A Parked Car Is An Oven!
Goal: Students will understand the dangers of leaving a pet in a hot car.
Grade Levels: 2nd–8th grade
Time: 3-5 hours, depending on outside temperature
Audience Size: Up to 25 people
Special Note: This activity must be done on a warm, sunny day and the lesson should begin in the morning.
- Students will identify the dangers of leaving pets in vehicles on hot days.
- Students will use a line graph to compare outside ambient temperature and increasing air temperature inside a parked car.
- Graph paper
- Colored pencils
- Cookie sheets (lightly greased)
- Cookie cutters
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- Recipe and ingredients
- Spatula or wooden spoon
- Rolling pin or can of soup
- Paper bags to take home dog biscuits
- Two thermometers
- Daily forecast
- Wax paper
Every year dogs die inside hot cars. Many dog owners do not realize that the temperature inside a parked vehicle will rise to dangerous levels in a short period of time once the ignition is turned off. This is true even when the car is parked in the shade, and even when the windows are cracked.
We have provided you with a recipe that avoids common allergens and dangerous raw ingredients. The recipe also includes standard baking directions. For this activity, the dog treats will be baked in on the dashboard of a car on a warm day.
- Ask the students the following, “Does it get hotter inside a car than outside a car? Why might this happen?” “What happens to a living thing when it gets too hot?”
- To begin the experiment, place one thermometer inside a closed car. Another thermometer should be outside in the same general area as the car. Allow the thermometers to sit for two minutes, and then note the temperature for each thermometer. These will be your starting points for the line graph you will make in a moment.
- Follow the recipe for the dog treats. If needed, split your class into small groups, so that everyone can take turns measuring and mixing ingredients.
- Once you have one (or two) piles of dough, give each student a ball of dough about the size of a child’s fist. Each child will also need a square of waxed paper.
- Students will roll their dough on a square of waxed paper using a rolling pin or an unopened soup can. If dough sticks to surfaces or hands, add some extra flower to the top of the dough.
- Once the dough is flattened to about a 1/4”, ask the students to take turns cutting the dough into shapes with cookie cutters.
- Place the cookies on one or more lightly greased cookie sheets and place them on the dashboard of a parked vehicle.
- Back in the classroom, make a line graph. Choose one color for the in-car temperature and another color for the outside temperature. The temperature will go along the (vertical) Y axis. The time of day will go along the (horizontal) X axis.
- Throughout the day, record the temperatures at 30-minute or 60-minute intervals. Continue to chart the progress on your line graph.
- After temperatures have stabilized, and the dog treats are hard to the touch, remove the dog treats from the vehicle. Be mindful that the cookie sheet may be hot.
- After the experiment is complete, the class should analyze the data. Discuss the following points:
- What was the highest temperature in the car? What was the highest temperature outside the car?
- Why was it so much hotter inside the car? (Explanations: there is no breeze in a car, a car is made of metal, the windshield acts as a magnifying glass that intensifies heat.)
- Did anything happen during the experiment that may have affected the results? (A freak rainstorm, the car was unexpectedly shaded, etc.)
- After discussing the experiment, encourage the class to come to a conclusion. What happens inside a car on a hot day? Is it safe to leave a pet or human in a hot car for any period of time? Discuss your summary points below.
- Package the dog treats in brown paper bags to deliver to a local animal shelter or to take home.
Even on a slightly warm day, temperatures can rapidly climb in a parked vehicle. Many people mistakenly think that cracking windows or parking in the shade can adequately prevent their pet from developing heat exhaustion. This is simply not true. Dogs wear a full fur coat every day. Dogs do not sweat as people do, and cannot open a car door as the temperature rises. Never leave a dog or child unattended in a vehicle on a warm day. If you see a dog or a child unattended in a vehicle on a warm day, remain with the vehicle and dial 911.