot or cold they feel when the person holds them between his or her fingers.

2. The child is shown a cup of ice water, invited to dip a finger in the water to see how it feels, and asked to predict how hot or cold he or she thinks the tops of the spoons (the parts that are sticking out of the water and surrounded by air) will feel and compare after they have been immersed in the ice water.

3. After the child predicts, he or she puts the spoons in the ice water. The interviewer asks the child to make observations.

4. The interviewer asks the child to explain what he or she thinks is going on.

5. If you wish, you can continue the interview by asking additional questions such as

  • Here are two identical metal spoons. What if we put one in the ice water with the handle end up and the other in the ice water with the handle side down? What do you think the ends that are in the air will feel like after they have been in the ice water for a few minutes?
  • What if we put the spoons in a cup of hot water instead of ice water? What do you think you will notice when you feel the handles of the spoons after they have been in the hot water for a few minutes?