Hot Stuff – Overview


The following lesson plans have been developed to support primary school teachers of science who are participating in the Einstein-First project. The Year 3 program will give students our modern, best understanding of matter – a world of atoms, molecules, photons and electrons. In Years 4-6 these ideas will be extended with further development of the concept of light as a stream of photons, along with the modern concepts of space, time, and gravity, as well as the basic principles of climate science.

Students will leave primary school with the language and ideas that prepare them for further development of a modern understanding of science in middle school.

Feedback from the trials of these lessons suggested there is too much to be taught in the 45 to 60 minutes per week typically allocated to most primary schools to teach science. Noting that the School Curriculum and Standards Authority notionally allocate up to 120 minutes per week, and some schools have adopted this extra time, we have revised the lesson plans to make it clear that only the first five or six lessons are considered ‘essential’ and the other two or three in each module are ‘optional’. Within lessons, the essential elements are presented first, and additional, optional parts are presented at the end of each lesson. We hope this addresses the time issues raised and also helps teachers differentiate their teaching.

The project will modernise teaching of the physical sciences curriculum so that all Australian children can share our best understanding of physical reality.

The lesson plans are produced in digital formats so that participating teachers can easily adapt them for their individual use, and we encourage you to do so.

How to use this online platform

This is an online platform for the Year 3 Hot Stuff module. It contains all of the lesson plans, background physics learning, and other resources such as activity videos, worksheets, PowerPoints, and tests, required for teachers to present this Einstein-First module to their students. Click on the sections below to reveal overview information for the Hot Stuff module and follow the links in the blue menu above to view other pages in the module. All resources are linked in their relevant locations throughout the lesson plans, or a collection of all downloadable resources can be found under the ‘Resources’ tab. If you notice any errors please Contact Us to let us know.

The concepts of atoms, molecules, photons and phonons are fundamental in teaching students about solids, liquids, and gases, and the production and transfer of heat. We have developed the Atom Frenzy module to introduce Year 3 students to the states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases, and the Hot Stuff module to introduce heat formation and transfer.

Lessons 1 to 4 of the Atom Frenzy module introduce atoms and molecules, explores evidence of their existence, and the forces that hold them together. This provides the essential starting point for the teaching of these two modules. After this, teachers could then either continue with Lessons 5 to 8 of the Atom Frenzy module or use their knowledge of atoms and molecules to explore heat and heat transfer by introducing the Hot Stuff module. If they choose this integrated approach, they could complete Lessons 5 to 8 of Atom Frenzy at the completion of the Hot Stuff module, or they could mix and match the remainder of the lessons.

Potential for integrated STEM activities

There is an additional lesson outline for an Optional Lesson 8, which could be used for a Technology/STEM lesson series.

Working in groups, students design and build a pizza box solar oven, which they test out by using it to cook something simple (egg, cookie, etc). They could also document their work – and an evaluation of how well their oven worked as a result of its design – in a poster, PowerPoint, or other presentation.

Students will:

  • create a sequence of steps to solve a given task
  • select and safely use appropriate materials and equipment to make the oven
  • test the oven by cooking something (e.g. egg, cookie etc.)
  • use scientific concepts to help explain how the pizza box solar oven works
  • evaluate the design of their solar oven after testing it and suggest improvements

The key Australian Curriculum learning outcome for this module is:

Heat is produced in many ways and can move from one object to another.

Learning intentions – Students will:

  • know that heat is bundles of vibrational energy called phonons
  • explain that hotter objects have more phonons that vibrate faster
  • use models and analogies to explain the effect of heat on atoms and molecules.
  • appreciate the contribution Albert Einstein and others made to our modern understanding of light and heat and the effect these have on matter
  • know that the Sun produces energy as light and heat
  • explain that light from the Sun comes to Earth as photons
  • explain that some photons change into phonons which warm things on Earth
  • know that heat can be transferred in solids by conduction
  • understand that heat conducts via phonon vibrations travelling and creating vibrations at other places
  • explain why metals conduct heat better than non-metals
  • know how to measure temperature using a digital and standard spirit thermometer
  • know that degrees Celsius, written °C, is the unit used when measuring temperature
  • explain that temperature is a measure of how fast atoms and molecules move
  • know that heat is produced in several ways: friction, electrical resistance, chemical reactions, sunlight conversion, etc.
  • know what insulation is and how insulators prevent transfer of heat energy
  • use scientific understandings to explain cooling and warming
Science education research over the last five decades and more general education research on factors affecting learning over the last three decades have identified teaching strategies that, when applied well, result in all students making significant progress.

Lessons should include active learning and be exciting and fun for both the students and teacher. Learning activity types include kinesthetic learning through role play and acting out, brief plays to act out historical perspectives, science investigations, using models and analogies, drawing on digital animations. Hopefully, students engagement and excitement will flow over to the parents, grandparents and other carers.

Strategies that we use throughout the lessons, and we hope become common practice in most teachers ‘kitbag’ of strategies are listed below:

  • Ensuring clarity of purpose: Orienting students to the language and ideas using a ‘See, think, wonder’ visible thinking strategy and specifying clear, concise learning intentions for the whole module and each lesson.
  • Feedback: Administer pre-test to determine prior class and individual knowledge, have frequent ‘checking for understanding’ opportunities, structured and unstructured.
  • Explicit teaching: New concepts will need to be explicitly taught using the routines established by schools. Provide high quality, explicit feedback.
  • Collaborative learning: Almost all lessons provide strong collaborative learning opportunities.
  • Metacognitive strategies: Use the explanatory power of science to help students understand and develop an intuitive understanding of their world.
  • Differentiated teaching: Many of the lessons include extension activities and exercises.

See our Key strategies in teaching Einsteinian physics document for more details


The Einstein-First curriculum resources were developed with the support of funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council and the following partner organisations: the Department of Education Western Australia; Association of Independent Schools Western Australia, Science Teachers Association of Western Australia, and Gravity Discovery Centre.

Additional funds have been generously donated to The University by private companies to further develop and implement the program. The companies include: