4. Convection in a Pan - Sources and Standards

The activity elaborates upon one of the Exploratorium’s science snacks “Pie Pan Convection”.

The hot air balloon demonstration was taken from a lesson by Gregory Vogt, edited by Roger Storm of the NASA Glenn Research Center. See their lesson plan for detailed information, diagrams and tips.

A great resource for learning more about heat, density and convection is the  first session of a UC Museum of Paleontology teacher workshop. There are excellent, detailed descriptions of heat, density and convection concepts as well as teaching tips and resources.


Grade 6
Plate Tectonics and Earth's Structure
1. Plate tectonics accounts for important features of Earth's surface and major geologic events. As a basis for understanding this concept:
b. Students know Earth is composed of several layers: a cold, brittle lithosphere; a hot, convecting mantle; and a dense, metallic core.
c. Students know lithospheric plates the size of continents and oceans move at rates of centimeters per year in response to movements in the mantle.

Heat (Thermal Energy) (Physical Sciences)
3. Heat moves in a predictable flow from warmer objects to cooler objects until all the objects are at the same temperature. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know energy can be carried from one place to another by heat flow or by waves, including water, light and sound waves, or by moving objects.

Energy in the Earth System
4. Many phenomena on Earth's surface are affected by the transfer of energy through radiation and convection currents. As a basis for understanding this concept:
c. Students know heat from Earth's interior reaches the surface primarily through convection.
d. Students know convection currents distribute heat in the atmosphere and oceans.

Grades 9-12 Earth Science
Energy in the Earth System
5. Heating of Earth's surface and atmosphere by the sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents.