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Energy is the ability to do work. It powers every machine and is necessary for every activity. There are many kinds of energy and it would be difficult to explain every kind to your young students. This lesson is meant to make them aware of what energy is and to learn a few kinds or sources of energy. Also included is a discussion on how to conserve energy.
1. Students will explore how energy makes things work (e.g., batteries in a toy and electricity turning fan blades).
2. Students will learn that energy can be obtained from many sources in many ways (e.g., sun, water, wind, fire, food, gasoline, electricity, batteries).
3. Students will learn that there are ways to conserve energy.
- Book: Energy by Matt Mullins (This book is too technical to read completely with your young students but it will provide information for you and the illustrations can be used in your discussion.)
- Ear of corn
- Printable homework worksheet
Here are some words that you can use as you explain things to the students.
- Energy: the ability to do work
- Potential Energy: when the energy in an object is just sitting there and needs something to act on it to get it to move. A piece of wood that is waiting to be lit for a fire, a ball waiting to be thrown.
- Kinetic Energy: working energy or energy in motion; a ball that has been thrown
- Gravitational Energy: gravity is pulling; sledding down a hill, an apple falling from a tree
- Chemical Energy: stored energy; in batteries, fuel, food we eat, batteries
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With the students sitting on the floor in a circle, place a ball in the center of the group.
Say: “Can anyone think of a way to move this ball?" You may get answers like: throw it, kick it, hit it or even blow on it.
Explain: “Today we are going to talk about energy. The ball has a kind of energy called potential energy. It was waiting for something to make it move. A car that is parked has potential energy. How do we get it to move? When something acts on the ball and the ball moves, it is called kinetic energy."
Say: “Energy is the ability to do work. Energy comes in many forms: light, heat, electricity, chemical. Some things work with electricity or electrical energy. Let’s name all of the things in our classroom that use electricity."
“Now let’s name some things in the classroom that need power from us to work or move." Let children suggest some items.
Now Say: “There are other ways to get energy. Fuel gives things energy. Can you think of things that need fuel?" Vehicles, people, animals.
Ask: “What kind of fuel gives people energy?" food
Ask: “Can you think of a toy or game you have that uses batteries?" Let children give various answers.
Energy from the sun gives us heat and light and can be collected to make electricity. The power of the wind and rain can be used to make electricity.
Say: “One kind of energy causes you to go down a slide, or causes an apple to fall from a tree, or rocks to fall on the side of a mountain. This is caused by gravity or gravitational energy."
Hold up the ear of corn. Explain to your students how amazing the ear of corn is. First it is a tiny plant, which gets its energy from the sun to grow. When full-grown it can give its energy to people when they eat the corn. The corn can give its energy to animals that eat it and in turn the animals give us milk, meat and other byproducts. The corncob, when dried, can be burned for heat to cook food or to warm us. The corn can also be used to make a fuel called ethanol, which can be used to run engines. This corn shows us how amazing energy is and how it changes forms.
Some forms of energy can last a long time like heat and light from the sun and the power of wind and water. Other things can be used up such as coal (used for electricity), natural gas (for heating and cooking) and oil (for big machines like cars, airplanes, boats). All of us can do our part to conserve (save, not waste) these things so they don’t run out.
Divide the class into two teams. Put each team in a line. The teams will sit on the floor and face each other. Go down the row asking each person, going back and forth from one team to the other. Thinking of conserving energy, read a statement and ask if it is a good action or bad action and why.
- Mary leaves the television on while she goes out to play.
- Jim puts a sweater on instead of turning up the heat.
- Dad leaves the computer on all night.
- The parents take turns driving the children in the neighborhood to school.
- Mom replaced all the light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs.
- Sue left the water running while she brushed her teeth.
- Michael left his bedroom window open when the heat was on.
- Matthew leaves the refrigerator open while he is thinking about what he wants to eat.
- The family recycles paper and soda cans.
- Sarah leaves her bedroom light on when she goes away for the day.
- Natalie opens the curtains for sunlight instead of turning on the light.
- Dad takes a shower that lasts twenty minutes.
- Steve throws garbage in the water when he is out for a boat ride.
- Bonnie used her towel more than once before washing it.
- John hangs some of the clothes outside to dry.
- Dad planted trees near the house to provide shade.
- The family left lights on when they went on vacation.
- The children rode their bikes to the neighbors instead of having mom drive them over.
- The classroom has a recycle basket to put used paper in.
- The family has a game night once a week and doesn’t turn on the television.
Writing Activity: Write three ways that you can conserve energy.
Homework: Ask a parent to help you find things in your house that use different kinds of energy. Write down some of the things you find. Download the worksheet to give to your students to help complete this assignemnt.
Five Minute Extra:
Which things do YOU power? bicycle, train, seesaw, skates, bus, canoe, car, power mower, swing, tractor, plane
Did you know?
Electric eels and certain other kinds of fish generate electricity!
- EPA Teacher Resources: http://www.epa.gov/students/teachers.html#epaenergy
- Mullins, Matt. Energy. Children’s Press, 2012.
- EIA Energy Kids: http://www.eia.gov/kids/index.cfm
- Fix, Alexandra. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Energy. Heinemann Library, 2008.