Temperature and the Rate of Chemical Reactions


The purpose of this lab is for students to investigate the effect of temperature on the rate of a chemical reaction.

Key Science Topics

  • Kinetic Molecular Theory of Heat
  • Energy transformation (e.g., chemical energy to light {or radiant} energy)
  • Electron energy levels, absorption and emission
  • Fluorescence

Grade Level

  • Physical Science, Grades 6-9

Student Prior Knowledge

  • Students should be able to define the Kinetic Molecular Theory of Heat.
  • Students should be familiar with the Bohr model of the atom and electron energy levels.
  • While it would be helpful if students were familiar with electron energy levels and absorption/emission of photons, this activity could be used to introduce that concept.


Each lab group should have the following:

  • Three beakers labeled A, B, and C
  • Thermometer
  • Three glow sticks that are the same size, brand, and color
  • Hot, room temperature, and cold water

I have used mini glow sticks up to the regular-sized glow sticks. Be sure to have extra on hand as some glow sticks will not react. After Halloween is a good time to stock up on glow sticks at a bargain price. Science supply stores (especially on-line) and party stores are good sources as well.

This may also be done as a teacher demo and have students record the data.



I usually use this lab as an introduction to atomic spectra—a challenging topic for middle school, high school and college students. This lab is a good review of how the Bohr model; while it is an incomplete description of the atom, is a good model for explaining electron energy levels.

To explain electron energy levels, I use the standard climbing on a chair, then a lab table method. While standing on the ground, I explain that I am on the ground state. If I absorb just the right amount of energy, I will then have enough energy to hop up onto the chair. I then stand on the chair and ask my students if that required energy. Yes. Then I describe that if I absorb yet another packet of energy, I can move up to the second level. Or, I can hop down to the ground state and give off energy. If I hop down to the ground state, I emit a packet of energy which is a photon, or particle of light. I also mention that I can [theoretically, at least] go from the ground state directly up to the table (2nd level). I can also jump directly from the table to the ground state and bypass the first state entirely [theoretically speaking again].

Further Reading

For further information on how glow sticks work, please visit the following sites:

Common Core Standards

Next Generation Science Standards

Published: 01 October, 2015

Fun Fact

Shooting stars are actually tiny pieces of rock and dust that are burning up in our atmosphere. Many of these particles are left over from the tails of passing comets, so you could say you're seeing a falling comet tail, rather than a falling star.