December 26, 2011

Mitten Science

Mittens keep our hands warm, but are mittens themselves warm? That's the question Selina Smith of the Classroom Magic blog posed to students in her mitten investigation.

Using inquiry science, students discovered that  mittens keep our hands warm because they trap our body heat, but mittens alone are not warm at all. Selina pairs this investigation with the book, The Mitten, by Jan Brett. Visit her blog to download the complete directions and handouts for the activity.

More Mitten Investigations
Selina's blog post intrigued me right away. I like her original question because it's easy to understand and can be explored with a simple science experiment. This activity also started me thinking about other mitten experiments that would be very easy for students to explore. A great follow up to her activity would be to have students brainstorm a list of mitten questions to investigate. Here are a few mitten of MY questions:
  • Are thin cotton mittens as effect as thick thermal mittens for keeping hands warm?
  • Do gloves keep hands as warm as mittens?
  • Do hands get warmer the longer they are inside the mittens? 
  • How does the outside air temperature affect the temperature of hands inside mittens? (If you are wearing mittens indoors will your hands be the same temperature as they would be if you were wearing them outdoors in cold weather?)

Designing Reliable Experiments
If your students are new to science inquiry, I would suggest choosing one experiment to do as a class. Later your students can choose another question to explore with a partner or a team. Download the Science Experiment Lab Write up from Teaching Resources before you begin.

To get started, give each student a blank copy of the form. Work through the various parts of the write up together, starting with the question and hypothesis.

Discuss how to design an experiment that will be reliable because this may be a new concept for elementary students. They tend to think that if they do an experiment one time, the results are "proof" that their hypothesis is correct. Experiments can be made more reliable by changing only one part of the experiment at a time (the variable), repeating the experiment, and measuring carefully.

After you design the experiment, let each team carry it out and record their results. Walk them through the remaining steps to draw conclusions and complete the science lab write up.

Can you think of other mitten questions to investigate? How would you use this activity in your classroom? Visit the Science page on Teaching Resources for more investigation ideas!

Visit Teaching Resources at


  1. I think I just found this year's science project! Love this! Thanks to you and Selina :)

    Sunny Days In Second Grade

  2. Thanks, Denise! How would you modify this for 2nd grade? If the lab report form on my website is not appropriate for 2nd grade, let me know how to change it and I'll create a variation for younger kids!

  3. Laura,

    This is so amazing! I can't believe how you were able to elevate this activity. This clearly shows the difference between a seasoned teacher and a novice:) Thank you for letting me see how far I can take an activity. You've challenged and inspired me. I've admired you for so many years. Thank you for putting the spotlight on my experiment.


  4. Selina, you give me too much credit! You are the one who came up with the original idea! However, I will agree that the longer you teach, the easier it is to take an activity to another level. Just one of the perks of experience! Thanks for creating a great science investigation for winter!

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Wonderful experiment that can be easily tweaked to align with NGSS 2-PS1-2. I'm going to use this mitten investigation along with the Polar Bear hands investigation and's Material Magic lessons. Thanks for the inspiration! I would have students engineer & optimize an arctic marine mammal hand using plastic bags, crisco, and fake fur.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.