Sixth Grade

Convection Currents Experiment


Sixth graders have been exploring different types of heat transfer (conduction, convection, and radiation).

Question to Explore

How do convection currents work?


  • plastic tub of cold water
  • blue and red food coloring
  • one styrofoam cup
  • four plastic cups
  • hot water


  1. Fill a plastic tub with cold water (about half way)
  2. Put a few drops of blue food coloring on the sides of the tub (this represents the cold water)
  3. Put a few drops of red food coloring in the middle of the tub (this represents the hot water)
  4. Pour hot water into the styrofoam cup (almost to the top)
  5. Place the styrofoam cup filled with hot water under the center of the tub (where the red food coloring is).
  6. Watch and observe how the cold and hot water behave.


Students noticed that when they placed the hot water cup under the tub of cold water, the red (warm water) began to rise, and the blue (cold water) fell underneath. This experiment shows the circulation patterns in our atmosphere.